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HANNAH ADAMS (1755-1831)

Hannah Adams. A Memoir of Miss Hannah Adams (Boston, 1832), frontispiece.

HANNAH ADAMS (1755 - 1831)

Hannah Adams, a historian of religion, was born in Medfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Clark Adams.  Known as the first woman to support herself by her writing, she lived in the Boston area throughout her life. Her works include a compendium of the world’s major religions and a history of New England.

In her autobiography, supposedly written to be published posthumously to aid an infirm sister, Hannah Adams describes the origins of her first work, An Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects Which Have Appeared in the World from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day (Boston, 1784):

“While I was engaged in learning Latin and Greek, one of the gentlemen who taught me had by him a small manuscript from Broughton’s Dictionary, giving an account of Arminians, Calvinists, and several other denominations which were most common. This awakened my curiosity, and I assiduously engaged myself in perusing all the books which I could obtain, which gave an account of the various sentiments described. I soon became disgusted with the want of candor in the authors I consulted, in giving the most unfavorable descriptions of the denominations they disliked, and applying to them the names of heretics, fanatics, enthusiasts, &c. I therefore formed a plan for myself, made a blank book, and wrote rules for transcribing, and adding to, my compilation.” (p. 10-11)

Other portraits appear in:

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Ladies’ Magazine (January, 1828), plate preceding p. 1.

David F. Bacon, ed. Memoirs of Eminently Pious Women of Britain and America (Hartford, 1833), plate containing five separate portraits opposite p. [300].

Sarah J. Hale, ed. Woman’s Record (New York, 1853), p. 159; also 1855 ed.

Abner D. Jones, ed. The Illustrated American Biography, (New York, 1854), vol. 2, p. 151.

Evert A. and George L. Duyckinck, eds. Cyclopaedia of American Literature (New York, 1855), vol. 1, p. 409.



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