Conant, Hannah (O'Brien) Chaplin

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CONANT, Hannah (O'Brien) Chaplin

Born 5 September 1809, Danvers, Massachusetts; died 18 February 1865, Brooklyn, New York

Daughter of Jeremiah and Marcia S. O'Brien Chaplin; married Thomas J. Conant, 1830; children: ten

From her father Hannah Chaplin Conant learned several foreign languages, which turned out to be important in her later career. Her parents filled the Baptist parsonage in Danvers with 10 children, and in 1818 the family moved to Waterville, Maine, to head the struggling Baptist institution, Waterville (later Colby) College.

Conant was well prepared to be a true "helpmeet" for her husband, the college's professor of languages. In 1835 they both accepted positions at Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution in Hamilton, New York (later to become Colgate University). In addition to college and domestic duties—which included the care of 10 children by 1853—Conant edited the Mother's Monthly Journal of Utica from 1838 to 1839 and continued to write for it thereafter.

In 1850 the family moved to Rochester where Conant's husband taught Hebrew, biblical criticism, and interpretation at the Rochester Theological Seminary. During this period Conant pursued her own parallel interests, translating three "popular practical commentaries" on Philippians, James, and John by the eminent German biblical scholar Augustus Neander. While in Rochester she also wrote her own two major works—a biography of Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson and a history of the English Bible.

Conant's first original work, The Earnest Man; or the Character and Labors of Adoniram Judson (1856), was designed as a more popular "life" to complement the scholarly Memoir by Francis Wayland. Conant's most important work, which became a standard text in courses on the English Bible, quite popular in the proliferating religious colleges, was The English Bible (1857). In it she traces the history of English translations from Wycliffe through the version authorized by King James. Interestingly, the book contains a chapter on "Anne Boleyn: the Royal Patroness." Conant concludes with an acknowledgment of the wealth of earlier manuscripts and translations becoming available to biblical scholars and raises the possibility of a new translation to replace the King James Version.

Other Works:

Lea; or, the Baptism in Jordan by G. F. A. Strauss (trans. by Conant, 1844). The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians by Augustus Neander (trans. by Conant, 1851). The Epistle of James by Augustus Neander (trans. by Conant, 1852). The First Epistle of John by Augustus Neander (trans. by Conant, 1852). Erna, the Forest Princess; or Pilgrimage of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem by G. Nieritz (trans. by Conant, 1855). The New EnglandTheocracy: A History of the Congregationalists in New England to the Revivals of 1740 by H. F. Uhden (trans. by Conant, 1855).


Reference Works:

NCAB. NAW, 1607-1950 (1971).

Other reference:

NYT (20 Feb. 1865).