Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

July 8, 2010

Andover Stories: Before bra-burning feminists, there was Andover author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

Most girls living in the mid-19th century were raised to be homemakers. Duties included caring for their husbands and children, cleaning the house and preparing meals. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, daughter of distinguished Professor Austin Phelps, chairman of Rhetoric and Homiletics at the Andover Theological Seminary, led a much different lifestyle than most women during this time period.

Elizabeth was born Mary Gray Phelps on Aug. 31, 1844 and was the eldest child and only daughter in her family. Her mother passed away from birth complications when Mary was 8 and from then on she decided to take her mother's name, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. (Mrs. Phelps was an author in her own right, completing the Kitty Brown books under the pen name H. Trusta.) The Phelps family resided on 189 Main St. on Andover Hill.

Phelps' father encouraged her studies, particularly her writing. Her first piece of work was published in "Youths' Companion" when she was just 13 years old. Growing up, Phelps attended Abbot Female Seminary and later Mrs. Edwards School in Andover, conducted by a faculty wife. Throughout her life, she authored 57 books, including fiction for children, poetry, and numerous essays on women's issues.

At the age of 19 Phelps left school and did reform work, which encompassed teaching the children from factory families employed by the Smith and Dove Manufacturing Co. She also worked with tenement dwellers, which helped inspire her lifelong commitment to improving conditions for the working class.

In 1869, when Phelps was 24, her first book was published, in which she offered a comforting view of the afterlife to women who had lost loved ones in the Civil War. This debut novel, The Gates Ajar, brought her literary fame overnight. In 1886, another book, The Madonna of the Tubs, was published, adding to her growing reputation. A later novella, Loveliness, espoused animal rights. In 1896 Phelps published her autobiography, Chapters from a Life, which had been serialized in McClure's Magazine.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Townspeople
  • AT HOWARD KOH

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES/Courtesy photo Dr. Howard Koh will step down as U.S. assistant secretary for health after five years to rejoin Harvard School of Public Health this fall in a new position in its Department of Health Policy and Management.

    Koh to rejoin Harvard School of Public Health Posted 7 days ago 1 Photo
  • 48 locals to pedal in Pan-Mass Challenge Posted 7 days ago
  • AT HANNAH CURRIE

    Courtesy photo Hannah Currie is spending 10 days this summer becoming immersed in the music industry at GRAMMY Camp in Los Angeles.

    Currie hits note at LA's GRAMMY Camp Posted 7 days ago 1 Photo
  • South Church names new senior pastor Posted 14 days ago
  • AT BOYS GIRLS CLUB GOLF1

    COURTESY PHOTO Andover residents Patrick James, left, Adam Geaslen, Ryan Byrd and Dan Bryant claimed first place at the 35th annual Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence Golf Tournament at Indian Ridge Country Club in town.

    Local foursome aces Boys & Girls Club tourney Posted 14 days ago 2 Photos
  • AT LOCKS SISTERS2

    COURTESY PHOTO The Marble sisters --Anna, 8, left, and Isabel, 11 -- post-donatin to Locks of Love.

    Sisters pair up to donate pony tails to Locks of Love Posted 14 days ago 4 Photos
  • AT HOST1

    DESI SMITH/Staff photo Former Andover residents Dana Cohen and his wife, Ginny, back, left, have regularly hosted foreign exchange students since 1989. Farrah Moussa, back right, from Egypt, and Paula Valverde, front right, from Spain, are the latest students to spend a year with the Cohens, who now live in Gloucester.

    Former Andover couple welcomes exchange students for quarter-century Posted 14 days ago 4 Photos
  • Thursday, July 3, 2014
  • LENO1

    FILE PHOTO Jay Leno, who honed his comedy skills growing up in Andover, will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this fall during a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

    In good comedy company Posted 21 days ago 2 Photos
  • COMMUNITY TRUST2

    ACT 3.jpg Susan Stott, third from left, accepts the Opening Doors to Affordable Housing in Andover Award from Andover Community Trust directors, from left, Don Schroeder, treasurer; John Pearson, president; and Joan Johnson, clerk.

    Affordable housing advocates honored Posted 21 days ago 2 Photos
  • AT TABIT

    Salim Tabit

    Townspeople in the News Posted 21 days ago 1 Photo

Pictures of the Week
Stocks