About Phebe Ann Hanaford (Coffin)
A Paper Trail: Piecing Together the Life of Phebe Hanaford
By Lisa M. Tetrault
In the first decade of the twentieth century, Phebe Hanaford was asked to help officiate at the funeral services for two leading women's rights activists of the nineteenth century: the feminist philosopher Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the woman-suffrage organizer Susan B. Anthony. The two friends, who had shared a life of labor, died within four years of each other, and Hanaford knew them both well. One of the nation's first female ministers, an author, feminist, and Nantucket native, Hanaford was intimately involved in the early women's rights campaign for nearly the entire span of the seventy-five-year movement. The invitation in her old age to preside at the funerals of arguably the most famous women of the nineteenth century testified to Hanaford's own prominence. Yet, for complicated reasons, this extraordinary woman is almost forgotten today.
To recover Hanaford's remarkable life story requires evidence. In short, those wanting to know about her need a paper trail, clues from which to reconstruct events. Luckily, in Hanaford's case, a paper trail is preserved in the vaults of the Nantucket Historical Association's Research Library at 7 Fair Street. Carefully stored in six archival boxes, some of Hanaford's letters, scrapbooks, sermons, and memorabilia survive, offering a window into her amazing life. These sources are invaluable, in part, because they are exceedingly rare. For many women like Hanaford no personal documents survive, and their life stories are sadly, almost irretrievably, lost. The bulk of extant material on the nineteenth-century women's rights movement comes mainly from women who had nationally prominent profiles-women like Stanton and Anthony. And although those two women certainly deserve a prominent place in history, they did not-indeed, could not-create and sustain a mass movement on their own. Yet reading history books and watching documentaries, one is often led to think that they did. This raises thorny questions about the relationship between sources and memory. Does the fact that more abundant and more readily available records exist for nationally prominent women mean that they occupy an over-privileged position in our collective memory? And are they, as a result, overshadowing women like Hanaford to an unreasonable degree? Although she is relatively unknown today, Hanaford, along with many other women, played key roles in creating and developing a powerful women's rights movement. To write a fully rendered and usable past, then, requires including those important but now forgotten women in our stories. Thankfully, not all of their histories are lost. With valuable collections such as the NHA's Hanaford papers, some histories can be recovered.
Phebe Ann (Coffin) Hanaford was born in Siasconset on Nantucket Island on May 6, 1829. She was the only child of the merchant and shipowner George W. Coffin and his wife Phebe Ann (Barnard) Coffin. Both were Quakers and direct descendants of the island's first white settlers, Tristram Coffin and Peter Folger. Phebe Ann (Barnard) Coffin died shortly after her daughter was born, and George Coffin subsequently married Emeline (Barnard) Cartwright (widow of Joseph Cartwright Jr.), with whom he had seven more children. Reared on Nantucket with her elder stepbrother and her younger half brothers and sisters, little Phebe had both public and private schooling. She studied an advanced, classical curriculum (including Latin and higher mathematics) under an Episcopalian minister, the Reverend Ethan Allen of Trinity Church. Phebe, however, was raised in a Quaker tradition, and she was accustomed to hearing women speak and preach in Friends meetings. Phebe's free spirit and bent for reform showed at an early age. She reportedly often mounted a box in the barn and played preacher with the neighborhood children assembled as her congregation, and she frequently climbed up Brant Point lighthouse where she declaimed Byron and Shakespeare, both considered too worldly for an austere Quaker home. When only eight, she signed a temperance pledge, and at thirteen she was writing for the press. At age sixteen, Phebe took a job teaching school in Siasconset. Four years later, at age twenty, she married Dr. Joseph Hanaford, a native of Newton, Massachusetts, and a homeopathic physician, medical writer, and teacher. Ten years her senior, Joseph Hanaford had been working in Nantucket, where the two lived on and off during the early years of their marriage. Eventually, Phebe moved off the island in 1857, settling with her husband first in Beverly, Massachusetts, and later, in 1864, in Reading. The couple had only two children, Howard and Florence.
During the 1850s and 1860s, Phebe raised her children, turned to writing, and gave her first sermons. Over those years, she wrote many of her books, of which there would be fourteen in all. The first, Lucretia the Quakeress (1853), was an antislavery tract inspired by her Nantucket cousin, the famous abolitionist and Quaker Lucretia (Coffin) Mott. Hanaford's Life of Abraham Lincoln (1865) was the first biography of the president published after his assassination, and it sold an impressive 20,000 copies. She also published a volume of poetry entitled From Shore to Shore (1870). From 1866 to 1868, she edited two periodicals, including a monthly Universalist magazine. Hanaford had left the Quaker faith to join her husband in the Baptist church (which did not ordain women), but after the death of a younger brother and sister and a careful reading of the Bible, she turned to Universalism. While visiting Nantucket in 1865, Phebe gave her first sermon at the age of thirty-six. Acceding somewhat trepidatiously to her father's request, she preached two sermons in the little schoolhouse in Siasconset where she had once been a teacher. A year later she was surprised and honored when asked to substitute in South Canton, New York, for the Rev. Olympia Brown (the first ordained Universalist woman minister). "I dared not refuse to go," she recounted, "it seemed to be the Lord's call. [So] I went." With Brown's encouragement, Hanaford soon entered the Universalist ministry. Recalling her ordination at Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1868, Hanaford claimed to be the first woman ordained in New England. A year after her ordination, she accepted a pastorate in Waltham, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Phebe had separated from her husband, who remained in Reading until his death in 1907. She began supporting herself, accepting a position with the First Universalist Church of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1870, at an annual salary of $2,000. That same year, she served as chaplain for the Connecticut Legislature, the first woman ever to do so. Although she launched a highly successful career at a time when few women were permitted in the ministry, she was sometimes plagued by controversy. Shortly after she was ordained, for example, a newspaper reported that at the marriage ceremonies she performed, men were forced to take their wives' names. This was, of course, false, but it revealed the discomfort many felt about a woman entering the prestigious, male-dominated profession.
When she began to preach her first sermons, Hanaford also became active in the nascent women's rights movement. During the Civil War (1861-65) women had suspended the annual women's rights conventions that had begun a decade earlier. When the war ended, a group of abolitionist and feminist reformers came together in 1866 and formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA), of which Hanaford was a member. The organization's aim was to secure black and female suffrage as equal and inextricable demands. When the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was proposed, members of the AERA split at their May 1869 meeting over whether to support the amendment, which prohibited discrimination in voting on the basis of race, but not gender. In other words, it would enfranchise freed black men, but no women. Although the majority of the organization's members, including Hanaford, supported the proposed amendment, it was unacceptable to others, particularly Stanton and Anthony, who after a vitriolic exchange with the ex-slave Frederick Douglass, left the meeting and broke with the organization. The two women met with others opposed to the amendment later that evening and created their own independent society, the National Woman Suffrage Association (1869), appointing Stanton president and restricting membership to women. Other leaders of the feminist-abolitionist coalition gathered that fall to create a rival organization, the American Woman Suffrage Organization (1869). Founders of the latter organization included such luminaries as Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, Thomas Went-worth Higginson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Phebe Hanaford. Many women, including Hanaford, viewed the split as unfortunate, and she remained on good terms with both organizations, helping to accomplish the eventual unification of the two groups in 1890.
Hanaford left her pastorate in New Haven in 1874 and accepted a position with the Universalist Church of the Good Shepherd in Jersey City, New Jersey, where the congregation subsequently was at odds, ostensibly over her women's rights activities. After her first three-year term, Hanaford was up for reappointment. Although she had doubled membership during her first term, some reputedly renounced her activism around the so-called "woman's question" and asked her to resign. She refused, and the congregation divided in 1877, when a majority of voting members failed to reappoint her. Hanaford formed a second Universalist society and dissenters followed, attending her sermons in a public hall where she preached for the next several years.
Hanaford's letters and papers, however, offer a somewhat different explanation for the split. After separating from her husband (whom she never officially divorced), Hanaford had begun living with a woman named Ellen Miles. Newspaper clippings preserved in Hanaford's scrapbook reported that the disgruntlement among congregation members was, in fact, over Hanaford's liaison with Miles, whom the papers called the "minister's wife." Hanaford, it seems, was not simply asked to cease her women's rights activities, but more specifically, to "dismiss" Miss Miles. The split in the Jersey City congregation, then, actually appears to have been over Hanaford's intimate personal life. While we cannot know for certain the exact nature of Hanaford and Miles's relationship, their letters testify to a deep and abiding affection. The two remained life-long companions, separated after forty-four years together only by Miles's death in 1914.
Although the conventional story about the split in Hanaford's congregation is, it seems, misleading, it is true that throughout the nineteenth century Hanaford remained ardently dedicated to women's advancement, a goal she furthered through agitation and through example. She spoke at numerous national, state, and local woman suffrage conventions. Indeed, she played a role in nearly every major suffrage campaign in New England during the nineteenth century. In her own view, if more women had been allowed to vote in church affairs she would have easily won reappointment in her Jersey City pastorate. She served as vice president of the Association for the Advancement of Women in 1874, and she was one of the women ministers invited to conduct services at the 1888 International Council of Women. When her dissident New Jersey congregation applied for formal recognition and was rejected by the General Universalist Convention in 1878, Hanaford had no settled pulpit, and for years she conducted lecturing and preaching tours across New England and the Middle Atlantic and Western states. She spoke on a wide variety of reform topics to audiences as small as thirty and as large as several thousand. Hanaford reportedly had a clear, rich voice that rang out "like a silver bell," allowing her to project easily into the far corners of lecture halls in an era before electronic amplification. Surely her childhood orations from the top of Brant Point lighthouse helped her cultivate that impressive skill.
In 1884, she returned to New Haven as pastor of the Second Church. She then retired from the pulpit in 1891 and moved with Miles to New York City. There she was involved with a number of women's groups. She presided over the New Century Study Circle and the Society for Political Study (1896-98). She served as a vice president of Sorosis, a women's literary club, and she served for five years as president of the Women's Press Club (1901-06). She was also active during her lifetime in many temperance clubs, working to abolish the sale and consumption of alcohol. In her later years, she recalled her activism with pride, and she also recalled fondly offering a prayer at her son's ordination (he became a Congregationalist minister) and performing the ceremony at her daughter's wedding.
Although the Hanaford papers form a rich source that offers invaluable insight into Hanaford's illustrious life, there are questions that her papers cannot answer-aspects of her life that remain obscure. Many of her beautiful sermons are preserved, for example, but for unknown reasons her political speeches are not, making it relatively easy to reconstruct her religious philosophy but exceedingly difficult to reconstruct her feminist philosophy. Because her preaching and women's rights activism overlapped, however, her sermons offer some clues, as do newspaper accounts of her speeches, which she pasted into her scrapbooks. These, along with broadside advertisements for her public lectures, also allow us to reconstruct to a degree her busy itinerary. But because many of her letters were lost or destroyed over the years, we cannot know how she felt about those public appearances. Did she experience nervousness, confidence, elation, frustration? How did she deal with the trials and exhaustion of nightly lectures and extensive travel? What were her proudest and most discouraging moments? Answers to those questions may never be known. Perhaps a stash of Hanaford letters and writings exists somewhere in someone's attic or basement and will yet surface, joining the papers already preserved and offering the possibility of an even fuller reconstruction of her amazing life.
After Miles's death in 1914, Hanaford left New York City and moved to Rochester, New York, to live with her granddaughter, Dionis Coffin (Warner) Santee, with whom she passed her final years, never losing interest in public affairs and retaining her faculties to the end. Unlike many pioneers in the woman suffrage movement, Hanaford lived to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which enfranchised most women; a majority of Southern black women, however, would not be able to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. She often remarked that she would like to live to be a hundred years old, but her wish was cut short by eight years. On June 2, 1921, at the age of ninety-two, she passed away peacefully and was buried several days later in Orleans, New York.
Lisa M. Tetrault was the NHA's 2001 E. Geoffrey and Elizabeth Thayer Verney Fellow. She is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is completing a dissertation tentatively titled "The Making and Remaking of the American Woman Suffrage Movement, 1865-1895." Her work pays particular attention to how the politics of memory and historical preservation have shaped our understanding of the campaign.
Phebe Hanaford Collection, MS 38, Nantucket Historical Association. Phebe Hanaford, "Twenty Years in the Pulpit," Woman's Journal, 27 December 1890. Helen Cartwright McCleary, "Phebe Ann (Coffin) Hanaford: The 100th Anniversary of her Birth," Nantucket Historical Association Proceedings XXXV (1929). "Phebe Hanaford," in Notable American Women, Edward T. James, Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer, eds. (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971).
Rev. Phebe Hanaford's Church of the Holy Spirit (Second Universalist) in New Haven, Conn., c. 1884.
Rev. Phebe Hanaford, c. 1868 P14374
http://www.firstparishnorwell.org/sermons/hanaford.htm PHEBE ANN HANAFORD: UNIVERSALIST FOREMOTHER OCTOBER 25, 1998 RACHEL TEDESCO
This morning I would like to present to you Rev. Phebe Ann Hanaford, who was ordained by the First Universalist Society in Hingham, Mass. in 1868. She was the third woman to be formally ordained by any denomination in the United States and the first woman to be ordained in this state.
Phebe Hanaford was active in many social causes: temperance, abolition, women’s rights and peace being the most prominent. She was also a writer of hymns, poems, children’s books and biographies, an editor of two Universalist publications, a lecturer, teacher, wife and mother. She knew – and was known by – many of the prominent progressive writers and social activists of her day. Hanaford, born a Quaker on Nantucket, was a cousin of Lucretia Mott, the famous campaigner for abolition, women’s rights and temperance.
The 19th century Universalists believed in the divine spark in all human beings and in the possibility of salvation for everyone – if only they were taught the way of the Gospel and lived righteously. Universalism was a forgiving, liberal Christianity – in stark contrast to the Calvinism of the day, with its emphasis on total depravity, sin and damnation. Hanaford’s Universalist theology is clearly reflected in the poem I read this morning, "Death and Victory," which was published in her book From Shore to Shore and Other Poems in 1871.
She was born Phebe Ann Coffin in the village of Siasconset (known to the locals as "S’conset") on Nantucket Island on May 6, 1829. She was the only child of Phebe Ann (Barnard) Coffin and Captain George Coffin, a merchant and shipowner. Her mother died shortly after her birth and her father remarried. Young Phebe received much encouragement from her father. One biographer wrote: "It was… at an early age that Phebe Ann discovered her great delight in public speaking. Her father was also aware of this fascination, and he would often entertain friends by obliging his little daughter to recite passages from Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket." Phebe was precocious in other ways. Her first poem, which had an anti-slavery theme, was published when she was 13. This early success encouraged her to write and submit more.
Hanaford later wrote about the Quakers on Nantucket: "The Society of Friends, or Quakers… have always had women among their preachers. Not a few women of Nantucket Island were approved ministers among Friends, during our first century as a nation…" It should be noted that formal ordination was not practiced. Young Phebe was fortunate to have two grandmothers who instilled in her their love of religion and community and imbued in her egalitarian Quaker principles.
While she taught in S’conset, she meet Dr. Joseph Hanaford, a schoolmaster from Newton who was also teaching on the island. He was ten years older than she and a Baptist. His regular occupations were homeopathic physician and medical journalist, but he never did very well financially. They married in 1849 when Phebe was 20. Out of wifely duty, Phebe converted to the Baptist faith. They had two children, Howard in 1851 and Florence in 1854. Because Dr. Hanaford never earned enough to support the family, Mrs. Hanaford had to supplement his income through her writing. Luckily she had some talent in this area and was very prolific. Over her lifetime, she published 14 books, in addition to innumerable editorials, sketches, speeches and sermons, prose and verse.
By 1857, the Hanaford marriage began to go sour. In her diary, Mrs. Hanaford recorded many philosophical arguments with her husband, which caused guilt and confusion on her part. She was still loyal to her Quaker beliefs. When they moved off the island to Beverly in 1857 – without Mrs. Hanaford’s foreknowledge or consent—their relationship became more distant. She became active in the anti-slavery movement. During the Civil War she temporarily suspended her Quaker pacifist beliefs to support the Union’s "holy mission." She wrote poems and essays supporting the Yankee cause, which were published in local papers, making her locally famous as a patriotic writer. Mrs. Hanaford was also active in the temperance movement, first writing poems and speeches, and then appearing as a speaker herself at temperance meetings and rallies.
In 1864, Dr. Hanaford moved his family to Reading. Mrs. Hanaford’s personal religious conflict with her husband continued. Although she was officially a Baptist, she had been looking at other religions for years. "Sometime during 1864, she began reading about the Universalist sect, and she became interested in that denomination’s cheerful attitude toward life and religion." With the deaths of a stepbrother and stepsister in 1865, she totally rejected the fire and brimstone message of the Baptists and became a Universalist.
Soon after the deaths, Hanaford was visiting her father in Nantucket and described to him her developing faith in Universalism. He invited her to preach on the subject. Another biographer wrote: "Here, in the summer of 1865, as she was choosing Universalism, Phebe gave her first sermons. The family was reeling from the deaths of her brother Rowland and sister Mary Jane. In his grief, George asked Phebe to share her faith with the people of S’conset. Sea-worn men wept as she talked of God’s universal love." A newspaper reporter who interviewed Hanaford in 1877 wrote, "Looking back on this fateful moment, the Rev. Phebe Ann Hanaford would later recall: ‘My father and the neighbors, old sea captains and their families, [sat] there before me, and the tears [ran] down their faces.’ From this charismatic experience, Phebe Ann Hanaford decided that she was destined in life to become a preacher."
Through her editorship of the Universalist paper the Ladies’ Repository and her association with the temperance movement, she began to met several outspoken Universalist women. Among them was Rev. Olympia Brown, the first ordained woman minister. The two strong, talented women became friends. Some time in 1866, Hanaford received an invitation from Rev. Brown to preach at her church in South Canton, New York. After this sermon, Brown was so impressed with Hanaford’s preaching ability that she urged her to enter the ministry. In November, Hanaford received a Letter of License—good for one year—from the Committee of Fellowship, Ordination and Disciplines of the Massachusetts Universalist Convention. The letter stated that the committee "hereby express their confidence in Sister Phebe Ann Hanaford as a worthy candidate for the Ministry…"
Hanaford was asked to serve as pastor to the Universalist Society in Hingham. She was an ideal, all-round candidate. Her teaching experience equipped her well for teaching the "Sabbath School." She also had talents that would serve her in the pulpit: a strong, well-modulated speaking voice; experience as a public speaker, both as a preacher and a lecturer; a broad knowledge of the Bible and religion; a classical education in science and philosophy, and a facile pen. Her duties were those of the church’s pastor, which she began in November of 1866. She soon won the church’s admiration. A March 1867 article in The Hingham Journal describes a "presentation party" where Mrs. Hanaford was presented with a gift of a gold watch in appreciation for her services as a teacher and pastor.
That same month Mrs. Hanaford preached a lengthy sermon, "The Reciprocal Duties of Pastor and People," which was later reprinted, most likely for general distribution to her congregation to remind them of these duties. She described her call from God and her belief that he would sustain her in her labors. She spoke of the Quaker practice of listening in the stillness for the Voice of Divine Wisdom. "I have sought to hear that Divine Voice, and I think its utterance is in approval of my choice." Mrs. Hanaford then expounded on the reciprocal duties of pastor and people. The pastor’s first duty was to preach the word. She believed that the New Testament was incomplete without the Old, on which Jesus and his disciples based their faith. She intended to preach from both, but with her own interpretation. She would seek the opinions of others, especially Universalist theologians, as well as history, science and philosophy—"but, after all, I must preach the word only as I understand it, even as the divine spirit, who is its best interpreter, shall reveal its meaning to me." It is clear from the rest of her sermon that Hanaford was deeply Christian and loved the bible. But, she said she was not limited to biblical theology and was willing to see things in a new light.
She would, she promised, condemn their sins, but she explained that to her sin meant not so much individual sin, but social wrongs. "I do not believe in harsh, indiscriminate denunciations of individuals, but I do believe in uncompromising warfare with evil… I honor the men and women who to-day are battling in the Temperance Reform, and I clasp hands with every true reformer the world over." She continued: "If it shall be mine to guide the young, strengthen the middle-aged, to console the venerable, I am content. … Already is my heart knit to many of you, with whom I have rejoiced and with whom I have wept."
Articles in The Hingham Journal reported on her many activities with the church. This energetic woman also engaged in pulpit exchanges and would sometimes preach three times on one Sunday. The Star in the West, a monthly Universalist publication, wrote at the time of her ordination the following year: "Educated in the good old fashioned way, she had the bible from Genesis to Revelation at her tongue’s end; having common sense and a good heart she understood our faith. And when the question about pastoral labor was put [in the examination for ordination], the chairman of the committee of the Hingham society, where she has been preaching for a year, stated she had done it more effectually than any man they had had for the last twenty years!"
The historic event of Hanaford’s ordination and installation services came on February 19, 1868. The Hingham Journal reported: "The sermon was delivered by Rev. John G. Adams of Lowell from the text,-- "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond or free, there is neither male nor female, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus." Rev. Olympia Brown, Hanaford’s friend and mentor, offered the hand of Fellowship in the ordination service and the sermon at the installation service. Rev. Brown said to her, "As a woman, you stand in some sense as a representative; as one [of] the earliest to assume the high office of the preacher, it is yours to maintain the position in which you now stand. … In your office, show yourself worthy of your high calling." Especially touching were the words which Rev. Brown delivered which might have been written about herself: "Young women will look to you for instruction and guidance—for that sympathy which they have not found in the ministry in the years past. Be it yours to call them to a higher life. … And my prayer is, that you will have opportunity to lead some of the young women of your parish to consecrate themselves to the work of ministry. I would that you might lead them up, to be sharers with us in this work."
Rev. Hanaford lost no time in undertaking her many duties as parish minister, while continuing her involvement in social causes. Unfortunately, Rev. Hanaford was unable to adequately perform her duties as editor at the Universalist Publishing House. The organization asked her to resign, which caused a small uproar in the denomination. It was accused of "not believing in women ministers" and an explanation was demanded. The Publishing House replied that "[It] had to seek a replacement for Mrs. Hanaford because complaints had been made about the manner in which her work was being done; she neglected her obligations; other individuals had to cover for her, while she continued to receive her full salary ($600 a year). She had been warned when she announced that she was entering the ministry in addition to her other activities … that this new responsibility would seriously interfere with her work. But she went ahead with her plans." It seems that even with her incredible spirit and energy, Rev. Hanaford couldn’t perform the impossible.
A Hingham Journal article from August 1868 notes that Rev. Hanaford "having recovered from her recent illness, will preach at the Universalist Church next Sunday." It seems there were no summers off for this hard working minister.
We should not forget that Mrs. Hanaford had a home life in Reading with a husband and two teenage children. On December 10, she wrote a letter to her son Howard, who was about to start school at Dean Academy, the new Universalist school located in Franklin, Mass. Howard was just turning 17 and his sister Florence was 13. The tone of the letter is warm and intimate. The mother and son obviously shared an interest in religion and literature. She writes, "it was so pleasant to have someone at home who was ready to read every Universalist paper and was so ready to welcome the new books. My dear son can hardly realize what a comfort it was to have his sympathy in so many matters. I long to hear from you …" These words stand in stark contrast to the lack of sympathy she felt from her husband.
The year 1869 began. As if Rev. Hanaford didn’t have enough responsibilities, she sought a half-time position at the Universalist church in Waltham. She spoke in that town—probably as a candidate—on January 17. The write-up of her performance in the Waltham Sentinel was very complimentary. "In manner she is easy and graceful, and her every word, tone and look carries conviction to the heart that she speaks as she feels… One great charm in her preaching and in her whole appearance is her womanliness, which is borne with such modesty and reverential grace that all unjust criticism and prejudice is at once disarmed against woman as a spiritual leader." Hanaford was called to Waltham in March 1869 at a salary of $1,000. She preached on alternate Sundays at Hingham and Waltham. "One member of the [Waltham] Society resigned in disgust when Mrs. Hanaford was called to the pulpit, saying that if he had a ‘hen that crowed, he would cut her head off.’"
Then in January 1870, there appeared in The Hingham Journal a brief notice: "Rev. Mrs. P.A. Hanaford… has received and accepted a call to the pastorate of the First Universalist Church and Society of New Haven, at a salary of $2500. The Society will part with her in regret." The Hingham church asked Rev. Daniel Livermore to be their pastor or supply their pulpit. He accepted the latter proposal for an indefinite time. On May 27, the Journal announced that Rev. Hanaford would preach on May 30. This was probably her farewell sermon in Hingham because on June 9 she was installed at the First Universalist Church in New Haven.
Sometime that spring, Rev. Hanaford moved to New Haven with Florence, separating from her husband. Judging from the strained relationship they had had since 1857, it must have been a relief. We know from subsequent letters from him (dated February 1871 and after) that Dr. Hanaford didn’t fare well after their separation, was rather lost and miserable, and seemed to miss her and Florence terribly. Judging from these letters, however, the Hanafords seemed to be on cordial terms. They never got a divorce, which would have been scandalous in that day.
Why did Rev. Hanaford leave the Hingham and Waltham churches and eastern Massachusetts? Some reasons seem obvious. The first was that the weekly commute back and forth by horse and buggy between Reading and Waltham and between Reading and Hingham must have been tiring. It couldn’t have been the money because the salaries from the two part-time pastorates equaled the total she was to get from New Haven. The second reason was undoubtedly the opportunity to set up a separate household from Dr. Hanaford. The third factor may have been the desire to be nearer the women’s rights activists of New York, the center of the action. Fortunately, the move seemed to have been a good one for Hanaford. She invited Ellen "Nellie" Miles to be her female companion in her new household, since it was frowned upon for a woman to live alone. They became life long companions and friends. Her ministry in New Haven lasted four years.
Hanaford’s ministry in Hingham and her other activities of this period in Massachusetts came to a close in the spring of 1870. She certainly had made her mark on Universalism and on various causes for social reform and continued to be an outspoken minister and pioneer for the rest of her long life. Hanaford was certainly a woman rooted in her time and culture—New England of the 19th century. But she also was a woman ahead of her times. Universalists preached about the spark of the divine in each person. In Rev. Phebe Ann Hanaford, the divine spark had grown into a flame.
May you be attuned to the spark of the divine within each of you
And may this divine spark be coaxed into a flame.