Elizabeth Dunster

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Elizabeth Dunster (Harris)

Also Known As: "Elizabeth (Harris) Glover Dunster"
Birthplace: of, Bury, Lancashire , England
Death: August 23, 1643 (38-47)
Cambridge, Middlesex , Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Rev. Nathaniel Harris, Rector of Blechingly
Wife of Rev. Joseph Glover and Rev. Henry Dunster, First President of Harvard
Mother of Judith Raymond; Dr. John Glover and Priscilla Appleton

Occupation: Printer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Elizabeth Dunster

Elizabeth (Harris) Glover Dunster (b. ca 1600 in England, d. August 1643 in Cambridge) First Proprietor of a Printing Press in America -1638

Elizabeth Harris Glover established the first printing office in colonial America. Around the year 1630, Elizabeth Harris married Reverend Joseph (sometimes referred to as Jose or Josse) Glover in England with whom she had three children. Joseph Glover had been a minister in Surrey, England, but left his family to come to Boston as a member of the Massachusetts Bay Company, through which he obtained a two hundred acre farm near Boston. He returned to England in 1638 to bring over his family, which included Elizabeth, their three children, and another two children from his previous marriage. The family brought with them a printing press and other supplies. Also on board was Stephen Daye, a locksmith by trade who was contracted to Glover, and Daye's family. Unfortunately, Joseph Glover died on their ocean voyage of a fever in 1638.

Elizabeth Glover, with the approval of local magistrates and elders, set up the printing press in Cambridge and settled in a house in close proximity to Harvard College and bought another house in which the Daye family lived and operated the printing press (later to become the Cambridge Press), that printed the first books in the colonies, The Whole Book of Psalmes, The Liberties of the Massachusetts Colonie in New England (now in the Boston Athenaeum), and the Almanack for the Years of 1639, 40, and 41.

In 1641, Elizabeth Glover married Henry Dunster, president of Harvard from 1640-1654, who took over the supervision of the printing business upon her death in 1643. The Glover children later sued Dunster for a share of the estate.

References: Hudak, Leona M. Early American Women Printers and Publishers 1639-1820, The Scarecrow Press, Inc.; Metuchen, New Jersey, 1978.; Cambridge Historical Society Proceedings, vol. III:12-17; VI:22; XDIV: 64; See also History of Printing in America (1878)



  1. abt 1630 in Sutton (near Croydon), Surrey, England to Rev. Jose Glover
  2. 21 Jun 1641 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Henry Dunster


  1. Dr. John Glover (Abt 1632 - Bef 1668)
  2. Priscilla Glover (abt 1634 - 1697)


Henry Dunster married Elizabeth (Harris) Glover, the widow of the Reverend Joseph Glover, on June 22, 1641. They had no children together, However, she did have five children from her previous marriages, Roger, John, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Priscilla.

When Elizabeth Glover Dunster died in 1643, she left her property, including land and a printing press, to Dunster, along with shared administrative responsibility for her estate and five children. Dunster continued to operate the printing business until 1654, when he sold the press to Harvard College.


Other more personal factors made life difficult for Dunster, too, including his first marriage to the widow of the man who had died en route to Massachusetts with New England’s first printing press. The first Mrs. Dunster, to use a modern argot, was a piece of work, inclined to live in the manner to which she would like to become accustomed. MORISON, supra note 3, at 256.

From Dictionary of Women Worldwide

Glover, Elizabeth Harris (d. 1643) Massachusetts printer. Name variations: Elizabeth Dunster; Elizabeth Harris. Born Elizabeth Harris in Bury, Lancashire, England; died Aug 23, 1643, in Cambridge, Massachusetts; m. Jose or Josse Glover (nonconforming minister, died Dec 22, 1638); m. Henry Dunster (1609–1659, cleric and educator and 1st president of Harvard, then known as Cambridge College), June 22, 1641; children: (1st m.) Elizabeth Glover (married Adam Winthrop, son of governor John Winthrop), Sara Glover and 3 stepchildren, Roger, John and Priscilla.

From http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi733.htm

In 1638, Mrs. Glover set up America's first press at the Massachusetts Colony's new college, Harvard. Mrs. Glover and her husband, the Rev. Jose Glover, had sailed from England with five children, a few technicians, and a printing press. Jose Glover was a noncomforming minister who meant to provide religious books and tracts for the Colony.

But he died on the ship across. So Mrs. Glover went right to work setting up the printing shop. Her chief assistant was the oldest technician, Stephen Daye. We now credit Daye, who could barely read or write, with being America's first printer. And Mrs. Glover? Well, I don't even know her given name.

Harvard's first president, Henry Dunster, took an interest in the press and in Mrs. Glover. They married three years later. By then, the press had already issued a broadside, The Freeman's Oath, an 8-page Almanac for 1639, and the famous Bay Psalm Book.

The Bay Psalm Book was both ambitious and crude -- a formidable achievement under the worst conditions. It was 5 by 7½ inches, just shy of 300 pages, and loaded with errors. It held only the rough-hewn Psalm paraphrases. There was no music in the early editions. For a while, the words had to serve as mnemonics for those sturdy tunes we still sing today.

They printed 1700 copies. The 11 copies that survive are worn and battered. They were well-used. By now, both the words and the unwritten tunes are deeply woven in the American fabric.

Mrs. Glover died two years after she married Dunster. Daye's son, Matthew, took over the trade. Life was short back then. He died in 1649, and the press passed to one Samuel Green.

Green produced a remarkable work in 1663, only a generation after the Pilgrims landed. He printed 1500 copies of a Bible in the Algonkian Indian language on that crude wooden press. The full title (and I make no claims for my pronunciation) was,

Mamusse Wunneetupanatamwe Up-Biblum God, Naneeswe Nukkone Testament, Kah Wonk Wusku Testament

Thus the nameless Mrs. Glover laid her hand on that hard new land. To avoid reliving our own pre-history we needed the printed word. She gave it to us. A century later Ben Franklin joined the same trade and used it to cut us loose from England.


  1. [http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu//oasis/deliver/deepLink?_collection=oa...
  2. Harvard College Sponsored First Printing Press Set Up in U. S. A. Came Under Control of College When Owner Married President. November 30, 1928


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Elizabeth Dunster's Timeline

of, Bury, Lancashire , England
Sutton, Surrey , England
Sutton, near, Croydon, Surrey, England
Sutton, near, Croydon, Surrey, England
August 23, 1643
Age 43
Cambridge, Middlesex , Massachusetts