Unitarian and Universalist Women

Writing Liberal Religious Women Back Into History

Antoinette Brown Blackwell
Antoinette Brown Blackwell. From History of Woman Suffrage, Stanton et al

Many Unitarian and Universalist women were among the activists who worked for women's rights; others were leaders in the arts, humanities, politics and other fields.  The list below is fairly extensive and includes women from before the Unitarian and Universalist movements merged as well as afterward, and also includes some women from neighboring movements including Ethical Culture.

Listed in order of their birth years. American unless otherwise indicated.

Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672 Nonconformist

  • poet, writer; descendants include Unitarians William Ellery Channing, Wendell Phillips, Oliver Wendell Holmes

Anna Laetitia Aiken Barbauld 1743-1825 Unitarian (British)

  • activist, poet

Judith Sargent Murray 1751-1820 Universalist

  • poet and author; wrote essay on feminism: "On the Equality of the Sexes" in 1790 (Rossi, 1973)

Mary Wollstonecraft 1759-1797 Unitarian; married Unitarian minister

Mary Moody Emerson 1774-1863 Unitarian

  • writer; many of her unpublished writings foreshadow the ideas of her nephew, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Maria Cook 1779-1835 Universalist

  • jailed after preaching Universalism

Lucy Barnes 1780-1809 Universalist

  • Universalist writer, poet

Eliza Lee Cabot Follen 1787-1860 Unitarian

  • children's author, abolitionist; she, with husband Charles Follen, Harvard German instructor, introduced the Christmas tree custom to America

Eliza Farrar 1791-1870 Quaker, Unitarian

  • children's author, abolitionist

Lucretia Mott 1793-1880 Quaker, Free Religious Association

  • reformer: abolition, feminism, peace, temperance, liberal religion; cousin of Phebe Hanaford (also on this list)

Frederika Bremer 1801-1865 Unitarian (Swedish)

  • novelist, feminist, pacifist

Harriet Martineau 1802-1876 British Unitarian

  • writer, social critic, journalist, feminist

Lydia Maria Child 1802-1880 Unitarian

  • author, abolitionist, reformer; wrote An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans and "Over the River and Through the Woods"

Dorothea Dix 1802-1887 Unitarian

  • mental health reformer, prison reformer, poet

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody 1804-1894 Unitarian, Transcendentalist

  • (teacher, author, reformer; sister to Mary Peabody Mann and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (both also on this list); close associate of William Ellery Channing

Sarah Flower Adams 1805-1848 Unitarian (British)

  • hymn writer: "Nearer My God to Thee"

Mary Tyler Peabody Mann 1806-1887 Unitarian

  • educator; sister to Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (both on this list), married to Horace Mann

Maria Weston Chapman 1806-1885 Unitarian

  • abolitionist

Mary Carpenter 1807-1877 Unitarian (British)

  • abolitionist, teacher, juvenile justice reformer

Sophia Peabody Hawthorne 1809-1871 Unitarian

  • author and writer; sister to Elizabeth Parker Peabody and Mary Peabody Mann (both also on this list), married to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Fanny Kemble 1809-1893 Unitarian (British)

  • poet, Shakespearean actress; author of Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-39

Margaret Fuller 1810-1850 Unitarian, Transcendentalist

  • American writer, journalist, and philosopher; friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Elizabeth Gaskell 1810-1865 Unitarian

  • writer, reformer, wife of Unitarian minister William Gaskell

Ellen Sturgis Hooper 1812-1848 Transcendentalist Unitarian

  • poet, sister of Caroline Sturgis Tappan (also on this list)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902 Unitarian

  • suffragist, organizer, writer, co-author of The Woman's Bible, mother of Harriot Stanton Blatch (also on this list)

Lydia Moss Bradley 1816-1908 Unitarian and Universalist

  • educator, philanthropist, founded Bradley University

Charlotte Saunders Cushman 1816-1876 Unitarian

  • actor

Lucy N. Colman 1817-1906 Universalist

  • abolitionist, feminist, freethinker

Lucy Stone 1818-1893 Unitarian

  • feminist, suffragist, abolitionist; married Henry Brown Blackwell whose sisters were Elizabeth Blackwell and Emily Blackwell (both on this list) and whose brother Samuel Blackwell married Antoinette Brown Blackwell (also on this list); mother of Alice Stone Blackwell (also on this list)

Sallie Holley 1818-1893 Unitarian

  • abolitionist, educator

Maria Mitchell 1818-1889 Unitarian

  • astronomer

Caroline Sturgis Tappan 1819-1868 Transcendentalist Unitarian

  • poet, children's author, sister of Ellen Sturgis Hooper (also on this list)

Julia Ward Howe 1819-1910 Unitarian, Free Religious Association

Lydia Pinkham 1819-1883 Universalist (eclectic)

  • patent medicine inventor, businesswoman, advertising writer, advice columnist

Florence Nightingale 1820-1910 British Unitarian

  • nurse; founded nursing as a modern profession; mathematician: invented the pie chart

Mary Ashton Rice Livermore 1820-1905

Susan Brownell Anthony 1820-1906 Unitarian and Quaker

  • reformer, suffragist)

Alice Cary1820-1871 Universalist

  • author, poet, abolitionist, suffragist; sister of Phoebe Cary (also on this list)

Clara Barton 1821-1912 Universalist

  • American Red Cross founder

Elizabeth Blackwell 1821-1910 Unitarian and Episcopalian

  • physician, sister of Emily Blackwell, sister of Samuel Blackwell who was married to Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and of Henry Blackwell, married to Lucy Stone (Emily Blackwell, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and Lucy Stone are on this list)

Caroline Wells Healey Dall 1822-1912 Unitarian

  • reformer, author

Frances Power Cobbe 1822-1904 Unitarian (British)

  • feminist, anti-vivisectionist

Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz 1822-1907 Unitarian

  • scientist, author, educator, first president of Radcliffe College; married to Louis Agassiz

Sarah Hammond Palfrey 1823-1914

  • writer; daughter of John Gorham Palfrey

Phoebe Cary 1824-1871 Universalist

  • poet, abolitionist, suffragist; sister of Alice Cary (also on this list)

Ednah Dow Littlehale Cheney 1824-1904 Universalist, Unitarian, Free Religious Association

  • civil rights activist, suffragist, editor, speaker

Antoinette Brown Blackwell 1825-1921 Congregational and Unitarian minister

  • minister, author, lecturer: possibly the first woman ordained as a Protestant minister in the US by a "recognized denomination"; later married Samuel Blackwell, brother of Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell and of Henry Blackwell who was married to Lucy Stone (Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell and Lucy Stone are on this list)

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper 1825-1911 Unitarian

  • writer, poet, abolitionist, feminist, temperance advocate

Emily Blackwell 1826-1910 Unitarian

  • physician, sister of Elizabeth Blackwell, of Samuel Blackwell who was married to Antoinette Brown Blackwell, and of Henry Blackwell who was married to Lucy Stone (Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Antoinette Brown Blackwell are on this list)

Matilda Joslyn Gage 1826-1898 Unitarian

  • suffragist, reformer; her daughter Maud married L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. Gage retained her membership in the Baptist church; later became a Theosophist. [picture]

Maria Cummins 1827-1866 Unitarian

  • author

Barbara Bodichon 1827-1891 Unitarian (British)

  • artist, landscape watercolorist; writer, cofounder of Griton college; feminist activist

Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford 1829-1921 Universalist

  • minister, author, poet, suffragist; cousin of Lucretia Mott (also on this list)

Abigail May Williams 1829-1888

Emily Dickinson 1830-1886 Transcendentalist

  • poet; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Unitarian minister, was an important figure in her career

Helen Hunt Jackson 1830-1885 Transcendentalist

  • author; proponent of Indian rights; no church connection as an adult

Louisa May Alcott 1832-1888 Transcendentalist

  • author, poet; best known for Little Women

Jane Andrews 1833-1887 Unitarian

  • educator, children's author

Rebecca Sophia Clarke 1833 -1906 Unitarian

  • children's author

Annie Adams Field 1834-1915 Unitarian

  • author, literary hostess, charity worker; married to James Fields, editor of the Atlantic; after his death lived with Sarah Orne Jewitt, author

Olympia Brown 1835-1926 Universalist

  • minister, suffragist

Augusta Jane Chapin 1836-1905 Universalist

  • minister, activist; one of the chief organizers of the Parliament of the World's Religions, 1893, especially of participation of many women of a variety of faiths in this event

Ada C. Bowles 1836-1928 Universalist

  • suffragist, abolitionist, temperance supporter, home economist

Fanny Baker Ames 1840-1931 Unitarian

  • charity organizer; suffragist, teacher; leader of the Unitarian Women's Auxiliary Conference

Charlotte Champe Stearns Eliot 1843-1929 Unitarian

  • author, reformer; father-in-law was William Greenleaf Eliot, Unitarian minister and founder of Washington University, St. Louis; son was T.S. Eliot, poet

Eliza Tupper Wilkes 1844-1917

  • Universalist and Unitarian minister

Emma Eliza Bailey 1844-1920 Universalist

  • Universalist minister)

Celia Parker Woolley 1848-1919 Unitarian, Free Religious Association

  • minister,social reformer

Ida Husted Harper 1851-1931 Unitarian

  • journalist, historian and biographer and press expert for the woman suffrage movement

Anna Garlin Spencer 1851-1931 Free Religious Association

  • minister, writer, educator, NAACP founder, social reformer; also wife of Unitarian minister William B. Spencer; though Spencer was associated with Unitarian, Universalist, and Ethical Culture congregations, she identified with the broader "free religion"

Mary Augusta Safford 1851-1927 Unitarian

  • minister

Eleanor Elizabeth Gordon 1852-1942 Unitarian

  • minister

Maud Howe Elliott 1854-1948 Unitarian

  • author, social reformer; daughter of Julia Ward Howe (also on this list)

Maria Baldwin 1856-1922 Unitarian

  • educator, reformer, first African American woman principal

Harriot Stanton Blatch 1856-1940 Unitarian

  • suffragist; daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton (also on this list)

Alice Stone Blackwell 1857-1950 Unitarian

  • suffragist, reformer; daughter of Lucy Stone (also on this list) and Henry Brown Blackwell

Fannie Farmer 1857-1915 Unitarian (and Universalist?)

  • cookbook author, teacher of cooking and dietetics; first to write recipes wit exact measurements

Ida C. Hultin 1858-1938 Unitarian and Universalist

  • minister; spoke at 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions

Caroline Julia Bartlett Crane 1858-1935 Unitarian

  • minister, social reformer, sanitation reformer

Carrie Clinton Chapman Catt 1859-1947 Unitarian connections

Ellen Gates Starr 1859-1940 Unitarian roots, converted to Roman Catholicism

  • co-founder of Hull House, labor activist, Socialist

Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman 1860-1935 Unitarian

  • (feminist, speaker, author of Herland, "The Yellow Wallpaper")

Jane Addams 1860-1935 Presbyterian

  • social reformer, settlement house founder; author of Twenty Years at Hull House; attended All Souls' Unitarian Church in Chicago and the Ethical Culture Society in Chicago for many years; was briefly an Interim Lecturer at the Ethical Society; retained her membership in a Presbyterian congregation

Florence Buck 1860-1925 Unitarian

  • minister, religious educator, writer

Kate Cooper Austin 1864-1902 Universalist, freethinker

  • feminist, anarchist, writer

Alice Ames Winter 1865-1944 Unitarian

  • Woman's Club leader, author; daughter of Fanny Baker Ames (also on this list)

Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 Unitarian (British)

  • artist, author; wrote Peter Rabbit series

Emily Greene Balch 1867-1961 Unitarian, Quaker

  • 1946 Nobel Prize for Peace; economist, pacifist, a founder of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Katherine Philips Edson 1870-1933 Unitarian

  • suffragist, reformer, labor arbitrator

(Sara) Josephine Baker 1873-1945 Unitarian

  • health reformer, physician, public health administrator

Amy Lowell 1874-1925 Unitarian

Edna Madison McDonald Bonser 1875-1949 Universalist

  • minister, religious educator; first woman minister in Illinois

Clara Cook Helvie 1876-1969

  • minister

Sophia Lyon Fahs 1876-1978 Unitarian Universalist

  • religious educator, minister

Ida Maud Cannon 1877-1960 Unitarian

  • social worker; known as founder of medical social work

Margaret Sanger 1883-1966

  • birth control advocate, social reformer

Marjorie M. Brown 1884-1987 Unitarian

  • (author, Lady in Boomtown

Maja V. Capek 1888-1966 Unitarian (Czechoslovakian)

  • Unitarian minister; helped create the Flower Communion and introduce it to Unitarians in America and Europe

Margaret Barr 1897? - 1973 Unitarian (British)

  • educator, administrator, helped create Unitarian church movement in Khasi Hills, India; friend of Gandhi

May Sarton 1912-1995 Unitarian Universalist

  • poet, author

Sylvia Plath

Malvina Reynolds

  • songwriter, folksinger

Frances Moore Lappe

  • author, nutritionist, activist: wrote Diet for a Small Planet

Jewel Graham Unitarian Universalist

  • social welfare educator; President, World YWCA
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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Unitarian and Universalist Women." ThoughtCo, Sep. 24, 2021, thoughtco.com/unitarian-and-universalist-women-3530635. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, September 24). Unitarian and Universalist Women. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/unitarian-and-universalist-women-3530635 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Unitarian and Universalist Women." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/unitarian-and-universalist-women-3530635 (accessed March 27, 2023).