Mary Charlotte Ward Granniss Webster Billings

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Mary Charlotte Ward Granniss Webster Billings
Mary Billings died 1904.jpg
BornMary Charlotte Ward
July 11, 1824
Litchfield, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedMarch 21, 1904(1904-03-21) (aged 79)
Hico, Texas, U.S.
Resting placeHico Cemetery
Pen nameM. C. G.; Mrs. M. C. Granniss
Occupationwriter, activist, hymn writer, evangelist, missionary
Notable worksEmma Clermert; The Wonderful Christmas Tree
Frederick Granniss (m. 1845)
Charles Henry Webster (m. 1869)
James Billings (m. 1885)

Mary Charlotte Ward Granniss Webster Billings (pen names, M.C.G., Mrs. M.C. Granniss; July 11, 1824 – March 21, 1904) was an American writer, activist, hymn writer, evangelist and missionary. She was Texas' first ordained woman Universalist minister.[1]

Billings, an ordained minister in the Universalist Church, did missionary work in Texas, and associated with her husband, of the same congregation, who was superintendent of its missions in the State. Though Billings largely gave her life to clerical work, she displayed great activity in other fields. She wrote two books, one a work of fiction, entitled Emma Clermert, and the other a holiday publication, known as The Wonderful Christmas Tree. Both were well received and were flatteringly commended by the press. While abroad, she wrote "Thitherside Sketches," which were serially published in Ladies' Repository, a Boston monthly, running through two years of that publication. Billings was also a prolific writer for northern journals and periodicals, denominational and secular.[2][3] These productions were both in prose and verse, and from each, certain works were compiled in book form for literary readers. Among these compilations may be mentioned "Poets and Poetry of Printerdom," "Women in Sacred Song," and "Our Women Workers". Billings was a member of The Texas Woman's Press Association, and of The Woman's State Council. Widowed three times, Billings had no children.[3]

Early years and education[edit]

Mary Charlotte Ward was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, July 11, 1824. Her father was William Ward. William's grandfather, Rev. Solomon Palmer, a Presbyterian minister, was educated at Old Yale.

Billings was not systematically educated. For the older children of the family, her parents were anxious that they should receive the best education, and encouraged them to work hard, until the health of several failed, and they died. With Billings, they took the other extreme; and she was allowed plenty of books, but freedom from all schoolroom restraints, and time to exercise in the open air. Her first published poem was written at the age of 12.


Mary Granniss[edit]

Emma Clermont

In 1845, Billings married Frederick Granniss, also of Litchfield, who was a wealthy silk merchant. They moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and joined the Hartford Universalist congregation.[4] The years 1859–60, she traveled abroad with him, and put the result of her experiences and observations into a series of letters called "Thither-Side Sketches" for Ladies' Repository. After returning from their foreign trip, they built a suburban home, known as "Lilfred's Rest." Here, for several years, she led a happy, quiet, intellectual life, reading what she enjoyed, and writing when the spirit moved her.[5] Her first book, Emma Clermont was published in 1849.[4] The poor health of Frederick precipitated a move to Turpentine Camp in the pine forests of Alabama with the hope for an improvement in Frederick's health. Her letters from the forest of Alabama were instructive and entertaining. "Bear Ye One Another's Burdens" was a touching poem, containing a whole sermon.[5] They eventually returned to Hartford where Frederick died in 1866.[4][6]

Mary Webster[edit]

In 1869, the widow married the Universalist minister and publisher, Rev. Charles Henry Webster.[7] She assisted her husband in his pulpit ministry as a lay preacher while Charles was performing missionary work.[1] Though never ordained, she often back-filled for absent ministers. During this time, she was interested in every project for the welfare of women, including serving as Vice President of the Woman's Centenary Association for seven years, as well as writing prose and verse for the denominational periodical press. In 1877, Charles died.[5]

Rev. Mary Billings[edit]

In 1885, in Waco, Texas, she married Rev. James Billings, another Universalist minister and publisher.[4] They settled in Hico, Texas where she was licensed in 1886 and ordained as a Universalist minister on October 3, 1892.[8] She was widowed again in 1898.[4]

Billings died March 21, 1904,[7] in Hico, and is buried at Hico Cemetery.

Selected works[edit]

The Wonderful Christmas Tree
As Mrs. M. C. Granniss
  • Emma Clermont; or, Life's changes. A tale., 1850
  • Order of exercises at the dedication of the new Universalist Church, Hartford, Conn., November 1, 1860. , 1860
As Mary C. Webster
  • The Wonderful Christmas Tree!: A Story in Rhyme


  1. ^ a b Lindley & Stebner 2008, p. 18-19.
  2. ^ Grider & Rodenberger 1997, p. 65.
  3. ^ a b Brooks 1896, p. 176-77.
  4. ^ a b c d e Coeyman, Barbara. "Biography-4 : Connecticut to Texas: The Universalist Ministry of Mary Ward Granniss Webster Billings". Universalist Herald. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Hanson 1884, pp. 161–66.
  6. ^ Coeyman, Barbara (23 December 2007). "Mary Billings". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b Goldthwaite 2012, p. 68-.
  8. ^ Hitchings 1975, p. 24.



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