Beacon Street Diary

April 16, 2015

The panel discussion Peggy Bendroth participated in at the Mary Baker Eddy Library late last month is now available for streaming.

click to watch "Spiritual Intersections in Boston History" on Vimeo

"Spiritual Instersections in Boston History" was held at The Mary Baker Eddy Library on March 31st. The participants discussed how religion, culture, and politics shaped Boston in the late 19th century, where new movements crisscrossed with old. It features Dr. James O'Toole, Clough Millenium Professor of History, Boston College; Dr. Margaret Bendroth, Executive Director, Congregational Library and Archives; Dr. Christopher Evans, Professor of the History of Christianity and Methodist Studies, Boston University School of Theology; and Judy Huenneke, Senior Research Archivist, The Mary Baker Eddy Library.

The video runs just over an hour, and is packed with entertaining anecdotes and fascinating perspectives on the diverse history of our city through the centuries. It is well worth watching.

April 14, 2015

Our reading room will be closed to the public tomorrow, April 15, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for a meeting of our Advisory Circle friends group.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions by phone and email during that time, and all of our online resources will be available as usual.

April 10, 2015

There is still plenty of time to register for this month's free lunchtime lecture. Let us know if you're coming so we can save you a seat.

An Eighteenth-Century Intellectual, Universalist, and Champion of Women's Rights

Judith Sargent Murray was an essayist, poet, and playwright. She was among America's earliest champions of female equality, education, economic independence, and political engagement. Join us and scholar Bonnie Hurd Smith for a discussion of Murray's fascinating life and works.

Nationally recognized authority on Judith Sargent Murray, Bonnie Hurd Smith is a passionate student of women's history. In addition to writing six books about the 18th-century essayist and women’s rights advocate, she has created women's history walking tours in Boston and Salem. She served as Executive Director the Boston Women's Heritage Trail and board president of the Sargent House Museum. Bonnie is president of History Smiths working with individuals and organizations to incorporate history into their marketing and outreach to benefit themselves and their communities. Bonnie holds two degrees from Simmons College, Boston.

Tuesday, April 14th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

portrait of Judith Sargent Murray courtesy of the Judith Sargent Murray Society website

April 9, 2015

April 15th Americans take a collective sigh and pay their fair share. But it wasn't always so.

"No taxation without representation" is one of the sentiments that ignited the American Revolution. So where did it come from? While the scholarship here proves to be a little shaky, many have credited Reverend Jonathan Mayhew. Known as a liberal theologian, the Martha's Vineyard native railed against tyranny from the pulpit and in print. And it was his A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers sermon in 1750 that is credited (some say by John Adams) with hatching the famous call against taxing citizens who have no legislative recourse.

Part politician, part pastor, Mayhew was asked by his congregation in 1766 to deliver his final sermon, The Snare Broken, after the repeal of the Stamp Act. Whatever the provenance of the taxation reference, one Mayhewism that historian Ola Elizabeth Winslow attested to in our Bulletin (Fall 1974) is "Kings are made by men, not God."

You can give your regards to Reverend Mayhew when you next visit the Congregational Library & Archives where his portrait hangs in our Reading Room. The likeness was painted by John Greenwood, one of the first American born portrait painters whose subjects included prominent merchants and clergy in mid-18th century Boston.

April 7, 2015

The New England Regional Fellowship Consortium announced its 2015-2016 fellows and the Congregational Library & Archives will host four enthusiastic scholars this spring and summer. Their topics range widely and our unique collections will help them develop new scholarship and deliver more information from our collections to an ever-widening readership. As research becomes more nuanced, unique collections like ours become more valuable. We welcome these four young scholars and look forward to assisting them in their pursuits.
  • PhD candidate David Thomas is investigating the 1772 tragedy of a 52-year-old immigrant, William Beadle, who murdered his wife and four children then took his own life. The incident spawned sermons, pamphlets, and newspaper articles up and down the East Coast. How, in a land that offered so many opportunities for improvement and new wealth, did so many find hopelessness and estrangement? Part of the answer may lie in words of ordinary people found in our New England Hidden Histories collections. Using their voices Thomas plans to create a micro-history that explores anxiety, alienation and anonymity in Britain's Atlantic Empire. He joins us from Temple University in Philadelphia.
  • Hailing from the University of Texas, Bradley Dixon proposes to explore indigenous subjects and citizens in early America through the actions of an American Indian noblewoman from the Eastern Niantic and Narragansett Indians who petitioned Charles II for relief from depredations she had suffered from Indians who had rebelled against the crown while her own family remained loyal. Dixon's dissertation compares the legal and political relations between Native peoples living with British colonial boundaries and those in Spanish America. Our rare books related to Indian missions and church records from New England Hidden Histories program attracted him to the Library & Archives.
  • Professor Mehmet Dogan will travel from Istanbul Technical University to delve into our extensive collections from American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, headquartered here at 14 Beacon Street. He wants to offer a new perspective on the journeys undertaken by missionaries from New England to the Middle East so we can better understand the position of religious circles in the region and its relation to growth of the ABCFM. Professor Dogan's own voyage started at the Ottoman Archives in Istanbul and will take him to Consortium partners the Houghton Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society, as well as the Congregational Library & Archives.
  • Associate Professor of History at Illinois College, Jenny Barker-Devine is currently working on a book project, American Athena: Constructing Victorian Womanhood on the Midwestern Frontier. The book examines women's social networks and public discourse in her own town of Jacksonville, IL during the 19th century. Attracting a diverse population from New England, Jacksonville was dubbed the "Athens of the West" due to its rich educational and cultural resources. Barker-Devine's aim is not to write a local history, but rather to "challenge existing narratives in American women's history and the history of feminism." Executive Director Peggy Bendroth assures me that Dr. Barker-Devine will keep our archivists busy with her requests.
April 2, 2015

The Congregational Library and Archives will be closed this Friday, April 3rd, in observance of Good Friday.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we will get back to you when we return to the office next week.

We hope you have a lovely Easter weekend.


image of Springtime (ca. 1860) by Charles Jacque, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

April 1, 2015

The latest addition to our New England's Hidden Histories program is a group of unusual relations from Sturbridge, Mass.

We've talked about relations on this blog before, most notably in "Puritan relations: possibly not what you think". Relations are first person narratives of religious conviction and conversion often made when petitioning to join a church, and by now we quite a large collection of them available to you here on our website.

Today we're adding a handful more, this time from Sturbridge, Massachusetts. These relations, however, are not what we normally think of when we think of relations. They're still first person narratives detailing religious conviction and conversation -- but these were made not as part of a petition to join the local church. These relations were made (possibly at the behest of First Church in Sturbridge) by existing members who had left or were leaving the church.

The town of Sturbridge was settled in 1729 upon the Massachusetts General Court's approval of the petition. The Proprietors of what would be First Church started meeting almost immediately, but a pastor wasn't settled and a covenant wasn't signed until 1736. Under Sturbridge's first pastor, Rev. Caleb Rice, church membership grew to 114. In the late 1740s, however, fifteen of those members chose to leave First Church. These fifteen separating members are referred to as both "New Lights" and "Separates" or "Separatists". Stirred by the First Great Awakening to a new religious zeal, these fifteen congregants separated from First Church and would later go on to form the Baptist Church of Sturbridge. The relations in this collection detail the firsthand accounts of conversion from a few of these fifteen Separates that lead to their split from First Church.

You can learn more about these relations on the Sturbridge Separatist Church collection page.

March 27, 2015

Here at the CLA, we are privileged to hear our Executive Director Peggy Bendroth speak on historical topics frequently. If you would like to hear her, but can't make it to our events, we hope you can attend one of her other upcoming appearances. The next will be this coming Tuesday.

In the early 1880s, Mary Baker Eddy opened the Massachusetts Metaphysical College at 569 Columbus Avenue in Boston's South End. There she taught Christian Science, a new religious system she had recently founded. Only a few blocks away and a few years earlier, Boston's rapidly growing Catholic population embraced a new spiritual center, with the dedication at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Washington Street. Meanwhile the Congregational Church, descendant of Boston's Puritan founders, was reconfiguring its position in a city where it was once but no longer culturally dominant.

Please join us for an informal panel discussion with experts on Boston's religious history, to explore the cultural and spiritual dynamics of the city in the late 19th century.

The Panel includes:

  • Dr. Christopher Evans (moderator), Professor of the History of Christianity and Methodist Studies at the Boston University School of Theology. Among his courses, he teaches a class on the religious history of Boston. He is the author of Histories of American Christianity: An Introduction (Baylor University Press, 2013).
  • Dr. Margaret Bendroth (panelist), Executive Director of the Congregational Library and Archive in Boston, and author of many books, including Fundamentalists and the City: Conflict and Division in Boston's Churches, 1885-1950 (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • Dr. James O'Toole (panelist), Professor and Clough Millennium Chair in History at Boston College. Among his publications are The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America (Belknap Press, 2008) and Boston's Histories: Essays in Honor of Thomas H. O'Connor, co-edited with David Quigley (Northeastern University Press, 2004). Dr. O'Toole also served as Archivist, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, from 1978 to 1986.
  • Judy Huenneke (panelist), Senior Research Archivist, The Mary Baker Eddy Library.


Tuesday, March 31st
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Christian Science Publishing House
200 Massachusetts Avenue
3rd floor conference room

This program is free and no RSVP is required. If you have further questions, please contact Jonathon Eder at or 617-450-7131.

March 25, 2015

Following the excitement of our 2013 symposium, "Mather Redux: New Perspectives on Cotton Mather", we decided that our Mather collections were too good not to share with the rest of the world. With the generous support of the Carnegie-Whitney Foundation and the H.W. Wilson Foundation, we have created an annotated bibliography of all books and manuscripts related to Cotton Mather in the Congregational Library & Archives collection.

This bibliography contains a comprehensive list of our holdings, including books, sermons, contributions to the works of others, commentary and criticism, supplemental materials, journalism, comic books, and a recently-discovered genealogical chart of the Mather family. The accompanying webliography includes more recent materials from additional websites and other repositories. If you have an interest in any aspect of Cotton Mather's life, this is a great place to start.

Cotton Mather at the Congregational Library: An Annotated Bibliography


If you're doing research in other areas, we have other subject-specific guides on our Reference Desk page.

March 23, 2015

Don't forget to let us know if you'll be joining us for this month's free event. Please note that it begins at a special time of 3:00 pm.

American author and historian John Putnam Demos's most recent book, The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic is another compelling recount from a long line of his investigations into early American life and practice.

As the young United States looked beyond its shores, a group of eminent Protestant ministers formed a grand scheme for gathering the rest of mankind into the "redemptive fold of Christianity and 'civilization'." Its core element was a special school for "heathen youth" drawn from their homes around the world, including the Pacific Islands, China, India, and, more and more, the native nations of North America. After graduating, the plan was that they would return to join similar projects within their native populations. For some years, the school prospered and enjoyed a wide reputation. However, when two Cherokee students courted and married local women, public resolve — and fundamental ideals — were put to a severe test. The school born with the ideal of universal "salvation" plummeted into a controversy that exposed American racial attitudes and set off a chain of events that lead to the Trail of Tears.

The Heathen School has been nominated for the 2014 National Book Award. Demos was previously awarded the prestigious Bancroft Award for his book Entertaining Satan and the 1995 Francis Parkman Prize for his book The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America. Other books include A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony, The Enemy Within: A Short History of Witch-hunting and Past, Present, and Personal: The Family and the Life Course in American History.

Several of Demos's books are available for borrowing to members of the Congregational Library and Archives.


Wednesday, March 25th
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Register through EventBrite.