Unitarian Universalist Women's Heritage
Notable Universalist and Unitarian Women: L
Mary Lamb (1765-1847) Unitarian
Older than her famous brother, Charles, by 10 years, Mary lavished attention and care on him and encouraged his education. She worked as a dressmaker to extend the family finances. In later years her mental condition deteriorated and she was often unable to maintain the close relationship.
Milma Sophia Lappala-Erkkila (Dec. 15, 1879-1950) Unitarian
After leaving the Congregational Fellowship under charges of heresy, Milma and her husband initiated Unitarian work among the Finnish people of Virginia MN and vicinity. In 1916, she was admitted to Unitarian Fellowship. After her husband's death in 1923, she succeeded him and continued the work in the rural parish she had founded, for several years carrying on the work of two churches and raising four children. Her unique qualifications as a Finnish-speaking minister and compelling preacher produced an invitation to take charge of the Finnish Unitarian movement in New York City.
(Jean) Margaret Wemyss Laurence (July 18, 1926-Jan. 5, 1987) Canadian Unitarian
Born in Neepawa, Manitoba, this noted novelist began to write stories at age 7. After graduation from United College in Winnepeg, she married Jack Laurence, a hydraulic engineer. In 1949 they moved to England and then to Somalialand, where she published A Tree for Poverty, her translations of Somali folktales and poetry. Her first fictional work, "Uncertain Flowering," was published in an anthology in 1954. Having by then moved to Ghana, that country became the setting for her first novel, This Side Jordan (1960) and a series of stories published in various journals and gathered in Tomorrow-Tamer (1963). Back in Vancouver, she revised her memoirs of Somalialand, The Prophet's Camel Bell (1963) and then went on to write the novel, The Stone Angel, which introduced the fictional town of Manawaka and captured the imagination of Canadians. Subsequent novels in the Manawaka series include A Jest of God (1966), The Fire-Dwellers (1969), and The Diviners (1974). She also wrote a number of children's books. From her home in Lakefield, Ontario, she was active in world peace organizations and in the Unitarian church.
Jane Lead (1624-1704) British Universalist
Through her visions, thinking and writing, early concepts of Universalism emerged out of the thought of Jakob Boehme. Her book, The Revelation of the Everlasting Gospel Message (1697), introduced the concept that original harmony is stronger than any consequent disharmony; thus, ultimately, harmony will be restored. Her work influenced Johann Peterson, who added scriptural foundations to her visions. Despite her advanced age and blindness, she was the leader of the English Philadelphian Society and one of the first to express Universalist ideas. See Charlotte Irwin, "Pietist Origins of American Universalism" (Master of Arts thesis, Tufts University, 1966).
E. Rosalind Lee (Dates unknown) British Unitarian
She was a minister who was involved in British Unitarian relief programs and resettlement of Czech refugee children in Britain before and during World War II.
Mary Lee (Dec. 10, 1891-Apr. 28, 1982) Unitarian Universalist
Author and journalist, Mary Lee graduated from Radcliffe College (Cambridge MA) in 1917, served in Europe during World War I with the Massachusetts General Hospital Unit, the U. S. Air Service, and the Army of Occupation in Germany until 1919. She wrote a book, It's a Great War (Houghlin-Miflin, 1929), about her experiences and published articles in the New York Times and Atlantic Monthly. "A History of the Chestnut Hill Chapel," her address at the 1936 dinner celebrating her congregation's 75th anniversary, was published the following year. During World War II, she was active in Greek War Relief. Her papers are in the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe.
Sara Jane Clarke Lippincott (Sept. 23, 1823-Apr. 20, 1904) Unitarian
Pompey NY was her birthplace and she attended school in nearby Rochester. Her verses were printed as early as 1836 and a volume of her work, Poems, appeared in 1851. Meanwhile her "Letters" by Grace Greenwood were appearing in the Home Journal and eventually Sara Clarke nearly disappeared into the identity of her pen name. Greenwood Leaves, a collection of her pieces was a best seller in 1850. She worked as an editorial assistant for Godey's Lady's Book until her anti-slavery sentiments began to antagonize southern subscribers. She also championed the women's rights movement. Her Haps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe (1854) was very popular. In 1853 she launched a children's magazine, Little Pilgrim, and produced a number of children's books. During the Civil War she wrote extensively in support of the United States Sanitary Commission. Her husband was unfaithful to her, and in 1876 when he was working for the General Land Office, he was charged with fraud. He fled to Europe and disappeared. Grace Greenwood continued to write for Hearth and Home, Christian Union, Ladies' Home Journal and other magazines.
Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo (Apr. 11, 1925-Mar. 25, 1965) Unitarian connections
Viola was born in California PA. Her father, a mine worker, lost his job when he lost a hand in an accident. That plus the effects of the Depression sent the family into a number of moves through the South, looking for stability. Eventually they settled in Detroit, MI. After two failed marriages, Viola married Anthony James Liuzzo and converted to Catholicism. During the unsettled times of the early 60s she attended services and other meetings at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Detroit, and eventually joined that church. At the same time she attended meetings at the home of the Episcopal chaplain of Wayne State University, where she was taking classes. Finally she felt compelled to join the march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. There she worked with the people at Brown Chapel which is an African Methodist Episcopal Church. After the march she and a young black man used her car to transport people back to Selma. On a return trip to Montgomery four members of the Ku Klux Klan followed them, finally firing into the car, killing Viola. Her memorial service was at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church. See Murder on the Highway: The Viola Liuzzo Story, by Beatrice Siegel (NY: Four Winds Press, 1993).
Mary Ashton Rice Livermore (Dec. 19, 1820-May 23, 1905) Universalist
Civil War worker, temperance and suffrage leader, and popular lecturer, she edited and wrote for various journals, including Ladies' Repository, Rose of Sharon, Lily of the Valley, the New Covenant, and Woman's Journal. My Story of the War (Hartford: A.D. Worthington, (1890) details her four-year experience as a nurse in the Union Army and in relief work at home, in hospitals, camps, and at the front during the Civil War. The Story of My Life (Hartford: A.D. Worthington, 1898) contains her reminiscences of childhood, the war years, and 25 years of public speaking; also included are six of her most popular lectures. Thirty Years Too Late (n.d.) is one of her contributions to the temperance movement. With Frances Willard, she co-authored A Woman of the Century (1893), which contained biographies of many Universalist and Unitarian women. Her lectures were so popular that she was known as "Queen of the Platform." Excerpts from her writings are included in Standing Before Us: Unitarian Universalist Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936 (Boston: Skinner House, 2000).
Dorothy Livesay (Oct. 12, 1909-Dec. 29, 1996) Canadian Unitarian
Born in Winnipeg, she was a poet, journalist, and writer of short fiction, autobiography, and literary criticism. Educated at the University of Toronto and the Sorbonne, she worked in progressive politics during the 1930s, as a teacher in Northern Rhodesia (1959-63), and served as a university writer-in-residence. Her lifelong concerns were with women's rights and the identity of the woman artist. Among her many publications are these: Green Pitcher (1928), Day and Night (1944), Poems for People (1947), and Collected Poems: Two Seasons (1972). She wrote "The Colour of God's Face" for the Unitarian Service Committee (Vancouver: 1964). She became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1987. An important resource is the publication A Public and Private Voice: Essays on the Life and Work of Dorothy Livesay (1986).
Alice Louise Higgins Lothrop (Mar. 28, 1870-Sept. 2, 1920) Unitarian
She had been a Sunday school superintendent and a volunteer in the Boston Children's Aid Society before starting work for the Associated Charities of Boston in 1898. She helped formulate the Massachusetts Mothers' Aid laws, served on the executive committee of the Mass. Child Labor Committee, and in 1910 was appointed to the Mass. Commission to Investigate Employment Agencies. She also worked with the Mass. Civic League. In 1910 she helped found the National Association of Societies for Organizing Charity (later the Family Service Association of America). Interested in social work, she developed training programs in the formative years of the profession. In 1913, she married William Lothrop and resigned from the Associated Charities but remained active professionally, continuing to lecture at the Boston School for Social Workers. She also served as chair of the Family Service Federation which she helped found, and was a director of the Associated Charities, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Medical Social Service Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a director of the Newton Welfare Bureau. During World War I, she took an active part in the Red Cross, served as secretary of the Boston Metropolitan Chapter's plan and scope committee, and was director of civilian relief for New England.
Amy Lowell (Feb. 9, 1874-May 12, 1925) Unitarian connections
Born into a most distinguished family (her second brother Abbott Lawrence Lowell served as President of Harvard for 24 years), Amy's education seems to have been rather haphazard, partly because of her own restless temperament. She did, however, have free run of her father's library and of the Boston Atheneum. She was interested in all the arts and traveled extensively. She led the active social life of a well-connected Bostonian. She was confirmed at sixteen in the Episcopal Church, but later abandoned any conventional religious belief. Her first book, Dream Drops or Stories from Fairy Land, by a Dreamer (1887), was published with her mother's help. Her first book of poems, A Dome of Many Colored Glass, appeared in 1912. Her eccentric nature made her a celebrity, and she was an acknowledge authority on Keats. Her biography of him was published in 1925. Other books include Sword Blades and Poppy Seed (1914), Men, Women and Ghosts (1916), Can Grande's Castle (1918), Pictures of the Floating World (1919), volumes of critical essays, Six French Poets (1915) and Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1917). She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925.
Josephine Shaw Lowell (Dec. 16, 1843-Oct. 12, 1905) Unitarian
Charitable worker and reformer from a prosperous Boston family who were members of Theodore Parker's congregation, she moved at an early age to Staten Island, where her mother sought healing for her failing eyesight. As a child she also spent time in Europe, attending schools in Paris and Rome, developing early competence as a linguist. Strongly influenced by her family's involvement in social issues, she gained a lasting sense of personal involvement in public affairs. As radical abolitionists, they participated actively in the Civil War. Her brother, Robert Gould Shaw, led the first Negro regiment sent into action from the free states, and her father organized relief efforts for freed slaves. With her sister she joined the Woman's Central Association of Relief, her first experience in organized charitable work. A war widow at 20, she devoted her life to public service and became the principal fund-raiser for the National Freedman's Relief Association of New York. Later her charitable work shifted to inspecting jails and reporting on the horrible conditions there. Impressed by her work, the governor appointed her as the first woman on the State Board with her practical of Charities (1876). Combined work was her continuing effort to develop a theoretical base for state-administered philanthropy. She wrote Public Relief and Private Charity (1884), as well as many lectures, articles and reports. Her work on labor issues led to Industrial Arbitration and Conciliation (1983). A memorial issue of Charities and the Commons (Dec. 2, 1905) contains reminiscences and selections from her reports. Her reports as commissioner are printed in NY State Board of Charities Annual Reports (1880, 1882 and 1886 in particular).
Maria White Lowell (July 8, 1821-Oct. 27, 1853) Unitarian
Poet and wife of James Russell Lowell, she was born to a Unitarian family in Watertown MA. A member of Margaret Fuller's "Conversations," she felt a duty to the moral reformation of the country. In 1842, dressed in white with a garland of oak leaves on her head, she presented a banner from the women of Watertown to the Total Abstinence Society. She also worked to raise money for the abolitionists and contributed poems to Liberty Bell. When she met James Russell Lowell, she encouraged his poetry as a way to convey a special meaning to people. Her failing health, several pregnancies, and deaths of young children led to moves to Philadelphia and then Italy. She died the year after their return to Cambridge. She appears not to have considered herself a poet, although her work appeared in Rufus Griswold's Female Poets of America (1849) and Putnam's Magazine. Her most ambitious work is an epic poem, "Africa,' in which Africa is personified as a somber maternal figure. Her poems and letters are collected in Hope J. Vernon's The Poems of Maria Lowell, with Unpublished Letters and a Biography (1936).
Florence Hope Luscomb (Feb. 6, 1887-Oct. 27, 1985) Unitarian Universalist
A radical feminist all her life, Florence was born in Lowell MA but moved to Boston with her mother two years later. Among the first women to graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in architecture, she practiced in a woman-owned firm until World War I caused a building slump. She then became Executive Secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association. From that time on, her life was spent working for liberal causes. She held paid positions with the Boston League of Women Voters and the Massachusetts branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She served on the boards of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. She was a member of Community Church in Boston. She ran unsuccessfully four times for public office. She opposed McCarthyism and had to defend herself before a committee of the Massachusetts legislature. She wrote an early anti-Vietnam War leaflet and visited both China and Cuba. At age 90 she was living in a Cambridge commune. She died at age 98.
Anna Jean Robbins Lyman (1789-1867) Unitarian
Born in Milton MA into a prominent New England family, she married Judge Lyman and moved to Northampton, where she was the center of much of the social activity of the area. Through her intellectual leadership and unconventional thought, she encouraged a wide diversity of people to engage in reading and discussion of ideas. Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of many friends who visited and corresponded with her. Her memoir, Recollections of My Mother, written by her daughter, Susan I. Lesley (Boston: Geo. Ellis, 3rd ed., 1889), gives an excellent picture of New England life, including insight into the thoughts and lives of other prominent Unitarians.
Marcia Janes Lyttle (1891-1991) Unitarian Universalist
She taught design at Syracuse University and at Dickenson High School in Jersey City for several years. She was married to Unitarian Minister Charles Harold Lyttle, who took a position with Meadville Theological School in Pennsylvania, and they later moved to Chicago with the school. Marcia was a socialist and an activist, working for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the Congress on Racial Equality.