Notable Women Biographies

Notable Universalist and Unitarian Women

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First Published by the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society WEBSITE EDITION BASED ON THE SEVENTH EDITION, 2000


Originally entitled a Compendium of Resources, this compilation was created initially by the Rev. Dorothy May Emerson to demonstrate the wide variety of women who have been associated historically with Universalism and Unitarianism. First published in 1989, this material was revised with assistance from Jan Copley Peretz in 1990, Kate Meyer and Sherry Sonnett in 1991, Beth Green and Claudia Nichols in 1992, and many others who have contributed information about women to be included. The 1995 edition included a number of corrections and additions, thanks to Joan Goodwin, Nancy Haley, Helene Knox, and Laura Walters. Joan Goodwin continued the update for 1997, and Dorothy Boroush contributed additional editorial work and listings. The 2000 update contains information from so many sources collected through the past three years or mailed or e-mailed that is impossible to list them all. Dorothy Boroush acted as editor.

The material is arranged alphabetically according to women’s names. Whenever possible, specific titles and dates of published works have been listed. One of our goals is to identify the influence of liberal religion in the lives and thought of women. Therefore, in some cases women are listed who grew up in Unitarian or Universalist families (indicated as U/U) or who had strong connections with these traditions later in life, even though they may not have been members of congregations as adults (indicated as “U/U connections”). As we know today, there are many people who identify with our religious movement without actually affiliating with specific congregations.

For the 2000 edition, we increased our information on Canadian and British women, as well as women from other parts of the world, and we have added a number of new African American women and several other women of color.

We are including any Universalist or Unitarian women who are suggested to us as important. For some we have only very sketchy information, perhaps only a name, and we invite your help in adding details. We have chosen not to list all of the women who served in our ministry, as there is an excellent biographical resource by Catherine Hitchings, Universalist and Unitarian Women Ministers, available from the Heritage Society [now UU History and Heritage Society]. There are, however, a number of women who were part of the licensiate of the Universalist Church who should be included in this listing as we learn of them.


We have not added any women for the Website Edition. We scanned the 2000 edition, with minimal editing. We have added notations of places: while a location of a woman may be presumed to be well-known to the compilers of Notable Women, it may not be evident to readers. This may be truer as time increases between the events and the compilation. For example, Meadville Theological School was located in Meadville, PA, and Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago, IL. Or there may be more than one city by the same name with a UU congregation, such as Concord, MA, and NH, or Augusta, ME and GA.

The Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society consolidated with the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society in June 2011 to form the Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society. We continue to encourage research and write-ups about historical Unitarian and Universalist women. The intent is for the information in the UU Women’s Heritage section of the website to be integrated with main UUHHS website in order to make information about women more accessible. For example, more information about a woman may be in the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography (DUUB). Indeed, the entry in Notable Women may also spark interest in a developing a more complete article for DUUB.

There are numerous resources to help fill the gaps in the information in Notable Women. Since the 2000 edition, the use of the Internet for research has greatly increased. This includes electronic books. While it was very tempting to take time to add information, this was done for only one woman (Elizabeth Melleson) as I was trying to determine the Unitarian or Universalist connection. I leave the adventure of discovery of the other women to you.

Helen Zidowecki, with editing assistance from Krista Zidowecki.

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