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Eliza Farnham

Born: November 17, 1815 in Rensselaerville, New York
Died: December 15, 1864 in New York City, New York

Pen Name: Eliza Wood Farnham, Eliza Woodson Burhans Farnham, and Eliza Woodson (Burnhan) Farnham

Connection to Illinois: Farnham lived in Tazwell County.

Biography: Eliza Farnham was a novelist, feminist and activist for prison reform. Her fame as an Illinois writer rests upon her work ''Life in the Prairie Land'', an account of the nearly five years she spent living in the prairie land of Tazewell County, Illinois near Pekin between 1836 and 1840. 'Eliza Farnham was a remarkable person. She married lawyer and explorer, Thomas Jefferson Farnham, and moved to pionee Illinois, resulting in her first book, LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND, 1846. She returned to New York State while her husband explored the American West and the Oregon Trail - and published several books about it. His death at San Francisco prompted her to organize a group of unmarried women to emigrate to California with her 'for the purpose of fostering stability and decorum amid the disorder of the Gold Rush', they sailed round the horn to California in 1849. This work cover the next 7 years. Her husband's books are widely acknowledged by such as Howes, Zamorano, Wheat, and others, but rarely hers. This is a more nuts-and-bolts treatise about the early days of statehood. 'Let it not be forgotten in the reaind, that the California of to-day is neither in material nor moral aspect the California of 1851-2 and 3.The exterior and interior life are alike advancing.' - Preface. ' Aside from the customary moral reflections common to many writers, her book contains much that is worthy of interest, presenting a fairly clear view of the formation of the Vigilance committee in 1856.'' - Cowan p. 203. [ See NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN, p.598 ]. Chapter 5 tells of 'The Shanty as Furnished', while an Appendix covers The Donner Party, with several chapters on gold mining. Her sea voyage is somewhat described in the introductory chapter. Quoted text provided by Thomas Joyce.

  • -- Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990

Primary Literary Genre(s): Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

California, in-doors and out
ISBN: 0548236836 OCLC: 1300522

Kessinger Publishing, LLC 1856

  California, in-doors and out.
ISBN: 1177146355 OCLC: 944448561

Nabu Press, [Place of publication not identified] : 2010.

  Ideal attained :
ISBN: 1290114234 OCLC: 940481648

Hardpress Publishing, [Place of publication not identified] : 2012.

  Life in prairie land
ISBN: 9781541212848 OCLC: 1019730794

  My early days.
ISBN: 1290254338 OCLC: 940514739

Hardpress Publishing, [Place of publication not identified] : 2012.

  Woman and her era
ISBN: 9781154428124 OCLC: 708254229

General Books, Memphis, Tenn. : 2009-2010.