Notable Women IJK

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Athalia Lizzie Johnson Irwin (1862-1915) Universalist

Daughter of a Baptist minister, her rejection of traditional religion and conversion to Universalism is documented in her poem, “From Gethsemane to Heaven in A Bouquet of Verses (1905). In Columbia SC, she became a friend of the Rev. Quillen Shinn and decided to become a minister. Licensed as a preacher in 1901 and ordained in 1902, she served churches in Pensacola FL, Little Rock AR, and Riverside CA. She attended Canton Theological School at St. Lawrence University (NY) from 1908-1911 and then edited the Universalist Herald for a year. The only known copy of her book of poems was discovered by the church in Riverside.

Helen Maria Fiske Hunt Jackson (Oct. 15, 1830-Aug. 12, 1885) Unitarian connections

Poet, author, and crusader for American Indian rights, she is best known for Ramona (1885), a novel about the old Spanish societies in California and the victimization of the Indians by the white settlers. Her poems were published in the New York Evening Post and the Nation, under the pen name “Marah,” and later collected in Verses (1870, 1873, and 1879) by “H.H.” She published prose pieces in popular magazines, such as “Bits of Travel,” in the Atlantic. Her novels include Mercy Philbrick’s Choice (1876), with a heroine based on her childhood friend Emily Dickinson; Hetty’s Strange History (1877);and Nelly’s Silver Min (1878). She also published a critique of the US government’s treatment of Indians, A Century of Dishonor (1881), which she had bound with blood-red colors and sent to every important official concerned with Indian affairs, including members of Congress.

Mercy Ruggles Bisbee Jackson (Sept. 17, 1802-1877) Universalist

Born in Hardwick MA, she married Universalist pastor John Bisbee who served in Hartford CT and Portland ME. After his death, she opened a girls’ school in Portland. In 1833 she married Capt. Daniel Jackson, a widower with four children. Altogether, she was mother and stepmother of 14. She practiced medicine in Plymouth MA for 18 years without a degree. When Daniel died, she entered medical college and, after receiving her diploma, she had a large Boston practice.

Sarah James (May 18, 1941-Mar. 31, 1988) Unitarian Universalist

This self-styled “Tax Consultant*Poet*Lay Preacher” was a colorful member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach. She spoke out on issues such as abuse of women, help for people overwhelmed by bureaucracy, and the importance of Unitarian Universalism. She was president of the Long Beach church at the time of her death and a supportive member of the UU Women’s Heritage Society for many years.

Anna Brownell Murphy Jameson (1794-1860) British Unitarian connections

This noted writer and feminist was born in Dublin into the religiously liberal family of artist Denis B. Murphy. She professed admiration for Channing and other Unitarians and entertained Emerson on his trip to England in 1847-48. Famous for A Lady’s Diary about her tour of Italy, she also wrote The Loves of the Poets, Memoirs of Celebrated Female Sovereigns, Characteristics of Women , and Sacred and Legendary Art. Among her friends were Ottilie von Goethe, Lady Byron, Fanny Kemble and Harriet Martineau.

Lydia Ann Jenkins (1824-1874) Universalist

Lydia was a women’s rights activist, physician, and the first recognized woman minister in the United States. As a young woman, she was attracted to Universalism and later recognized its potential for enabling women’s spiritual and political liberation. Throughout the l850s, she traveled to women’s rights conventions in New York state and the Midwest giving speeches and organizing political action for suffrage. In 1858, the Ontario Association of Universalists granted her a letter of Fellowship (Fairport NY) designating her as the first woman preacher officially sanctioned by a recognized denominational body in the United States. In 1860 she and her husband Edmund S. Jenkins were ordained ministers by the Ontario Association of Universalists (Geneva NY).Although Olympia Brown is generally recognized as the first woman minister (1863), Lydia’s ordination may have been overlooked because of fear of potential controversy. Later in life, Lydia took a medical degree and operated a Hygienic Institute with her husband.

Charlotte Ann Fillebrown Jerauld (Apr. 16, 1820-Aug. 2, 1845) Universalist

Born in Cambridge MA, she grew up in Boston. Forced to support herself at age 15, she worked in the bindery where The Universalist Ladies’ Repository was bound. Under the influence of Sarah Edgarton, she began writing stories and poems. In 1843 she married J. W. Jerauld. After the birth of a child, Charlotte lost her mind and died one day after the death of the child. A frequent contributor to the Ladies’ Repository and Rose of Sharon, Charlotte’s poetry and prose writings were later published, together with a memoir by Henry Bacon, Poetry and Prose by Mrs. Charlotte A. Jerauld with A Memoir (Boston: A. Tomkins, 1850).

Effie McCollum Jones (Mar. 29, 1869-July 6, 1952) Universalist

Popular as a Universalist minister and in her work for women’s suffrage, temperance, world peace, and other reform causes, she grew up on a frontier farm in Kansas. After attending Ryder Divinity School and Lombard College (IL), she married Ben Wallace Jones, and they were ordained together in Dubuque IA. They served as co-ministers in Waterloo IA, and Barre VT, where her husband died. She continued as minister there and later returned to Waterloo. Active in various reform movements, she was a speaker at the 1910 International Congress of Religious Liberals in Berlin, Germany. Her talk, “Women in the Ministry,” was published in The Universalist Leader (Dec. 31, 1910). In 1916, she left Waterloo to become field director for the National Woman Suffrage Association. She also served as president of the Iowa Universalist Convention, chair of the Iowa Fellowship Committee, member of the board of trustees of the Universalist Church of America, trustee of Lombard College, and official historian of the Iowa Universalist Convention. From 1919-1925, she traveled and lectured independently. Her interest in psychology led to her founding, with her sister Harriet McCollum, the McCollum School of Applied Psychology. In Malden MA, she delivered a series of lectures on such topics as: “The Control of Emotions: Worry a Curable Disease,” “The Law of Brain Building,” and “The True Road to Happiness.” In 1925, she was called to Webster City IA, where she later celebrated her fiftieth year of ordination, continuing to write and lecture. For four years she wrote book reviews for the Webster City Freeman Journal, which later called her “one of Iowa’s best known women.”

Eleanor (Nell) Lloyd Jones (Dec. 24, 1845-Nov. 19, 1919) Unitarian
Jane (Jen) Lloyd Jones (Apr. 15, 1848-May 3, 1917) Unitarian

Sisters of the well-known Unitarian minister, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Nell and Jen were often called “the Aunts.” Both were innovative educators in Wisconsin. Nell’s early career was as a normal school professor; Jen was a pioneer in kindergartens. In 1887 they came together to found Hillside Home School on the family farm in Spring Green WI. The school was one of the first coeducational boarding schools and stressed the development of the whole child. Their young nephew, Frank Lloyd Wright, who was just getting started in his career as a world-famous architect, designed the classroom and dormitory buildings. He built what became a famous windmill, “Romeo and Juliet,” to supply the water. Later, in 1903, he built a new stone building with gymnasium and theater. Unfortunately, the school did not survive as such, so Frank took over the building for an architectural school which is still used by the Wright Foundation. The collected papers of the two sisters are in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison.

Martha Garner Jones (Aug. 24, 1866-Nov. 1, 1959) US/Canada Universalist

After teaching for five years in Kansas, she decided to prepare for the Universalist ministry. In 1894, she graduated from Ryder Divinity School (IL) , married her classmate, the Rev. Leon Peter Jones, and was ordained in New Salem IL. She and her husband served as co-ministers in many Universalist churches in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, New York, and North Carolina. In 1902-4, they served Canadian churches in Blenheim and Olinda, Ontario, returning to Olinda, 1916-21. Martha gave lessons in canning to the women during World War I and organized jam-making bees for the Red Cross. Because she realized that what the church needed was inexpensive housing for the minister, she and her husband camped in a barn-like hall beside the church while they supervised the building of a parsonage. They also worked to overcome the prejudice against Universalist ministers performing marriages and won a change in Ontario Law to allow women ministers to perform marriages.

Susan Barber Jones (1848-1911) Unitarian

She married the Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones in 1870, and they formed a working partnership of equals in providing leadership for the western Unitarian movement. They co-authored numerous tracts, co-founded the Western Unitarian Sunday School Society and the Western Women’s Unitarian Conference, introduced cultural clubs into churches to provide adult education, and crusaded together for temperance and women’s suffrage. Susan gave a speech on the Post Office Mission at the 1893 World’s Congress of Representative Women.

Dorothy Judd (c. 1900-1990) Unitarian Universalist

A resident of Michigan, Dorothy became a teacher for a few years but spent most of her life involved in civil service work, beginning with the League of Women Voters and her work to end voter fraud. She continued by working for the Michigan Merit System Association, the Civil Service Commission, for environmental concerns, the Michigan State Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Human Rights, and the Grand Rapids Planning Commission. She was very active in the Fountain Street Church and was named to the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.

Eleanor Silver Dowding Keeping (1903-1991) Canadian Unitarian

Silver was a scientist who earned a MS in botany from the University of Alberta and a PhD in mycology from the University of Manitoba. Upon returning to Edmonton, she married a mathematics professor, but as a faculty spouse she was not entitled to receive a salary even though she herself was a qualified scientific professional. Her research in medical mycology was of interest to public health care professionals, and she held a position of honorary research assistant in the departments of Medical Bacteriology, Botany, and Genetics. She is also remembered as one of the founding sponsors of the University of Alberta Devonian Botanical Gardens. Selections of her writings are published in Silverisms, (Edmonton: Unitarian Church of Edmonton, 1991).

Mary Morton Kimball Kehew (Sept. 8, 1859-Feb. 13, 1918) Unitarian

Shortly after her marriage in 1880, she joined the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Boston and eventually became its president, directing the job guidance, educational support and legal aid the Union gave to thousands of rural girls flocking to the city for work. Under her leadership, the Union became a central part of the reformist, Progressive movement in Boston. Able to work with workers, politicians and bosses, she was the first president of the Women’s Trade Union League, organized in 1903, and remained active in labor reform until her death. She is buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge MA.

Frances Anne (Fanny) Kemble (Nov. 27, 1809-Jan. 15, 1893) British Unitarian

Actress and author, born in London to a celebrated theatrical family that later fell on hard times, she gained early acclaim as an actress. In 1832 she appeared in her own play, Frances the First, written at age seventeen. Later that year she sailed for America, playing successfully in theaters in New York and Philadelphia, but leaving the stage in 1834 to marry Pierce Butler, a Unitarian who was also a slave owner. Although she was a staunch abolitionist, they apparently never discussed their views on this subject before their marriage. After various struggles with her husband and his family, including attempts by him to censor her friendships and her writings, she left for England and Italy, and he sued for divorce. Later she returned to America, to Lenox, MA, and then to the Butler farm in Pennsylvania, before returning to London, England in 1877. Her autobiographical works include Record of a Girlhood (1878), Records of Later Life (1882), and Further Records (1890). She wrote a play, Star of Seville (1837), and published Plays in 1863. Her Poems appeared in 1844, 1859, and 1883. Other books include: Journal of a Residence in America (1835), A Year of Consolation (1847), Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation (1863), Notes Upon Some of Shakespeare’s Plays (1882), Essays in London and Elsewhere (1893). Excerpts from Journal of a Residence in America are included in Standing Before Us: Unitarian Universalist Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936 (Boston: Skinner House 2000).

Ada A. Kepley (Feb. 11, 1847-c1914) Unitarian

An ordained Unitarian minister, Ada was also the first woman to graduate from law school (Northwestern University, 1870). Around 1912 she published the book, A Farm Philosopher (Woman’s Printery, Teutopolis, IL). She corresponded with Susan B. Anthony, although she differed with Susan’s faith in the Republican party.

Blanche Kerr (1872-1955) Unitarian

An artist and interior decorator, she graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a member of the Oak Park IL Unitarian Church, where she designed a children’s worship center. She was one of the first women in the field of occupational therapy, working out of Hull House.

Georgiana Bruce Kirby (Dec. 7, 1818-?) Unitarian

A reformer who was involved at Brook Farm, she published “Reminiscences of Brook Farm” in Old and New (1871-1872). She later moved to California and is memorialized in Georgiana: Feminist Reformer of the West, The Journal of Georgiana Bruce Kirby, 1852-1860 (Santa Cruz Historical Trust, 1987).

Hazel Ida Kirk (June 26, 1885-Apr. 27, 1957) Universalist

This Universalist minister worked in Japan from 1918 to 1924 as a member of the missionary staff in the Sunday schools and the Blackmer Girl’s Home. Later as minister in Danvers and Taunton MA, she was known as a brilliant preacher and hard worker. Active in denominational women’s groups, she was president of National Women’s Missionary Association when the Clara Barton Camp for diabetic girls was begun. Aware of prejudice against women ministers, she corresponded with many of them. During the latter part of her life, she lived in Casco ME with Gladys H. Wright. The Universalist Historical Society has scrapbooks with her sermons, photographs, and letters.

Caroline Matilda Stansbury Kirkland (Jan. 11, 1801-Apr. 6, 1864) Unitarian

Raised in New York City, she had an early interest in English and American literature. After marrying William Kirkland, she ran a girls’ school with him in Geneva NY. In 1836 they moved to the wilderness of Michigan, where she turned their struggles to survive into a novel, A New Home–Who’ll Follow, published in 1839 under the pen name Mrs. Mary Clavers. Forest Life followed in 1842. When they returned to NYC, she continued writing about life on the frontier, publishing short stories in various periodicals, which later appeared as Western Clearings (1845). Other writings include The Gift: A Christmas and New Year’s Present (1842); Memoirs of (1857); The School Girl’s Garland: A Selection of Poetry in Four Parts (1864); and The Evening Book: Or, Fireside Talk on Morals and Manners with Sketches of Western Life (1852). In1853, she wrote The Helping Hand, a plea for the Home for Discharged Female Convicts, on whose board she served. Her funeral services were held at All Souls Unitarian Church