Laurie Lawlor:  Curriculum Connections

    Curriculum Connections:
    Horseback on the Boston Post Road, 1704

    Margaret Knight lived from 1666­1727, She was known as Madam Knight in connection with her writing school and her work as a recorder of public documents. Her famous Private Journal of a Journey from Boston to New York in the Year, 1704. The journal was published and made public in 1825 and is a source of information on colonial customs and conditions, especially of inns. In later life she herself maintained an inn near New London, Conn. The Journal detailed her journey on the Boston Post Road. Britannica Encyclopedia includes Madame Knight as a subject in their "Women in American History" section.

    The Boston Post Road was one of New York City¹s earliest roads. Originally it was developed from an Indian trail. In colonial days it was the main land route between New York and Boston. In 1673, England¹s King Charles II made it North America¹s first official post road or mail route. President George Washington's 1789 inauguaral tour used this route through New England. Today the route has survived as the Bowery in Manhattan, Boston Road in the Bronx, and U.S. Highway 1 in New England. A stretch of U.S. Highway 1 in Westchester County (New York) retains its original name. Learn more about the Boston Post Road.

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration has a depiction of Benjamin Franklin on the Boston Post Road, on their website.

  • Read From Path to Highway: The Story of the Boston Post Road by Gail Gibbons, ISBN 069004514X , HarperCollins 1986

  • Information about the Boston Post Road

  • A chronology of events taking place in New York City from 1700-1704. One of the items states, "Mrs. Sarah Knight travels from Boston to New York and returns, describing her journey in The Private Journal."

  • "The History Matters" site. The title of the excerpt is "Wee made Good speed along": Boston Businesswoman Sarah Knight Travels From Kingston to New London, 1704

  • It seems that Lawlor used her "artistic license" to invent the twin servants who accompanied Madame Knight on her journey. Do you agree that Lawlor invented the girls as characters in her book? And if so, why do you think she invented those characters? Who actually accompanied Knight on her trip?

  • Madame Knight's actual journals have been studied in a number of college courses. Questions asked of the original journals include:

    Questions for Reading and Discussion.

      1. Look at Knight as heroine/protagonist of her story/journal.

      2. Look carefully at how the wilderness is presented.

      3. Look at exactly what she chooses to record in this journal.

      4. Notice the lack of religious themes.

      5. Discuss Knight as driven by middle-class consumer values.

      6. Discuss Knight's racism.

    When Lawlor wrote her fictional account of Madame Knight's journey -- a great portion of the narrative is dependent on the perspective presented by Knight in her journal. Discuss the questions in light of Lawlor's narrative. For example, did Knight come through as a racist in Lawlor's account of the journey? Is there a lack of religious themes in Lawlor's account?

  • Read an excerpt from Knight's diary From the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, "Colonial Children - The Dangers of the Way by Madame Sarah Knight (1704)." Discuss the mood that Knight sets in her diary as compared with the mood set by Lawlor's account.

    Horseback on the Boston Post Road, 1704. (2000) Ministrel® Pocket Books. ISBN: 0671039237; (2002) Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0743436261. American Sisters Series. 180 pg. Historical Fiction.

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