Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information


Pen Name: Eliza Wood Farnham, Eliza Woodson Burhans Farnham, and Eliza Woodson (Burnhan) Farnham

Genre: C:ADULT Non-Fiction

Born: November 17, 1815 in Rensselaerville, New York


Illinois Connection

Farnham lived in Tazwell County.

Biographical and Professional Information

Eliza Farnham was a novelist, feminist and activist for prison reform. Her fame as an Illinois writer rests upon her work ''Life in the Prairie Land'', an account of the nearly five years she spent living in the prairie land of Tazewell County, Illinois near Pekin between 1836 and 1840.

"Eliza Farnham was a remarkable person. She married lawyer and explorer, Thomas Jefferson Farnham, and moved to pionee Illinois, resulting in her first book, LIFE IN PRAIRIE LAND, 1846. She returned to New York State while her husband explored the American West and the Oregon Trail - and published several books about it. His death at San Francisco prompted her to organize a group of unmarried women to emigrate to California with her "for the purpose of fostering stability and decorum amid the disorder of the Gold Rush", they sailed round the horn to California in 1849. This work cover the next 7 years. Her husband's books are widely acknowledged by such as Howes, Zamorano, Wheat, and others, but rarely hers. This is a more nuts-and-bolts treatise about the early days of statehood. "Let it not be forgotten in the reaind, that the California of to-day is neither in material nor moral aspect the California of

1851-2 and 3.The exterior and interior life are alike advancing." - Preface. " Aside from the customary moral reflections common to many writers, her book contains much that is worthy of interest, presenting a fairly clear view of the formation of the Vigilance committee in 1856.""

- Cowan p. 203. [ See NOTABLE AMERICAN WOMEN, p.598 ]. Chapter 5 tells of "The Shanty as Furnished", while an Appendix covers The Donner Party, with several chapters on gold mining. Her sea voyage is somewhat

described in the introductory chapter.

Quoted text provided by Thomas Joyce.

Published Works Expand for more information

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-- *Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990