Brent, Emma Fenwick

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Emma Fenwick Brent was an early member of the Club and played a decisive role in determining the scope and shape of the organization. She chaired the Committees on Eminent Women, the Exact Study of the English Language, and Archaeology, occasionally giving papers on these topics; she was also the founder of the Committee on Maryland Authors and Artists, which began a tradition of decorating their graves on All Souls’ Day—including the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.

Brent also served as President for a single year—but it was a monumental one. As one of founding president Francese Litchfield Turnbull’s closest friends and allies, Brent took the helm of the Club during 1893, when Turnbull lived abroad, and helped to ensure that the Club retained its literary focus when a younger faction within the Club agitated to expand the Club’s scope to include social reform and activism. Upon her return to the presidency in 1894, Turnbull praised Brent, whom she said “generously spent herself in [the Club’s] service during your year of trial.”  Brent also served for several years on the Club’s Board of Managers.

Brent came from an established Maryland family.  Her father, Robert J. Brent, was a descendant of Margaret Brent, the first woman to appear in Maryland courts as executrix of Governor Leonard Calvert. Her relation to Margaret Brent may have inspired several of her Club members, including Lucy Meacham Thruston, to write—and publish—poems, stories, and novels recounting Brent’s role in early Maryland history. Emma’s mother, Mathilda, also claimed ties to important figures in Maryland history, being a descendant of Jonathan Hager, the founder of Hagerstown.

Brent lived with her family in Baltimore at 708 St. Paul Street and was active in the Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church.


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  • Turnbull, Francese L. “President’s Talk,” October 1894, Turnbull Papers MS 229, Sheridan Libraries, Johns Hopkins University.
  • “Miss Emma Brent.” Baltimore Sun, October 18, 1902, p. 8.
  • “Death of Robert J. Brent, Esq.,” Baltimore Sun, February 5, 1872, p. 4.


Cynthia Requardt



“Brent, Emma Fenwick,” The Woman's Literary Club of Baltimore, accessed May 27, 2020,