Guide to the Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford Papers, 1844–1920, undated

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Research Library at the Nantucket Historical Association. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the internet.


Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford became the first woman in New England to be ordained as a Universalist minister in 1868 and had a long ministerial career while writing prolifically and working for women’s rights. This collection includes correspondence, lectures, poetry, prose, diary fragments, genealogical information, speeches, and newspaper clippings, relating to Hanaford and her activities in antislavery, temperance, and women’s rights movements, as well as other social causes.

Collection Details

Collection Number:
Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford Papers
1844–1920, undated
Hanaford, Phebe Ann Coffin (1829–1921).
Nantucket Historical Association
Material is in English.

Information for Users

Restrictions to Access: No restrictions. Open for research.

Restrictions to Use: No usage restrictions.

Copyright Notice: Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation: [identification of item], in the Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford Papers, Nantucket Historical Association.

Acquisitions Information:

Scrapbook, 1870–1871, is a gift of the estate of Phebe Ann Hanaford (Acc. 1972.79).

Sensitive Materials Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Nantucket Historical Association assumes no responsibility.

Subject Headings

  • Topical Term
    • Quakers.
    • Quaker women –– Massachusetts.
    • Women –– Suffrage –– United States.
    • Women's rights –– United States.
    • Slavery –– United States.
    • Antislavery movements.
    • Temperance –– United States.
    • Women –– New England –– Societies and clubs.
    • Women –– New York (State) –– New York –– Societies and clubs.
    • Universalist churches –– Clergy.
    • Universalist churches –– New England.

Biographical Information

Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford was born in Siasconset on Nantucket, Mass. on May 6, 1829 to George W. Coffin and Phebe Ann Barnard Coffin, both Quakers. She grew up on Nantucket and became a teacher at a school in Siasconset at sixteen. In 1857, married Dr. Joseph Hanaford of Newton, Mass. and they moved to first to Beverley, Mass., then to Reading in 1864. Between the 1850s and 1860s, she raised their children Howard and Florence, wrote books, and gave her first sermons. After leaving the Quaker faith to become a Baptist with her husband, she then joined the Universalist church. She was ordained a Universalist minister in 1868 at Hingham, Mass. as the first woman ordained in New England. Two years later, she separated from her husband, accepted a position at the First Universalist Church of New Haven, Conn., and moved in with Ellen Miles, who would become her life–long companion.  In 1874, she accepted a position with the Universalist Church of the Good Shepherd in Jersey City, N.J., but the congregation divided in 1877 over either her activism or her relationship with Miles. Following this split, she formed a second Universalist society which was denied recognition from the General Universalist convention in 1878. Hanaford then went on lecture and preaching tours across several states. From 1884 to 1891, she served as pastor of the Second Church in New Haven. Upon retiring, she moved to New York City with Miles and was involved in a number of antislavery, temperance, and women’s rights groups including the National Society of New England Women, Woman’s Press Club of New York City, and Sorosis Club (New York, N.Y.). Following Mile’s death in 1914, Hanaford moved to Rochester, New York to live with her granddaughter Dionis Coffin Warner Santee until her death in 1921.

Scope and Content

This collection includes correspondence, lectures, poetry, prose, diary fragments, genealogical information, speeches, and newspaper clippings relating to Phebe Hanaford and her activities in antislavery, temperance, and women’s rights movements, as well as other social causes. These materials document her successes and struggles as the first woman in New England to be ordained a Universalist minister. Correspondents include Phebe L. Alcott and her daughter, Phebe Anne Alice Stone Blackwell; Antoinette Brown Blackwell; Charles Darwin; Julia Ward Howe; Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Booker T. Washington; and Frances E. Willard.


Folder 1 Clippings, 1877, undated

Folder 2 Correspondence: Letters out, 1844–1920

Folder 3 Correspondence: Letters in, A–D, 1852–1919

Folder 4 Correspondence: Letters in, F–W, 1864–1914

Folder 5 Correspondence: Ellen E. Miles, undated

Folder 6 Coffin Family Reunion: Historical and Genealogical Committee minutes, 1881

Folder 7 Diary Fragments, 1857, 1860, 1883, 1920

Folder 8 Documents of official action, 1866–1874

Folder 9 Hanaford, Dr. Joseph H. papers, 1871, 1892, undated

Folder 24 Katharine letters out, 1880–1881, undated

Folder 10 McCleary, Helen C. papers, 1877–1929, undated

Folder 11 McCleary, Helen C. eulogy for Phebe Hanaford, 1929, undated

Folder 12 Miles, Ellen M. papers, 1888–1912

Folder 13 Poetry: A–G, 1885–1921

Folder 14 Poetry: H–N, 1915–1919, undated

Folder 15 Poetry: O–W, 1866–1919, undated

SV–38/4 Poetry: Occasional poems, Hymns and songs by Phebe A. Hanaford, 1877–1914

SV–38/5 Poetry: Poems composed by Phebe A. Hanaford, 1876

Folder 16 Printed materials, 1874­–1882, 1856

OPF–38/1 Printed materials, 1874­­–1882, 1856

Folder 17 Writings: Prose A–G, 1869–1906, undated

Folder 18 Writings: Eulogies, 1868–1890

Folder 19 Writings: Prose H–W, 1865–1904

OPF–38/3–4 Writings: Prose H–W, 1865–1904

Folder 20 Writings: “Heart of Siasconset”,  undated

Folder 21 Writings: Metaphysical lectures, 1865, 1887–1888

Folder 22 Writings: Reminiscences of Nantucket, 12 July 1902

OPF–38/2 Phebe Ann Coffin genealogy, post 1882

SV–38/1 Scrapbook, 1844–1873

SV–38/2 Scrapbook, 1862–1872

SV–38/3 Scrapbook, 1870–1871

Items Separated

  • Oversize paper folders (OPF–38/1–4)
  • Separated volumes (SV–38/1–5)

Processing Information

Processed by Cindy Li, June 2022.

Finding aid by Ashley Miller, June 2022.

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