Chapin, Augusta (1836–1905)

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Chapin, Augusta (1836–1905)

American minister. Name variations: Reverend Augusta J. Chapin. Born Augusta J. Chapin in Lakeville, New York, in 1836; her ancestors settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the 17th century; died in New York, New York, on June 30, 1905; attended Olivet College, Michigan; A.M. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; granted honorary doctor of divinity by Lombard University, Galesburg, Illinois, in 1893; never married.

The daughter of parents who pioneered in Michigan, Augusta Chapin began attending school at age three; by fourteen, she was a teacher. Chapin applied to the University of Michigan but was refused admittance several time because of her gender. In 1852, she entered a small school in Michigan, Olivet College, where she developed what would be a lifelong interest in theology. Chapin received her degree and preached her first sermon around 1856, beginning the life of an itinerant minister, a "circuit rider" who taught school to support her efforts.

In 1863, in Malone, New York, Olympia Brown became the first ordained woman in America; Chapin's ordainment followed six months later, in December 1863, by the Universalists at Lansing, Michigan. In 1864, she received her first pastorate. Her career as a preacher would continue until 1901, and Chapin was ordained by congregations in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and rural New York, finding increased opportunity in remote locations. In 1893, she received the first honorary doctorate of divinity given to an American woman, from Lombard University in Galesburg, Illinois. She also received her A.M. from the school that earlier rejected her application, the University of Michigan.

A feminist who spoke at national suffrage conventions, Chapin was a member of the first executive committee of the Association for the Advancement of Women. At the Columbian Exposition in 1893, she served as chair of the general committee for women. Chapin was 65 when she retired to New York City, where she died four years later, in 1905.