Woman Merwick, Donna Jeanne (1932 - )

Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Written by Susan Foley and Charles Sowerwine, The University of Melbourne

Daughter of a veterinarian, Donna Merwick was born in Chicago (Illinois, USA) in 1932. She studied history at Mundelein College, Chicago and, in 1953, entered the Order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She then completed her MA at DePaul University, Chicago (1962) and her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1967). She began teaching history at Mundelein College in 1966. After leaving the Order in 1968, she was named Lecturer in History at the University of Melbourne and made her career there, retiring in 1995. In 1971, she married the historian Greg Dening, leader of what the prominent anthropologist Clifford Geertz baptised as the 'Melbourne Group' (of which Inge Clendinnen was also a leading member; (Geertz, pp. 325-35). Her first major work was Boston priests, 1848-1910: a study of social and intellectual change (1973). Her subsequent works established her as a pioneer and leader in the study of the non-English past in North America.
Possessing Albany, 1630-1710: the Dutch and English experiences (1990) was followed by the path-breaking Death of a notary: conquest and change in colonial New York (1999). 'Prizewinning-caliber historical writing such as Death of a Notary is more than craft. It is art' (Hoffer, pp. 1465-6); 'a bold and creative work of history which forces the reader to adopt the "way of seeing" which characterized the notary at the heart of her tale' (Kroen, pp. 228 -230). She went on to The shame and the sorrow: Dutch-Amerindian encounters in New Netherland (2006). She enjoyed Fellowships at Princeton University (1988-89), the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio (1991), Harvard (1993), and the ANU (1995 to the present).

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Geertz, Clifford, 'History and Anthropology', New Literary History, vol. 21, 1990, pp. 325-335. Details
  • Hoffer, Peter, 'Review of Death of a notary', The Journal of American History, vol. 87, no. 4, 2001, pp. 1465-6. Details
  • Kroen, Sheryl, 'Review of Death of a notary', Rethinking History, vol. 4, no. 2, 2000, pp. 228-230. Details

Online Resources

See also