A web search for quotations on waiting, part of my topic for Sunday’s sermon, led me to a philosopher named Anna Callender Brackett who has now grabbed my interest. Brackett was a teacher, educator, traveling lecturer, and translator, and her area of philosophy was one of my passions, philosophy of education. She was also an early feminist, promoting education for girls and women, becoming the first woman appointed principal of a secondary school in the United States, and reinterpreting Hegel to value a life of the mind for women as well as for men (interesting to see that turn-of-the-century St. Louis had a Hegelian school–or am I just revealing my “everything intellectually interesting happens on the coasts” bias?). Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry on her–yet.

According to Women-Philosophers.com, Brackett had a female life partner (Ida Eliot). Not only did they run a girls’ school together, they also adopted two children, the first in 1873. Cool. I’m expecting to discover any moment now that she was a Unitarian too.

I kid, but seriously, how does one discover such a thing? The compilers of the Unitarian Universalist Biographical Dictionary could give me some tips, no doubt. Search the archives of the churches in the places she lived, sure, but I’m looking for something I can do from my desk chair. She gave a lecture on Margaret Fuller and wrote an obituary for Maria Mitchell, but so many prominent women of the 19th century were Unitarians that that’s barely suggestive. Brackett’s own obituary doesn’t mention her religious affiliation, if any; her funeral was held in Linden Park, New Jersey, where we may have had a congregation once, but don’t today. “Was she or wasn’t she?” would be a fun detective project, and along the way I could learn more about her philosophy and see what I think of it, but I will probably just do the latter without fussing about whether she was a sister Unitarian.

At the moment, I’m not even sure how she spelled her middle name; the Times says -der, the Women Philosophers site says -dar but is very typo-ridden. But thanks to Google Books, I’m reading her The Technique of Rest under the rationalization “context for Sunday’s reading.”

Advertisements