With Her Own Eyes
The Story of Julia Smith, Her Life, and Her Bible
- Author(s): Sampson, Emily
- Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
- Publication Date: 2006-02-28
- Status: Active
- Available in Hardcover - Cloth: Price $33.00 | Buy Now
Working in isolation on a Connecticut farm, Julia Smith (1792–1886) translated the Bible into English. She was the only woman to translate the entire Bible, but her work has been alternately ignored or disparaged by subsequent biblical scholars. This is in part because no English translation other than the King James Version attracted significant attention until the appearance of the Revised Standard Version in 1952.
In With Her Own Eyes, Emily Sampson argues that Smith’s work anticipated trends followed by later, usually male, translators and that she deserves recognition as a pioneering and influential biblical scholar in her own right. Smith was the daughter of a preacher and lawyer and a mother who wrote poetry and studied linguistics, mathematics, and astronomy. When William Miller’s predictions of the end of the world failed, she began translating for herself from the original languages. Trained in Greek and Latin, Smith taught herself Hebrew and ultimately produced five translations. In 1876 Smith published a very literal translation at her own expense. She hoped not only that her Bible would reveal additions made to the King James Version but that her work would help bolster the case that women were, in many respects, the equal of men.
Sampson also details Smith’s striking personal history. She and her four sisters were seen as eccentrics in the small town of Glastonbury. They were active in the abolitionist movement in the decades before the Civil War and later in the temperance and women’s suffrage movements. Smith attended the first meeting of the Association of the Advancement of Women, and she and her sister Abby became famous in Connecticut for their refusal to pay taxes until given the right to vote in town meetings.
A comprehensive look at the intellectual, social, and political circles of Julia Smith, With Her Own Eyes is a singular portrait of one of the most remarkable autodidacts in the history of American intellectual life.