Miranda de Souza Canavarro

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Miranda de Souza Canavarro (1849-1933) was a Portuguese noblewoman, notable as the first woman to convert to Buddhism on American soil (in 1897) and later a Buddhist nun in Ceylon. She became known as Sister Sanghamitta, while in America she was often known as Marie. She was the wife of the Portuguese ambassador to Sandwich Islands, who began a secret "spiritual marriage" to New York attorney and Buddhist sympathizer Myron Henry Phelps.[1] She converted to Buddhism in 1897 under the discipleship of Anagarika Dharmapala, then moved to Ceylon as Sister Sanghamitta.[2][3]


  1. ^ Thomas A. Tweed The American Encounter with Buddhism: 1844 - 1912 1992 Page 87 "21 Canavarro transgressed the boundaries of Victorian social norms even more clearly and forcefully, however, when she began her secret "spiritual marriage" to Myron Henry Phelps (1856-1916), the Buddhist sympathizer, New York attorney"
  2. ^ John Holt The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics 2011 - - Page 367 "Countess Miranda de Souza Carnavarro, briefly known as Sanghamitta, was an American theosophist and wealthy socialite who converted to Buddhism in 1897 under the discipleship of the Anagarika Dharmapala. Under Dharmapala's ..."
  3. ^ Bartholomeusz, Tessa, "Real Life and Romance: The Life of Miranda de Souza Canavarro," in Feminist Studies in Religion, volume 10, number 2, 1994.