cover of book

Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels, and Labours of Mrs. Elaw
by Zilpha Elaw
edited by Kimberly D. Blockett
West Virginia University Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-1-952271-26-7 | eISBN: 978-1-952271-28-1 | Paper: 978-1-952271-27-4
Library of Congress Classification BX8495.E325A3 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 287.092

The remarkable autobiography of a Black woman evangelist.

As a young Black orphan indentured to a Quaker family in Bristol, Pennsylvania, Zilpha Elaw (c. 1793–1873) decided to join the upstart Methodists in 1808. She preached her first sermon a decade later, ignoring her husband and the many church leaders, clergy, and laity who tried to silence her. Elaw’s memoir chronicles the first twenty years of her forty-year itinerant ministry during massive Protestant revivalism in the United States and England.

Elaw preached from Maine to Virginia, attracting multiracial and multidenominational audiences that included powerful men, wealthy White women, poor families, and enslaved communities. She moved from Bristol to Burlington, New Jersey, then to Nantucket, Massachusetts, and finally, in 1840, to London’s East End. In England, Elaw’s celebrity expanded, and at least twice she drew crowds so large they caused human stampedes and multiple injuries.

Blockett’s introduction and extensive annotations draw on newly unearthed information about the entirety of Elaw’s evangelism to provide context for this remarkable story of an antebellum Black woman’s personal and professional mobility.

See other books on: African American clergy | Clergy | Evangelists | Memoirs | Methodist Church
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