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Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward (1844-1911) Papers

Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward (1844-1911) Papers

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ELIZABETH STUART (PHELPS) WARD (1844-1911) PAPERS, 1867-1900, 1936, 1939

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:Ward, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, 1844-1911
Title:Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward (1844-1911) Papers
Dates:1867/1900, 1936, 1939
Quantity:1.25 linear feet (2 boxes)
Abstract:The Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward papers consist primarily of correspondence and some poetry.
Collection Number:MSS 229

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward papers consist primarily of correspondence and some poetry. Virtually all of the letters are addressed to Elizabeth Phelps' editor and future father-in-law, Dr. William Hayes Ward of the New York Independent. The letters discuss publication instructions, fee questions, and submitted works; in letters of the late 1880s, reference is often made to the editor's son, Herbert Ward, whom Elizabeth married in 1888. Works mentioned in the letters included Burglars in Paradise, Trotty, Dress Reform, Female Education of Women, and Old Maids in Paradise.

Two poems written by Elizabeth Ward are contained in the collection; please see Appendix I for their titles and publication information. Likenesses of Ward and her family cut from newspapers and/or magazines can be found in Folder 2. The photostat copies include letters dated: March 5, 1867; September 21, 1876; August 22, 1884; November 1, 1885; July 28, 1888; February 1, 1893; Aug 14, [no year]; and three undated ones. Correspondence from the 1930s regarding the use of these letters for a biography is found in Folder 6.

Biographical Sketch

Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward was born Mary Gray Phelps in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1844, the daughter of Elizabeth (Stuart) and Austin Phelps. In 1848, her father became professor of sacred rhetoric and homiletics at the Andover (Mass.) Seminary; her mother was a writer specializing in religious tales. Mrs. Phelps died when Mary was eight years old; after her death, Mary changed her name to Elizabeth Stuart Phelps as a tribute to her mother, and later used it as her official pen name. She attended Abbott Academy and Mrs. Edward's School for Young Ladies, both in Andover, but her education was also heavily influenced by her father.

The early death of her mother, the loss of a beloved boyfriend to the Civil War, and the atmosphere of a powerful religious education all combined to influence Elizabeth Phelps' writings. The Gates Ajar, published in 1868, a story conveying the happiness and peace of heaven, was her most popular success as it was greatly appreciated by thousands of families grieving their losses from the Civil War. For many years Elizabeth Phelps wrote articles on social reform for the Independent magazine, including pieces on women's rights and temperance; late in her life she took up the causes of antivivisection. She wrote poetry and fiction as well, and published 57 books during her writing career. She was the first woman to present a lecture series at Boston University.

At the age of forty-four, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps married the son of her editor at the Independent, Herbert Dickinson Ward, who was seventeen years her junior. They had no children. Herbert Ward, also a writer, collaborated on several books with his wife. They were residents of Newton Center and East Gloucester, Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Phelps had summered for many years. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward suffered from poor health for many years and died in Newton Center on January 28, 1911.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Ward, William Hayes, 1835-1916
Publishers and publishing
Women authors
Andover (Mass.)
Gloucester (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Elizabeth Stuart (Phelps) Ward (1844-1911) Papers, MSS 229, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Most of the letters were purchased in 1951. Additional letters were purchased in 1939, 1950, 1953, 1979, 1985, 1991 (acc # 91024), 1994 (acc #94013), 1995 (acc #1995.026), 1996 (acc #1996.019), 1998 (acc # 1998.003), 1999 (acc #1999.004), 2001 (acc #2001.013 and 2001.020), 2002 (acc #2002.075), and 2003 (acc #2003.009 and #2003.037). The manuscript poem "Poet and Lover" was donated by David J. Holmes in 1995 (acc #1995.029). Most items are marked in pencil with their purchase date or accession number. The provenance of the poems and of the "Browning Parish" manuscript is unknown. The photstat copies of letters were received in 1939 (B1 F6).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Kathleen E. Greer, March 1979. Conserved by Daniel S. Curtis, August 1991. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, September 2015 and Tatiyana Bastet July, 2019.

Related Material

James, Edward T., Janet Wilson James, and Paul S. Boyer. Notable American Women, 1607-1950; a Biographical Dictionary. Vol. III. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard University Press, 1974, pp. 538-40.

Malone, D. Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. 19. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. pp 417-19.

Please see the catalog for numerous works by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward and for several biographical sketches.

Appendix I

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