Woman of the Century/Hannah Adams

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ADAMS, Miss Hannah, the first woman in the United States to make a profession of literature was born in Medfield, Mass., in 1755, and died in Brookline, Mass., 15th November, 1832. Her father was a well-to-do farmer of considerable education and culture. Hannah was a delicate child fond of reading and study. In childhood she memorized most of the poetical works of Milton, Pope, Thomson, Young and others. Her studies were varied, including Greek and Latin, in which she was instructed by the divinity students who made their home with her family. In 1772 her father lost his property, and the children were forced to provide for themselves. Hannah supported herself during the Revolutionary War by making lace and by teaching school. After the war she opened a school to prepare young men for college, in which she was very successful. Her principal work, a volume entitled "A View of Religious Opinions," appeared in 1784. The labor necessary for so great a work resulted in a serious illness that threatened her with mental derangement. That book passed through several editions in the United States and was republished in England. It is a work of great research and erudition. When the fourth edition was published, she changed the title to "A Dictionary of Religions." It was long a standard volume. Her second work, "A History of New England," appeared in 1799, and her third, "Evidences of Christianity," in 1801. HANNAH ADAMS..jpgHANNAH ADAMS. Her income from these successful works was meager, as she did not understand the art of making money so well as she knew the art of making books. Her reputation extended to Europe and won her many friends, among whom was Abbé Grégoire, who was then laboring to secure the emancipation of the Jews in France. With him she corresponded, and from him she received valuable aid in preparing her "History of the Jews," which appeared in 1812. Her next book, "A Controversy with Dr. Morse," appeared in 1814, and her "Letters on the Gospels" in 1826. All her books passed through many editions. Miss Adams was a woman of great modesty and simplicity. Her life was very quiet; her only journey by water was the ten-mile trip from Boston to Nahant and her longest land journey was from Boston to Chelmsford. The closing years of her life she spent in Boston, supported by an annuity settled upon her by three wealthy men of that city.

She was buried in Mount Auburn, being the first one to be buried in that cemetery. Her autobiography, edited with additions by Mrs. Hannah F. Lee, was published in Boston in 1832.