Elizabeth Stuart Phelps

Other than Jacob Abbott, one of the earliest writers to create a series for girls was Elizabeth Wooster Stuart Phelps. Born in Andover, Mass., on 13 August 1815, Phelps was the daughter of Abigail and Moses Stuart, the latter a respected theologian who was both a Congregationalist minister and a professor at Andover Theological Seminary. This religious background undoubtedly helped to shape her later fiction.

She grew up in Andover, and, as a child, wrote stories for her siblings. At age sixteen, Phelps enrolled in the Mount Vernon School in Boston, where she stayed with and was taught by none other than Jacob Abbott . Abbott was also the first to publish some of Phelps's articles, which appeared in one of his magazines under the pseudonym H. Trusta, the name used on her children's books and adult novels. ("Trusta" is an anagram of "Stuart.")

In 1834, she returned to Andover, suffering from "cerebral disease," and stopped writing for several years. Eight years later, she returned to Boston, and, in September 1842, married Austin Phelps, the pastor of the Pine Street Congregational Church. During this period, two events occurred that probably influenced her later writing: in 1841, her former tutor, Jacob Abbott, who had already enjoyed enormous success with his Rollo books (the first fictional juvenile series ever written), began the Lucy books, the first series books for girls; in 1844, Phelps gave birth to a daughter, Mary Gray.

After six years in Boston, Phelps again found herself in Andover, when her husband became a professor of theology at Andover Seminary. There, she began writing the Kitty Brown books, a four-volume religious series, penning one volume per year.

In addition to the Kitty Brown books, Phelps published several works for adults, including the very popular The Sunny Side; or, The Country Minister's Wife (1851) and A Peep at Number Five (1851), the latter considered to be semi-autobiographical. She also had two more children, Moses, born in 1849, and Amos, born in August 1852. Only a few months later, she succumbed to a recurrence of her earlier illness and died on 29 November 1852. In accordance with her wishes, her son was baptised at her funeral.

After her mother's death, Phelps' daughter Mary was renamed Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Following in her mother's footsteps, she became a successful author. Her writings included a popular girls' series, Gypsy Breynton, and a best-selling novel, The Gates Ajar (1868).


"Elizabeth Stuart Phelps." American Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide from Colonial Times to the Present. Ed. Lina Mainero. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981.
"Phelps, Elizabeth Wooster Stuart." Notable American Women 1607-1950. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1971.
"Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart." National Cyclopedia of American Biography.

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