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Deborah Norris Logan: Historian, Transcriber, Memoirist

March 27, 2012

Although primarily self-educated, Deborah Norris Logan became a very influential and important historian and writer. Her publications helped preserve documents that would have otherwise been lost. Her efforts continue to be an asset as we look back on the nation’s growth and development.

Deborah was the daughter of Charles Norris, a Quaker merchant, and Mary Parker. Her childhood home was two doors away from the state house, some claim that Deborah stood on the garden fence to listen to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps it was this proximity to the establishment of the new nation that sparked Deborah’s interest in preserving its history.

On September 6, 1781, Deborah married George Logan, a Quaker physician, and two years later they moved to Stenton. It was here in 1814 that Deborah found a series of old letters between William Penn and James Logan, her husband’s grandfather. Deborah transcribed each of the letters, and they were later published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. After her husband’s death in 1821, Deborah began a memoir of his life, containing letters and anecdotes, later published as Memoir of Dr. George Logan of Stenton.

Because of her contributions, Deborah became the first female member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1827, and in 1830 John F. Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia included her memoirs and some of the manuscripts she rescued. Deborah Logan died on February 2, 1839. The Historical Society of Philadelphia issued a tribute to her as a Pennsylvania historian.

The documents rescued by Deborah Norris Logan, as well as her own diaries regarding the social habits of prominent Philadelphia families in addition to political, religious, and cultural developments within the city, have helped historians study and understand our nation from its birth.

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