Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps

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Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps
Born Almira Hart
(1793-07-15)July 15, 1793
Berlin, Connecticut, U.S.
Died July 15, 1884(1884-07-15) (aged 91)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation educator, author, editor
Language English
Nationality American
Genre nature writing, novel, essay, memoir
Spouse Simeon Lincoln (m. 1817; d. 1823); John Phelps (m. 1831)

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (July 15, 1793 – July 15, 1884) was a 19th-century American educator, author, and editor. Though she primarily wrote regarding nature, she also was a writer of novels, essays, and memoir.[1]

Phelps was a native of Connecticut. Her long and active life was devoted to the education of young women. She published several popular[2] science textbooks in the fields of botany, chemistry, and geology.[3] Some of her works worthy of special commemoration include, The Blue Ribbon Society; The School Girls Rebellion; Christian Households; Familiar Lectures on Botany; Our Country and its Relation to the Present, Past and Future; and The Fireside Friend.[4] Her views on topics ranging from elocution to corsets are contained in Lectures to Young Ladies, Comprising Outlines and Applicaitons of the Different Branches of Female Education for the User of Female Schools, and Private Libraries.[5]

Early years and education

Almira Hart was born on July 15, 1793, in Berlin, Connecticut. She was the youngest of 17 children,[1] growing up in an intellectual, independently thinking, and religious environment.[2]

One of her most inspirational mentors of her life was her older sister Emma Hart Willard. While living with her sister, she was also mentored by John Willard and three of his fellow students who also came to live in the Willard household. She studied mathematics and philosophy.[6]


At the age of 16, Hart began her teaching career in district schools. She later continued her own education. In 1814, she opened her first boarding school for young women at her home in Berlin; and two years later, she became principal of a school in Sandy Hill, New York.[2]

In 1817, Hart married Simeon Lincoln and left her career for six years to be a housewife and mother to her three children. After her husband’s untimely death in 1823, she returned to the education world as "Almira Hart Lincoln". She became a teacher and vice-principal at the well-known Troy Female Seminary in Troy, New York. While teaching at there, her interests in science increased, and her botanical career began under the influence of Amos Eaton. While under his direction, Phelps found her passion in botany, noticing the lack of introductory textbooks for secondary and beginning college level students. This led Phelps to write and publish her first and most notable textbook in 1829, Familiar Lectures on Botany.[2]

In 1830, with the absence of her sister, Phelps served as acting as principal of the Troy Female Seminary and gave a series of lectures related to female education that she would later publish as her second book, Lectures to Young Ladies. She remarried in 1831 to John Phelps, a lawyer and politician from Vermont. Taking the name "Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps", she once again gave up her career to raise a second family but continued to write new textbooks on chemistry, natural philosophy, and education.

With each new publication and her continuing teaching lectures, Phelps’s fame grew, and she was asked to head many female seminaries. In 1838, she accepted the challenge and moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania, to be head of the seminary there. She stayed at West Chester for one year, and then headed to Rahway, New Jersey, for two years. In 1841, Phelps came to Ellicott's Mills, Maryland, where she accepted a position as principal of the Patapsco Female Institute, a post she held for 15 years before retiring in 1856. The Institute offered academic courses in history, geography, literature, languages, mathematics, sciences, and the arts.[7]

In 1859, Phelps was the third woman elected as a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. After gaining her membership, Phelps continued to write, lecture, and revise her textbooks until she died in Baltimore on her 91st birthday, July 15, 1884.[2]

Select works

  • Familiar Lectures on Botany (1829)
  • Dictionary of Chemistry (1830)
  • Botany for Beginners (1831)
  • Geology for Beginners (1832)
  • Female Student; or, Fireside Friend (1833)
  • Chemistry for Beginners (1834)
  • Lectures on Natural Philosophy (1835)
  • Lectures on Chemistry (1837)
  • Natural Philosophy for Beginners (1837)
  • Hours With My Pupils (1869)
  • Caroline Westerly (1833)
  • Ida Norman (1850)
  • Christian Household (1860)


  1. ^ a b Patterson, Thompson & Bryson 2008, p. 281.
  2. ^ a b c d e Rudolph, Emanuel D. (1984). "Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793–1884) and the Spread of Botany in Nineteenth Century America". American Journal of Botany. 71 (8): 1161–1167. doi:10.2307/2443392. JSTOR 2443392. 
  3. ^ Salvatori 2003, p. 95.
  4. ^ Shepherd 1911, p. 116.
  5. ^ Gold, & Hobbs 2013, p. 100.
  6. ^ Abir-Am & Outram 1987, pp. 77, 79, 86, 87.
  7. ^ Blandin 1909, p. 173.


  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Blandin, Isabella Margaret Elizabeth (1909). History of Higher Education of Women in the South Prior to 1860 (Public domain ed.). Neale Publishing Company. 
  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Shepherd, Henry Elliot (1911). The Representative Authors of Maryland: From the Earliest Time to the Present Day, with Biographical Notes and Comments Upon Their Work (Public domain ed.). Whitehall Publishing Company. 


  • Abir-Am, Pnina G.; Outram, Dorinda (1987). Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives: Women in Science, 1789-1979. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-1256-3. 
  • Gold, David; Hobbs, Catherine L. (2 May 2013). Rhetoric, History, and Women's Oratorical Education: American Women Learn to Speak. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-10494-8. 
  • Patterson, Daniel; Thompson, Roger; Bryson, J. Scott (2008). Early American Nature Writers: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-34680-4. 
  • Salvatori, Mariolina Rizzi (1 August 2003). Pedagogy: Disturbing History, 1820-1930. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 978-0-8229-7246-4. 
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