Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758)

Silk and velvet corset with steel boning and lace, mourning stationery envelopes

Silk and velvet corset with steel boning and lace, mourning stationery envelopes

The Loves of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Esther Edwards Burr (1732-1758)

Esther Edwards Burr was the mother of Aaron Burr, Jr., the wife of founding Princeton University President Aaron Burr, Sr., and the daughter of Jonathan Edwards, the Calvinist evangelist of the Great Awakening of New England.
Her mother, Sarah Pierpont Edwards, underwent a mystical religious experience. Edwards encouraged others to emulate her conversion through proselytizing and the publication of several pamphlets written by Sarah.
Esther Burr descended from five generations of literate females.

She kept a diary in which she wrote daily over three years to her
friend Sarah Prince, living in Boston. This diary was overlooked and is important because it is a woman’s journal, of domestic observations and female concerns. The journal is a continual self-examination and spiritual quest, a private document. Jonathan Edwards claimed a true understanding of divine things to be a sixth sense, drawing a connection between women’s greater piety and emotional natures.
His daughter’s journal is a surprisingly modern self-examination and spiritual quest, a private document. Ostensibly, in the service of the Lord, Esther Burr and Sarah Prince were quite ready to employ their pens.

The female pens that did the most to prompt women to write were held not
by real women at all, but by the heroines such as those of Richardson’s epistolary novels. Pamela and Clarissa were avidly read in both Britain and America. It was Pamela’s “positive self-assertion through letter writing that ultimately brought her wealth and happiness. Burr and Prince could easily have accepted Richardson’s premise that pious women, armed with their letter-writing talents, had the power to influence their destinies.

In creating a personification of Esther Burr, despite her young and surprisingly irreverent attitudes which were overwhelmed by the presence of death in her narrative. The letters are not open, they’re folded within mourning stationary envelopes, addressed with the names of friends, family and loved ones veiled under green lace. The silk is a somber overlay of subtle striped burgundy over a purple silk with velvet chevrons down the center front like a blade. The back panel of the corset is a solid claret velvet in the shape of a shield like that of a family heraldry symbol. The corset was originally a full eight panel corset but two side panels have been removed to dramatize the dramatic and emotional volumes between the vessel of the bust of the corset and the extremely small waist.

The Journal of Esther Edwards Burr 1754-1757, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, 354 pgs, Edited & introduction, by Carol F. Karlsen and Laurie Crumpacker, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1984.

Drawing connections between her own interpretive work and the historic corsets exhibited in Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette, Camilla
Huey will speak on the changing architectural, structural, and functional forms of
corsets, corset-making, materials, and methodologies. The artist employs these
forms in her unique approach to analyzing portraits of nine 18th- and 19th-century women. Through ephemera, fetishism, material culture, and texts, the artist invites
the audience to follow both design and historic research as she explores biographical narrative. She will bring selected works from her exhibition, 
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding, Morris-Jumel Mansion.

Preview May 7, 6pm Bard Graduate Center, 38 West 86th Street, New York City 10024, $25 RSVP

The Premiere of The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding with select works from the exhibition at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Manhattan's oldest house the very place where the lives of these women, filming and exhibition took place. A reception and screening with discussion to follow. View the works of Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Colonial Arrangements before.

Premiere May 14, 6pm Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Terrace, New York City 10032, $25 RSVP

Camilla Huey (artist/couturière) has exhibited artwork at the Bard Graduate Center
and the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City. Her exhibit, 
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding, paid homage to the women who surrounded and influenced this controversial founding father.