Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat

(1823-1908)

by Carrie Webber

Biographical Note:

Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat was born on November 28, 1823 in Portland, Maine. Daughter of John Mussey, Esq, a prominent judge and Mehitable Smith Rana. Sweat was one of five children. Sweat received her early education in Portland schools and later at the Roxbury Massachusetts Latin School. She married Lorenzo de Medici Sweat in 1849, a lawyer and Bowdoin College graduate who served in the Maine House of Representatives. They lived in the Sweat Mansion on the corner of Danforth and High streets which later became the Portland Museum of Art. Sweat's husband died on July 28, 1898.

Margaret Jane Mussey Sweat was a noted literary critic of the 19th century. Some believe she wrote the first lesbian novel in America, Ethel's Love Life. Sweat was one of the social elite of Portland, a world traveler and was fluent in French, German, Italian and Russian. Sweat died January 16, 1908 at the age of eighty-four. She bequeathed the Sweat Mansion and an additional $100,000 to the Portland Society of Art to construct a building adjacent to her home for a museum. She donated money to many other notable organizations including Bowdoin College from which both her father and husband graduated.

Description of Collection:

The Maine Women Writers Collection at the University of New England, Westbrook College Campus offers a variety of Sweat's published and unpublished works. The collection holds approximately forty-three different sources of information on Sweat including diaries, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, letter registers and both the original edition and a photocopy of Ethel's Love Life. Artifacts were donated to the collection by the Portland Society of Art Board of Management in February of 1965.