“It is not the straining for great things that is most effective; it is the doing the little things, the common duties, a little better and better.” – Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
Born on this date in 1844, Phelps was a leading feminist and intellectual who challenged women's traditional roles in marriage and family and advocated for clothing reform for women. A native of Boston, she was born as Mary Gray Phelps into a family of writers and took her mother’s name as her own pen name after her mother died of brain fever.
Her mother was a famous writer in her own right, but wrote under the pen name of H. Trusta. Mary (Elizabeth) chose to use her mother’s name to both remember and honor her legacy.
Besides her writings on feminist
themes, Phelps also was a best-selling author of three spiritualist novels,
led by the wildly popular The Gates Ajar
about the afterlife. Over her lifetime
(she died in 1911), she wrote 31 novels, co-authored half-a-dozen more
(including several with her husband Herbert Dickinson Ward), and numerous
essays for popular magazines and newspapers.
Phelps also became active in the animal rights movement and her novel, Trixy, published in 1904, became a standard polemic against experimentation on animals.
great idea is usually original to more than one discoverer,” she said. “Great ideas come when the world needs them.
Great ideas surround the world's ignorance and press for admission.”