Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward
Urged women to burn their corsets
|Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward|
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, born Mary Gray Phelps, (August 31, 1844-January 28, 1911) was an American author and an early advocate of clothing reform for women, urging them to burn their corsets.
Elizabeth was born at Andover, Massachusetts to Austin Phelps and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. After her mother died of brain fever on November 20, 1852, 8 year old Mary Gray asked to be renamed in honor of her mother.
In most of her writings she used her mother's name "Elizabeth Stuart Phelps" as a pseudonym, both before and after her marriage in 1888 to Herbert Dickinson Ward, a journalist seventeen years younger. She also used the pseudonym Mary Adams. Her father Austin Phelps was pastor of the Pine Street Congregational Church until 1848, when he accepted a position as the Chair of Rhetoric at Andover Theological Seminary and moved the family to Boston.
Ward wrote three Spiritualist novels.Her most famous book was The Gates Ajar, which took her two years to write; she then spent two more years revising it "so many times that I could have said it by heart." The book, finally published after the end of the Civil War, describes a afterlife where people retain their physical shapes and personalities. The book's popularity came, in part, from such a positive view on death shortly after the Civil War.
She received thousands of letters in response and wrote two sequels: Between the Gates and Beyond the Gate. She followed this with a novella about animal rights, Loveliness. While writing other popular stories, she was also a great advocate, by lecturing and otherwise, for social reform, temperance, and the emancipation of women. She was also involved in clothing reform for women, urging them to burn their corsets in 1874.
Ward's mother, Elizabeth (Wooster) Stuart Phelps, (August 13, 1815—November 30, 1852) wrote the Kitty Brown books under the pen name H. Trusta.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and her husband co-authored two Biblical romances in 1890 and 1891. Her autobiography, Chapters from a Life, was published in 1896 after being serialized in McClure's. She also wrote a large number of essays for Harper's.
|Emiment women of the 19th Century: Mary A. Livermore, Sara Jewett, Grace A. Oliver, Helen Hunt, Nora Perry, Lucy Larcom, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Louise Chandler Moulton, Louis M. Alcott, Jula Ward Howe, Harriet Beecher Stowe. (From Notman Photo, 3 Park St., Boston, Mass.)|
Phelps continued to write short stories and novels into the twentieth century. One work, Trixy (1904), dealt with another cause she supported, anti-vivisection (a topic on which she also addressed the Massachusetts State Legislature). Her last work, Comrades (1911), was published posthumously. Phelps died January 28, 1911, in Newton Center, Massachusetts.