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In the provocative new biography Female Genius: Eliza Harriot and George Washington at the Dawn of the Constitution, Mary Sarah Bilder looks to the 1780s—the Age of the Constitution—to investigate the rise of a radical new idea in the English-speaking world: female genius. Bilder finds the perfect exemplar of this phenomenon in English-born Eliza Harriot Barons O’Connor. This pathbreaking female educator delivered a University of Pennsylvania lecture attended by George Washington as he and other Constitutional Convention delegates gathered in Philadelphia. As the first such public female lecturer, her courageous performance likely inspired the gender-neutral language of the Constitution. Learn more about Eliza Harriot's transatlantic life in this conversation with author Mary Sarah Bilder.
Mary Sarah Bilder is the Founders Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. Her previous book, Madison's Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention (2015) received the 2016 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy, and her work has been recognized by awards from the AHA, SHEAR, and AALL. She is Literary Director of the Ames Foundation and a member of the American Law Institute, the American Antiquarian Society, and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.