Thurston, Lucy (1795–1876)

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Thurston, Lucy (1795–1876)

American Congregationalist missionary to Hawaii. Born Lucy Goodale on October 29, 1795, in Marlborough, Massachusetts; died on October 13, 1876, in Honolulu, Hawaii Territory; daughter of Abner Goodale (afarmer and deacon in the Congregational Church) and possibly Mary Howe (died after a brief illness in 1818); graduated from Bradford Academy in Massachusetts where she taught until her marriage; married Asa Thurston (a Congregationalist minister), on October 21, 1820 (died March 11, 1868); children: six, including Thomas G. Thurston and Persis G. Taylor.

Lucy Thurston was born Lucy Goodale in 1795 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, the daughter of Abner Goodale, a farmer and deacon in the Congregational Church, and possibly Mary Howe (little is known of Thurston's mother, who died after a brief illness in 1818). In 1820, she married Asa Thurston, a Congregationalist minister. That same year, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (founded in 1810) called for a party of missionaries for the Pacific. Led by Asa and Hiram Bingham, the Thurstons sailed with 15 other missionaries to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), landing in Kailua in 1821. There Lucy began her missionary work, spending the majority of her life in Kailua and returning to the United States only twice, once to enroll her daughters in finishing school and a second "to buy a pair of shoes."

In 1855, Thurston was diagnosed with breast cancer. Concern over her weak heart prevented use of topical or general anesthesia, and a complete mastectomy was performed while Thurston remained conscious. She maintained that she was buoyed by the grace and love of God. Thurston went on to live and work for another 21 years, moving to Honolulu only after retiring from missionary work in 1862. Asa died in Honolulu on March 11, 1868; Lucy died on October 13, 1876, 16 days before her 81st birthday. She left behind an autobiography, later edited and published by her daughter Persis G. Taylor and the Rev. Walter Freer as The Life and Times of Mrs. Lucy G. Thurston (Ann Arbor, 1876). Her son, Thomas G. Thurston, returned to Hawaii as a missionary after his graduation from Yale in 1862 and her grandson, Lorrin Andrews Thurston, become the minister of the interior in the new constitutional government of Hawaii, and later the envoy to the United States from Hawaii.


Deen, Edith. Great Woman of the Christian Faith. NY: Harper, 1959.

Thurston, Lucy. Life and Times of Mrs. Lucy G. Thurston, Wife of Rev. Asa Thurston, Pioneer Missionary to the Sandwich Islands, Gathered from Letters and Journals Extending Over a Period of More than Fifty Years. Ann Arbor, MI: S.C. Andrews, 1934.

Amanda Carson Banks , lecturer, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee

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Thurston, Lucy (1795–1876)

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