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COLLECTION Identifier: A/A213

Letters of Hannah Adams, 1795-1820


Letters of Hannah Adams.


  • 1795-1820

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Hannah Adams as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1 folder

The collection contains two original letters handwritten by Adams between 1795-1820. Also included are typed copies of each letter, which may have been made by the dealer or by Schlesinger Library staff. The letters describe Adams' visit to Boston, a meeting held at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and news of family, friends and daily affairs.


Hannah Adams (1755-1831) was one of the first American women to receive compensation for her writings on religion and history. She was one of five children born in Medfield, Massachusetts to Thomas and Elizabeth (Clark) Adams. Her mother passed away when she was 12 years old and her father's second wife had four additional children. Dire financial circumstances, coupled with poor health, were contributing factors in Adams' lack of formal education. Despite these challenges, she became an avid reader and learned Latin and Greek from divinity students who rented rooms in the family's household. She began her writing career after reading the Historical Dictionary of All Religions by Reverend Thomas Broughton.

Adams compiled writings from a wide range of theological, geographical, and historical studies. The compilation was eventually published as An Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects Which Have Appeared from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day (1784). For nearly two decades, the popularity of her book, described as concise and non-judgmental, generated a series of updated editions in the United States, including A View of Religions (1791, 1801) and A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations Jewish, Heathen, Mahometan, and Christian, Ancient and Modern, (1817). Several editions of the book were also published in London between 1805 and 1823.

Adams experienced varying levels of financial success, but numerous supporters provided funds that enabled her to continue writing. Her later publications included A Summary History of New-England (1799), The Truth and Excellence of the Christian Religion Exhibited (1804), History of the Jews (1812), and Letters on the Gospels (1824). Hannah Adams died in Brookline, Massachusetts. Her memoir, entitled A Memoir of Miss Hannah Adams, Written by Herself , was published posthumously in 1832.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Letters of Hannah Adams were purchased from Paul Richards through the Margaret Earhart Smith Memorial Fund in 1964.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Hannah More Letter to Hannah Adams, 1816, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. (A/M825)

Processing Information

Processed: March, 1985

By: Fanny Littell.

Updated and additional description added: June, 2020

By: Emilyn L. Brown.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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