Hannah Whitall Smith: The Feminist Connections of a Holiness Icon
While there is no letter in the collection from Martha Carey Thomas, her life and activities give us a place to refer to the influence Robert Pearsall Smith and Hannah Whitall Smith had within their own family circle. Married on November 5, 1851, the couple had seven children, but only three lived to become adults. Their only son, Logan Pearsall Smith, was educated in Harvard and Oxford and became a writer and critic with a special interest in 17th century divines. Hannah and Robert’s daughter, Mary, was married twice. First she married an Irish barrister, Benjamin Conn “Frank” Costelloe. They had two daughters: Ray Strachey and Karin Stephen. Mary later divorced Costelloe and married art historian, Bernard Berenson, who was an authority on Renaissance art. Mary’s eldest daughter, Rachel Pearsall Costelloe married Oliver Strachey in 1911. He was the son of Jane Maria Strachey, a wellknown British suffragette who was one of the leaders of the Mud March of 1907. Ray Strachey, herself would become a major part of the British suffrage movement and wrote a book called The Cause in 1928. After women received the right to vote she ran for political office a number of times without success. Catherine Elizabeth Costelloe married Adrian Stephen, the brother of Virginia Woolf, in 1914. Known as Karin, she became a psychoanalyst and psychologist, but the couple continued the family tradition of social activism by being conscientious objectors during World War I. Hannah and Robert’s second daughter, Alyssa Pearsall Smith was the first wife of the British philosopher and Nobel laureate, Bertrand Russell, known for his political activism and writing. Alys separated from Russell in 1911, and they divorced in 1921. She worked with Italian refugees during World War II, and established a School for Mothers in London, in an effort to reduce infant mortality. Martha Carey Thomas, was a niece of Hannah Whitall Smith, the daughter of her sister Mary Whitall Thomas. Known as Carey Thomas, she was greatly influenced by the feminism of her mother and her aunt. Carey was especially close to Hannah’s son Frank, who died in 1872. Her later accomplishments, and well as those of Hannah’s own daughters reflect on how Hannah’s social activism and feminist ideals influenced women around her through her personal connections as well as her correspondence.
Robert A. Danielson