Hannah Adams

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Hannah Adams

Hannah Adams (October 2, 1755 – December 15, 1831) was a Christian author, born in Medfield, Massachusetts and died in Brookline. She was the first woman in the United States who worked professionally as a writer.[1]


She was the second of five children born to Thomas Adams and Elizabeth Clark. Her mother died when Hannah was 11 years old. Showing at an early age a fondness for study, she acquired a fair knowledge of Greek and Latin from divinity students boarding with her father, who was himself a man of literary tastes. He became bankrupt when she was in her seventeenth year, and she and her brothers and sisters were obliged to provide for themselves. During the Revolutionary War she supported herself by making lace, and afterward by teaching. She was a woman of varied learning and indomitable perseverance.

Her writings brought her little money, yet they secured her fame and many friends, among them the Abbé Grégoire, with whom she carried on an extensive correspondence, and also received his aid in preparing her History of the Jews (1812).

A voyage from Boston to Nahant, about ten miles, was her only journey by water, and a trip to Providence her farthest by land. Nonetheless, she was a popular guest in New England society, and once stayed for two weeks at the house of her distant cousin, President John Adams.

During the closing years of her life she enjoyed an annuity provided by friends in Boston. Her autobiography, edited with additions by Mrs. Hanah F. Lee, was published in Boston in 1832. She described herself as a Unitarian Christian.

Her birthplace is preserved in Medfield. Her remains were interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 12, 1832. Her monument "erroneously proclaims" that she was the cemetery's "First Tenant," but she was, in fact, the ninth.[2]


  • View of Religious Opinions (1st ed. 1784; 4th ed. retitled Dictionary of Religions) This was her principal work. In it, she gave a comprehensive survey of the various religions of the world. The work passed through several editions, and was reprinted in England. It was a pioneering work, in that she represented denominations from the perspective of their adherents, without imposing her own preferences. This work was divided into three parts:
    1. An Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects Which Have Appeared from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day
    2. A Brief Account of Paganism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, and Deism
    3. An Account of the Different Religions of the World
  • A Summary History of New England (1799)
  • Evidences of Christianity (1801)
  • The Truth and Excellence of the Christian Religion (1804)
  • History of the Jews (1812)
  • Controversy with Dr. Morse (1814) This refers to a legal dispute she had with Morse in 1801.
  • Letters on the Gospels (1824; second edition 1826)


  1. ^ "Adams, Hannah (1755–1831)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Gale Research Inc. Retrieved 8 January 2013. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Linden, Blanche M. G. Silent City on a Hill: Picturesque Landscapes of Memory and Boston's Mount Auburn Cemetery. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007: 197. ISBN 1-55849-571-1