Unitarian Universalist Women's Heritage
Notable Universalist and Unitarian Women: W
Elmina R. BalIou Waldo (1810-1856) Universalist
She was a hymn writer. Her temperance hymn, "The Social Cup of Friendship," is included in Singing, Shouting, Celebrating Universalist and Unitarian Women," available from the IJU Women's Heritage Society.
Mary Edwards Walker (Nov. 26, 1832-Feb. 21, 1919) Unitarian
Born in Oswego NY, she graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855. She married Dr. Albert Miller and practiced medicine with him until their separation in 1859; however, she kept her own name and obtained a divorce in 1869. She participated actively in the dress reform movement and contributed regularly to the movement periodical, Sybil, edited by Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck. Appointed assistant army surgeon in 1863, she was captured the following year and held prisoner for several months. In 1865 she received the Congressional Medal of Honor for Meritorious Service. She was active in the Central Women's Suffrage Bureau of Washington, made Congressional appearances, and lectured on behalf of suffrage. Her books include Hit (1871) and Unmasked, or the Science of Immorality (1878).
Mrs. M. M. R. M. Wallace (Dates unknown) Universalist
She reported on Women's State Missionary Organizations" to the 1893 Columbian Universalist Congress.
Mary Augusta Ward (1851-1920) British Unitarian
She was a prolific writer, associated with Manchester College, Oxford. Her husband was Humphrey Ward, and in her books the author's name is generally listed as "Mrs. Humphrey Ward." Some of her books are Amiel `s Journal (1893), Marcella (1894), Fenwick `s Career (1906), The Testing of Diana Mallory (1908), Lady Merton, Colonist (1910), The Case of Richard Meynell (1911), England's Effort: Letters to an American Friend (1916), Towards the Goal (1917), Elizabeth `s Campaign (1918), and A Writer's Recollections (1918).
Mary Lovell Pickard Ware (1798-1849) Unitarian
Raised an Episcopalian in Boston, she became a Unitarian and married the Rev. Henry Ware. Jr. Her memoir, Memoir of Mary L. Ware, Wife of Henry Ware, Jr. by Edward B. Hall (Boston: Crosby, Nichols, and Co., 1853), reveals the private life of this leading Unitarian family.
Emalea Pusey Warner (before 1866-after 1928) Unitarian
One of the founding members of the First Unitarian Society of Wilmington DE, she was a prominent social activist in both the church and the community. She was president of the Delaware State Federation of Women's Clubs, which did much to rewrite school laws and improve education. She helped establish and served the Associated Charities, an ecumenical organization. She was president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for 25 years. The Delaware Better Homes Committee, the Delaware Consumer's League, and Liberty Kitchens were some of Emalea's many commitments. In 1928, she was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Delaware College.
Mercy Otis Warren (Sept. 14, 1728-Oct. 19, 1814) Unitarian
She was a poet, playwright, patriot, historian, and early Unitarian, like John and Abigail Adams, her close friends. Her major work, the 3-volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution (1805), was published with the assistance of the Unitarian pastor of King's Chapel, James Freeman. Her plays include The Adulateur (1772), and The Defeat and The Group (1775). In 1790 she published Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous, which included her two verse dramas, The Sack of Rome, and The Ladies of Castile. She also wrote Observations on the New Constitution (1778). Her papers are at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Yssabella Gertrude Waters (1862?-1920s) Unitarian
She graduated from Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1897 and served as a nurse during the Spanish American War. From 1897 to 1912, Yssabella worked at the Henry Street Settlement, and from 1912 to 1922 she worked for the National Organization of Public Health Nursing. She is noted for her book, Visiting Nursing in the United States, a leading source book of its day.
Anna C. L. Waterston (1812-1899) Unitarian
She was a hymn writer.
Mary Trask Webber (Dates unknown) Universalist
Born in Beverly MA, she wrote under the name of "Mary Webb" and, according to Phebe Hanaford "has written less than she might, through a modesty equal to her fine talent." In 1861 she and Phebe Hanaford compiled a collection of patriotic poetry, Chimes of Freedom and Union, which included her poems "On the Death of Ellsworth" and "Our Massachusetts Dead."
Mary C. Ward Grannis Webster (July, 1825-?) Universalist
Mary's family lived in Litchfield CT and was strongly Episcopalian. However, one of her brothers influenced her mother to the Universalist belief, though she never changed her membership, and Mary was encouraged to think for herself. She studied literature and published her first poem at age 12. She married F. A. Grannis, a merchant of Hartford CT, and immeidately joined the Universalist church there. She traveled with her husband and wrote of her experiences in "Thither-Side Sketches" for the Ladies' Repository. Mr. Grannis' health failed and several years after his death, Mary married the Rev. C. H. Webster and assisted him in his ministry. Her second husband soon died, but she continued to write for Universalist publications.
Katherine Weigel (1459?-Apr. 19, 1539) Polish with unitarian beliefs
(Her name is variously given as Weigel, Waygel, Vogel. Waiglowa and Wayglowa.) The daughter of a noble Polish family and the wife of a wealthy Jewish goldsmith, Katherine was accused and convicted at the age of seventy of apostasy to the Jewish religion. She recanted and was received back in the church. Ten years later she was again accused. She clearly stated her belief in God but not a belief in Christ as his son. She was condemned and burned at the stake in the Krawkow on Apr. 19, 1539.
Kate Gannett Wells (Apr. 6, 1838-Dec. 13, 1911) Unitarian
An affluent matron and political conservative, she worked for the moral education of the young and aroused public opinion to improve social conditions. She was active in the New England Women's Club and the Woman's Education Alliance and was a director of the Assn. for the Advancement of Women; however, she opposed suffrage on the grounds it would prove too disruptive to family life. She published several books, including About People (1885), and numerous magazine pieces.
Rosalie Agnes West (Sept. 21, 1893-May 13, 1967) Canadian Universalist
She grew up and was educated in Canada and in 1916 married a New Brunswick physician, Dr. J. Hinson West. In 1918, the couple went to India, where Dr. West served the Canadian Baptist Board as a medical missionary. Rosalie toured villages as a preacher. She wrote a booklet for girls for the Christian Literature Society which was published in six Indian languages. While in India, she became progressively liberal and, after a two-year furlough in Canada, was not allowed to return with her husband in 1943 because of her views. When her husband returned to India, she took a course with the United Church of Canada Training School for Women and found a war-time job as a pastor's assistant. From 1944-46, she was a minister for the Federal and King Kirkland United Church in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. In 1946, she came to the United States, was put in charge of Friendly House NC, and settled in Inman's Chapel. In 1947 she was made Executive Director of the Association of Universalist Women at the denomination's headquarters in Boston. She was ordained as a Universalist minister in 1948 in Massachusetts, where she was teaching church school. In 1951 she returned to Canada and became minister for the Universalist church in Halifax. In 1954, she moved to New Brunswick, where her husband had a medical practice.
Eliza Orne White (Aug. 2, 1856-Jan. 23, 1947) Unitarian
Novelist and children's writer, she was a lifelong friend of Lucretia Peabody Hale and a member of Women's Alliance of First Parish Church in Brookline MA. Her writings include novels, Miss Brooks (1890), and eight others, plus collections of short stories. She is known for excellent characters and New England settings. Her real talent was in writing books for children, including When Molly Was Six (1894) and 28 others. Her last book, When Esther Was a Little Girl (1944) was based on her own childhood.
Poppy Cannon White (Dates unknown.) Unitarian
A journalist, columnist for the New York Amsterdam News, and a socialite, this African American was the wife, and later the widow, of Walter White, Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Lilian Whiting (Oct. 3, 1847-Apr. 30, 1942) raised Unitarian
Her father was religiously liberal. In 1879, she was on staff at the Cincinnati Commercial; she then moved to Boston and got a job as an art critic for the Traveler, where in 1885, she became literary editor. In 1890, she left the Traveler and began editing the Boston Budget. In 1893, she became a free-lance writer. She wrote three volumes of essays, The World Beautiful (1894-96), which ran for 14 editions. Her poems are published in From Dreamland Sent (1895). In 1899 she wrote A Study of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The death of Kate Field, a woman for whom she had formed a lasting attachment, caused her to write three spiritualist works: After Her Death (1897), Kate Field (1899) and The Spiritual Significance (1900). At this time she also contributed to the National Spiritualist. In 1902, she wrote Boston Days, which contains vignettes of many Unitarian women. Although she maintained an Episcopalian connection and supported Trinity Church in Boston, she explored many other religious traditions, including spiritualism, theosophy, New Thought, and Unitarianism. She was also a supporter of women's rights. She is buried next to Kate Field in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.
Adeline Dutton Train Whitney (Sept. 15, 1824-Mar. 21, 1906) raised Unitarian
Originally a Congregationalist, when her father remarried in 1836, she attended her stepmother's Unitarian church, although later in life she became Episcopalian. She was well educated and of this education she wrote Friendly Letters to Girl Friends (1869). Her first book was Mother Goose for Grown Folks (1859). During the Civil War she wrote Boys at Chequasset (1861) and Faith Gartney's Girlhood (1862). They were both quick successes, and the latter went into twenty editions. She also wrote A Summer in Leslie Goldthwatie's Life (1866), We Girls (1870), Real Folks (1871) and The Other Girls (1873). When these four were issued as the "Real Folks Series," more than 10,000 copies were sold in the first season. She took no part in public affairs and disapproved of the suffrage movement, urging young women to be satisfied with the life of the home. Her collections of verse include Pansies (1872), Holv Tides (1886), Daffodils (1887), and White Memories (1893).
Anne Whitney (Sept. 2, 1821-Jan. 23, 1915) Unitarian
Noted sculptor of over 100 catalogued busts and statues, she came from a Unitarian family in Watertown MA. Her major statues include Samuel Adams (in front of Fanueil Hall, Boston, and contributed by Massachusetts to the Statuary Hall in Washington, DC), Leif Ericson (on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston and in the Smithsonian), Harriet Martineau (at Wellesley College until destroyed by fire), and Charles Sumner (in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA.). Her famous busts include many reformers: William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone, Mary Livermore, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frances Willard. Her partner was Abby Adeline Manning, a painter. Anne's papers, including some 3,000 letters, along with Abby's scrapbooks and diaries, are in the Wellesley College Library.
Lura Currier Whitney (?-1889) Universalist
She was central in the establishment of a library in Haverhill NH. As one of the "mill girls," she was a member of the Rev. Thomas' Improvement Circle and a contributor to The Lowell Offering.
Mary Louise Traffarn Whitney (1852-Mar. 8, 1942) Universalist/Unitarian
She was one of the early Universalist women ministers, later fellowshipped with the Unitarians. She married the Rev. Herbert Whitney in 1873, a minister in Universalist churches for fifteen years and later for Unitarian churches. Mary taught for a year in an academy, then taught kindergarten for two years. When her husband was called to New York, she took over the Iowa parish to finish out his term. She was ordained a Universalist minister in New York in 1887 and was connected with Universalist societies for ten years before fellowshipping with the Unitarian denomination with her husband. In 1891, she was called to the Second Unitarian Society and was the first woman minister called to a Unitarian church in the Boston area. She was engaged in missionary work for the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches in South Boston, was president of the Massachusetts Moral Education Association (1899-1905), and state superintendent of social purity for the Women's Christian Temperance Union. In Bernardston she organized the Senior Club for people over seventy. She founded and was president of South Boston's Family Culture Institute and edited its monthly magazine, Family Culture. During the early years of the Depression, when she was 83, she was nominated by the Socialist Party as a candidate for Congress from New Hampshire. She was also a social reformer, philanthropist and lecturer.
Mary Watson Whitney (Sept. 11, 1847- Sept. 9, 1921) Unitarian Connections
Mary graduated from the Waltham MA public schools and entered Vassar where she came under the influence of Maria Mitchell. She graduated in 1868 and, with further study, received a master's degree in 1872. From 1873 to 1876 she studied mathematics and celestial mechanics at the University of Zurich. After teaching at Waltham High School from 1876 to 1881, she returned to Vassar as Maria Mitchell's assistant. In 1888 she succeeded her mentor as professor of astronomy and director of the college observatory. Mary emphasized the ability of women to participate in scientific research. She focused her own work on double stars, variable stars, asteroids, comets and precise measurement of photographic plates. In 1899 she was a founding member of the American Astronomical Society. She retired in 1910 and died in Waltham in 1921.
Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin (Sept. 28, 1856-Aug. 24, 1923) Unitarian connections
This writer and educator was born in Philidelphia PA but spend much time in the West. In 1878 she organized in San Francisco the first kindergarten on the west coast and in 1880 founded with her sister the California Kindergarten Training School for teachers. When she went east for further study, she became friends with Elizabeth Peabody and through her met William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Julia Ward Howe. Her best known work is Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903). Some other works include Timothy's Quest (1890), Polly Oliver's Problem (1893), The Diary of a Goose Girl (1902), Mother Cary `s Chickens (1911), The Romance of a Christmas Card (1919) and The Republic of Childhood (three vols., 1895-1896). Her autobiography My Garden of Memory was published shortly after her death in 1923.
Eliza Tupper Wilkes (Oct. 8, 1844-1917) Universalist/Unitarian
From an old New England family who moved to Iowa when she was a child, she became an important missionary for the Unitarian church, founding eight new societies, four in South Dakota, one in Iowa, two in Minnesota, and one in Palo Alto CA. She began as a Baptist and slowly worked her way toward a belief in universal salvation. She learned that women could be ministers and was encouraged by Augusta Chapin and Mary Livermore to become ordained as a Universalist in 1871. For eight years in South Dakota she did missionary work without direction from any denomination. After a visit from the secretary of the Iowa Unitarian Association, the group there voted to organize as a Unitarian church and called Caroline Bartlett Crane as its minister. Eliza became Director of the Iowa Unitarian Conference in 1887 and continued her work in establishing new societies. She went to California for a rest, helped found a church in Alameda, and then returned to South Dakota and Minnesota to found more churches. Later she returned to California and served as associate minister in Oakland, as President of the Women's Pacific Unitarian Conference, and still later as minister in Santa Ana. She was known for her love preaching and generated interest and support for liberal religion wherever she went. One of her published articles is "Is Unitarianism Adapted to the Masses?" (Unity, April 2, 1887).
Catherine Wilkinson (1787-1860) British Unitarian
Born into a poor family in Liverpool, Kitty, as she was known, made her living making nails and doing laundry. Regardless of her limited means, she took in homeless people, particularly children. During the cholera epidemic, she washed bed linens for the sick in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease. Because she could only do so much laundry herself, she invited others to come to her basement to do their laundry. When the first Public Bath and Wash House was opened in Liverpool, Kitty and her husband were appointed superintendents. Soon other cities like London and Manchester opened similar Wash Houses. Eventually, these facilities were replaced with swimming pools where whole families could enjoy the water. The Church of England Cathedral has a portrait of Kitty in a stained glass window.
Fannie Barrier Williams (Feb. 12, 1855-Mar. 4, 1944) Unitarian
Lecturer and clubwoman, she grew up in the only African American family in Brockport NY, relatively free from discrimination. When she later taught school in the South, the overt prejudice there challenged her ideals. After her marriage to a lawyer, she settled in Chicago, where she worked to assure recognition of African Americans at the 1893 Columbian Exposition and spoke at the World's Congress of Representative Women (in vol.11, 696-711) and the World's Parliament of Religion (in vol. II. 1114-5). Both speeches are reprinted in Standing Before Us: Unitarian Universalist Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936 (Boston: Skinner House, 2000). These speeches brought her local and national recognition and she was soon proposed for membership in the Chicago Woman's Club, where after considerable controversy she was admitted as the "only colored member." A talented musician as well as speaker, she was much in demand for public appearances.She was active in social work and helped found two interracial benevolent institutions, the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses (1891) and the Frederick Douglass Center (1905), a settlement project she co-founded with Celia Parker Woolley, a white Unitarian minister. She was an active member of Jenkin Lloyd Jones's All Souls Church and its social welfare project, the Abraham Lincoln Center. An active worker for the rights of African American women, she was one of the first leaders to identify segregation in housing and limited employment opportunities as the two most crucial impediments to racial justice. Her writings are published in John T. Haley, Afro-American Encyclopedia (l895 pp. 141-161); John Gibson and William Crogman. Progress of a Race (1902); Colored American (July, 1904); Charities (Oct. 7, 1905); Southern Workman (June, 1908).
Helen Maria Williams (1762-1827) British Unitarian
She was a poet and revolutionary in France.
Annie B. Willis (1893-1977) Universalist
Her father, the Rev. Joseph Fletcher Jordan, was one of the first African American Universalist ministers and founder of the Jordan Neighborhood House in Suffolk VA. When he died, she kept his church and the school open. The school, partially supported by the Universalist Sunday School Association and later by the Universalist Service Committee, provided the only access to education in that area for African American children. Later, the emphasis shifted to early childhood education, and a pre-natal and well-baby clinic were added.
Alice Vivian Ames Winter (Nov. 28, 1865-Apr. 5, 1944) Unitarian
Daughter of Fanny Baker and Charles Gordon Ames, who was minister of Church of the Disciples in Boston, Alice was born in Albany NY. A woman's club leader, in 1920 she became president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. She wrote novels and articles in women's periodicals as well as The Business of Being a Club Woman (1925) and The Heritage of Women (1927).
Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759-1797) British Unitarian
Born into a difficult family situation, she developed an early independence and left her parents at age 19 to seek her own income. She wrote her first published work, Thoughts on the Education of a Daughter (1786) to meet the rent on a building she was using for a school. In 1787 she moved to London, learned German and Italian, and became a translator and reviewer for Analytical Review. Apparently she was a member of the Unitarian Society at Hackney UK. The next year she wrote a novel, Mary, a thinly disguised autobiography and Original Stories. In 1792, she wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the first great document of feminism. After living in Paris and befriending the leaders of the French Revolution, she married William Godwin; she died giving birth to a daughter, who became the noted writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Excerpts from her writings are included in Standing Before Us: Unitarian Universalist Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936 (Boston: Skinner House, 2000).
Frances Wayland Wood (1903-1975) Unitarian Universalist
Frances was born in Hopkinton MA, but the family moved to Hopedale when her father died. She described herself as "Unitarian -- from Universalist" when she applied to the Tuckerman School to begin training as a Parish Assistant. In 1927 she became Director of Religious Education in Detroit. She served as Field Secretary for the Department of Religious Education of the American Unitarian Association from 1938 to 1954. She held a similar position with the Council of Liberal Churches and facilitated the merger of the religious education functions of the Unitarians and the Universalist and together with Sophia Fahs and Edna Bruner did a major over-haul of the religious education programs. Frances then traveled extensively to congregations to aid them in implementing the programs. From 1961 she served as Director of Religious Education in Chicago, then in Dedham, MA, from 1966-1968.
Celia Parker Woolley (June 14, 1848-Mar. 9, 1918) Unitarian
Unitarian minister, educator, editor, lecturer, and reformer, Celia expressed her convictions in a variety of concrete activities. She was an early member of Chicago's Women's Club and opened its membership to educated African Americans by inviting her friend, Fannie Barrier Williams, to join. She was a director of the Western Unitarian Conference and closely associated with Unity, a Unitarian publication. As a member of Jenkin Lloyd Jones's All Souls Church, she often took over the services in his absence. After pastorates in Geneva and Chicago, IL, Celia and her husband moved to an African American neighborhood in south Chicago where she and Fannie co-founded the Frederick Douglass Center to advance opportunities for African Americans and provide a place for racially mixed social interaction. Celia wrote numerous articles for The Christian Register and several books, Love and Theology (1887) later republished as Rachel Armstrong, a Girl Graduate (1889), Roger Hunt (1893), and The Western Slope (1903).
Billy Rose King Wright (1922-1987) Unitarian Universalist
Born in Mississippi, she was ordained in Anchorage AL in 1971. She and her minister-husband went as a research team for the National Endowment for the Humanities to study value formation among the indigenous people one hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. They fell in love with wilderness living and returned again and again to their cabin on a mountain lake. They also established a wilderness retreat in the Sierra Ancha Mountains in Arizona. She wrote about her experiences in Four Seasons North: A Journal of Life in the Alaskan Wilderness (San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1973, 1991).
Mabel Osgood Wright (Jan. 26, 1859-July 16, 1934) Unitarian
Daughter of a "Channing Unitarian" minister, she was a nature writer and novelist who pioneered the movement to protect birds. Her nature writings, published by Macmillan, include The Friendship of Nature (1894), Birdcraft: A Field Book of Two Hundred Song, Game, and Water Birds (1895), Citizen Bird (with naturalist Elliott Coues, 1897), and Gray Lady and the Birds (1907). Sometimes using the pen name "Barbara," she also wrote a series of romances, including The Garden of a Commuter's Wife (1901), The Stranger at the Gate (1913), and The Woman Errant (1904). My New York (1926) is a book of social commentary in autobiographical form.
Anna Probst Zschokke (Dates unknown) Unitarian
In the 1890s, after she was widowed, she brought her three children and all their household goods from Santa Clara in a buckboard wagon and camped out on a plot of land her husband had left them in Palo Alto CA, becoming that city's first resident. In 1893, she spearheaded the first school drive in Palo Alto, and later mortgaged her home to build the first high school. She also helped to found Unity Church in Palo Alto and start the first public library in that city.