R.I.P. – Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson Mourned by Friends
(Paraphrased from The Most Learned Woman in America by Anne Ousterhout).
On the evening of February 11, 1801, while she sat up writing, Elizabeth suffered a chill. Her friend Betsy Stedman persuaded her to go to bed. By morning she was suffering a stranguary, but she refused to allow Betsy to call a doctor because she’d had this problem before and it had gone away on its own. By the third day a doctor was called in and she’d developed a pleurisy. Her breathing was compromised and speaking was difficult for her. She wasn’t eating. According to a letter Betsy wrote to Elizabeth’s cousin in Jamaica “her strength gradually wasted, but the powers of her mind were clear and strong, till on the 19th sight, hearing, and speech were all taken away.” Finally, on February 23, 1801 at 4:00 am, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson passed away.
That evening Elizabeth’s dear friend, Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote in his commonplace book:
“This morning died at the Billet [Hatboro] near Philadelphia Mrs. Eliz. Ferguson, a woman of uncommon talents and virtues, admired, esteemed, and beloved by a numerous circle of friends and acquaintances. Her life was marked with distress from all its numerous causes, guilt excepted. An early disappointment in love, loss of all her near Relations, bad health, an unfortunate marriage connection, poverty, and finally a slow and painful death composed the ingredients that filled her cup of suffering. She was the intimate friend of my dear mother in law [Annis Boudinet Stockton], who died a few weeks before her. I owe to her many obligations. She introduced me into her circle of friends.”
Elizabeth is buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia along with her parents, grandmother (Lady Ann Keith), and several of her siblings.
Her epitaph reads:
the true sympathizer
with the afflicted. Daughter
of Thomas and Ann Graeme
of Hugh Henry Fergusson
Died 1801. Aged 64
Eliza — caused this stone to be laid
waits with resignation and humble
hope for reunion with her friend
in a more perfect state of existence