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Hannah Tatum Whitall Smith

Hannah Tatum Whitall Smith (February 7, 1832 - May 1, 1911) was a lay speaker and author in the Holiness movement in the United States and the Higher Life movement in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. She was also active in the Women’s Suffrage movement and the Temperance movement.

Smith was from a long line of prominent and influential Quakers in New Jersey. Hannah Tatum Whitall was the daughter of John Mickle Whitall and Mary Tatum Whitall. Her most famous ancestor was Ann Cooper Whitall.

On November 5, 1851 Hannah married Robert Pearsall Smith, a man who also descended from a long line of prominent Quakers in the region. The Smiths settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

The Smiths were highly influenced by Methodist revivalists. They adopted the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification. They were also influenced by William E. Boardman, who wrote The Higher Christian Life (1858).

From 1864 to 1868 Robert and Hannah Smith lived in Millville, New Jersey. Robert managed Hannah’s father’s business, the Whitall, Tatum, & Company glass factories.

William Boardman apparently groomed Robert and Hannah Smith to join the Holiness movement as speakers. From 1873-1874 they spoke at various places in England, including Oxford, teaching on the subjects of the “higher life” and “holiness.” In 1874 Hannah helped found the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Also in 1874 the Smiths traveled to the German Empire and Switzerland, where they preached in several major cities. In 1875 they returned to England and conducted meetings in Brighton. Due to an unspecified scandal involving Robert, their visit to England came to an abrupt halt.

Hannah Whitall Smith’s book The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1875) is an extremely popular book of Christian mysticism and practical Holiness theology. It is still widely read today.

She had seven children in all, but only three—Mary, Alys Pearsall, and Logan Pearsall—survived to adulthood.

In 1888 the Smith family moved to England because their daughter Mary married an English barrister, Frank Costelloe. They eventually divorced, and Mary then married the critic Bernard Berenson. It was in England that Alys Pearsall Smith met and married the philosopher Bertrand Russell. Logan Pearsall Smith became an essayist and critic.

Hannah Whitall Smith’s niece, Martha Carey Thomas was the first female dean of any college in America and an active Suffragist.

Hannah Whitall Smith died in England.


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