Hanaford, Phebe Ann (1829–1921)

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Hanaford, Phebe Ann (1829–1921)

American Universalist minister, author, and feminist. Born Phebe Ann Coffin on May 6, 1829, in Siasconset, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts; died on June 2, 1921, in Rochester, New York; daughter of George W. Coffin and Phebe Ann (Barnard) Coffin; married Dr. Joseph Hibbard Hanaford, on December 2, 1849 (separated 1870); lived with Ellen E. Miles (a Universalist author); children: Howard Hanaford; Florence Hanaford .

Phebe Ann Coffin's ancestors established and maintained a strong presence in New England. Tristram Coffin founded the first settlement on Nantucket Island in 1659 and Phebe's mother and namesake traced her heritage to Gregory Priest, pilot of the Mayflower, and Peter Folger, grandfather of Benjamin Franklin. Phebe's mother died shortly after Phebe's birth and her father entered into a second marriage to Emmeline Barnard Cartwright . Early in her life, Phebe showed an interest in both social reform and literature. At eight, she signed a temperance pledge and by thirteen she was writing for the local press. In her native town of Siasconset, she attended both public and private schools where she studied Latin and mathematics.

On December 2, 1849, Phebe married Dr. Joseph Hibbard Hanaford, a homeopathic physician, teacher and writer. The couple taught for a year in Newton, Massachusetts, before returning to Nantucket. The Hanafords had two children, Howard and Florence. Although Hanaford dedicated the early years of her marriage to her family, she soon started writing to help support them.

Hanaford wrote 14 books including Lucretia the Quakeress (1853) and a collection of poems From Shore to Shore (1870). She also contributed to numerous periodicals and published small volumes for children. Although her book sales were not large, her biographies of Abraham Lincoln (1865) and George Peabody (1870) sold 20,000 and 16,000 copies respectively. Between 1866 and 1868, she edited a monthly Universalist magazine, the Ladies' Repository, and a Sunday-school paper, the Myrtle.

Hanaford had been raised a Quaker and joined the Baptist Church with her husband, but with the death of a brother and sister she looked more deeply into her faith and soon turned to Universalism. She began preaching in 1865 and a year later substituted for the Reverend Olympia Brown in South Canton, Massachusetts. Hanaford entered the ministry and was ordained in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1868. She took charge of the parish at Waltham, Massachusetts, and in 1870, after separating from her husband, she began her service at the First Universalist Church of New Haven, Connecticut, at a salary of $2,000 a year. During this time, she served as chaplain of the Connecticut house and senate. Her busy schedule as a minister all but ended her career as a writer.

In 1874, Hanaford moved to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1877, a rift occurred within the congregation regarding the question of women's rights, and, as a result, Hanaford spent the next seven years preaching in a public hall. In 1884, she assumed the role of pastor of the Second Church in New Haven. She spent this time lecturing through the Middle Atlantic and Western states, closing her active pastoral career in 1891. She settled in New York, making her home with fellow Universalist author, Ellen E. Miles .

Throughout her life, Hanaford was active in women's rights issues. In 1869, she participated in the convention of the American Equal Rights Association. Later that same year, she helped develop the American Woman Suffrage Association. She sat as vice-president of the Association for the Advancement of Women in 1874 and conducted services at the International Council of Women (1888). In 1876, she published Women of the Century, which was revised in 1882 as Daughters of America. Hanaford died in Rochester, New York, on June 2, 1921, and was buried in Orleans, New York.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland