Foster, Hannah Webster, 1759–1840, American novelist, b. Boston. She was one of the earliest American novelists and her epistolary novel, The Coquette (1797), was one of the first of its kind in America. It was based on the story (well known at the time) of Elizabeth Whitman, a well-educated 37 year-old unmarried woman who died in childbirth at an inn. Foster retold the story with sympathy, showing how American society unduly circumscribed the lives of women. Her novel The Boarding School (1798) was one of the first fictional accounts of education in the United States.