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Baptist Faith in Action
The Private Writings of Maria Baker Taylor, 1813–1895

Kathryn Carlisle Schwartz

A key collection of primary source material for the nineteenth-century South

Supplying a wealth of material from locales and a time for which few primary sources exist, Baptist Faith in Action brings to print the writings of Maria Baker Taylor (1813–1895), a strong-minded plantation mistress who spent her life in South Carolina and Florida. The granddaughter of Richard Furman, South Carolina's foremost nineteenth-century Baptist minister, Taylor was a well-educated and sophisticated member of South Carolina's second-tier planter class. She was also a most fervent Baptist. Notable for its geographical and temporal breadth, this collection of letters, diary entries, essays, and poems affords an unmatched view into the life of a woman living on the South's interior frontier during the nineteenth century.

Born in Sumter County, South Carolina, Maria Baker married John Morgandollar Taylor in 1834. Throughout their marriage the couple lived on the geographical frontier, first in Beaufort District, South Carolina, and then in Marion County, Florida. The mother of thirteen children, Taylor taught her children and grandchildren at home, devoted large amounts of time to church work, and read voraciously. She also wrote voluminously, keeping diaries, exchanging letters, and occasionally publishing anonymous articles in Baptist publications. These writings document the spiritual life of an evangelical Baptist woman and explore the impact of the American Civil War on her world. Of particular interest, these writings reveal how Taylor's day-to-day experiences differed dramatically from the stereotypical image of southern plantation life.

Kathryn Carlisle Schwartz offers a contextual biography of Taylor. She also facilitates the use and understanding of this sizable collection by providing explanatory notes on its extensive cast of characters, changing locales, and chronological range.

Kathryn Carlisle Schwartz, a great-granddaughter of Maria Baker Taylor, holds a B.A. from Bard College and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. She is professor emerita of English at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she directed the freshmen composition program and taught courses in women's literature, the novel of manners, and organization writing. Now retired, she lives in Delaware, Ohio.

"A remarkable collection of the letters, diary entries, and writings of Richard Furman's granddaughter."—The Baptist Studies Bulletin

"Welcome and timely …Thoroughly footnoted with references to relevant and recent historiography, the book will certainly aid the quests of future researchers."—H-Net Book Review

"Carefully collating and annotating thousands of manuscript pages, Kathryn Carlisle Schwartz skillfully interweaves primary text and interconnective tissue to illuminate the life Maria Baker Taylor, a well-to-do plantation mistress and mother of thirteen children. A granddaughter of Baptist theologian Richard Furman, Taylor and her husband were among the first South Carolina planters to migrate to antebellum Florida's Upper Peninsula. Taylor's writings exude a strong evangelical faith and paint a vivid picture of family and friendship—but also of suffering, sacrifice, and survival. Her writings provide us with perhaps the clearest picture available of the social, economic, educational, and religious life in Alachua and Marion County, Florida, during the ante-and postbellum eras."—James M. Denham, Center for Florida History, Florida Southern College



book jacket for Baptist Faith in Action


6 x 9
330 pages
21 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-497-8
cloth, $39.95s


    Copyright ©2018 The University of South Carolina Press