• Mary-Kay Belant

Phebe Hathaway: Meeting the Moment on Temperance, Abolition, and Woman’s Rights



Farmington’s Phebe Hathaway (1819 – 1902) was positioned by time, place, family, and faith to work for the transformational reform movements of the nineteenth century: temperance, abolition, and woman’s rights. Sadly, we were unable to find an image of Phebe herself, and have instead had to use a photo of her tombstone. Her extant writing shows an abiding embrace of Quaker Christian values that informed her character and convictions, and drove her participation in these great progressive efforts.


Born the last child and only daughter into the large founding Hathaway family of Farmingtion, she would have witnessed her parents’ and grandparents’ Quaker practice of Spirit-led thought and action, independent of custom or fashion, or of political or economic expediency. Equality of women and men in Meeting would have influenced her innately. At only 14, she signed the membership list of the Temperance Society chapter founded by her father, Isaac Jr., and brothers, some of whose homes were stops on the Underground Railroad. By the time she was 18, she had co-founded the Farmington Female Anti-Slavery Society, served as its secretary, and facilitated anti-slavery “fair” to raise both consciousness and funds.


Letters between Phebe Hathaway and a cadre of abolitionist and woman’s rights luminaries (including Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy B. Stone) confirm her significant connections to these movements. Her tone is warm, affectionate, idealistic, and determined. She lived all her life in one home, remained single, and suffered a debilitating stroke at only 38 years of age. Still, she lived another 45 years, and continued to write on behalf of abolition and woman’s rights.



As has too long and often been the case for women, little was written about Hathaway until fairly recently. The last line of her will states that if she left no heirs, the proceeds of her estate were to be used to fulfill the needs of a woman. As aforementioned, no image of her is available. To learn more, please follow the links below.




2017 online Daily Messenger article about Phebe Hathaway.


A page at the Ontario County Historical Society website includes Phebe Hathaway in a list of women who voted in the 1917 election. Make sure to scroll down to read some interesting notes at the end!


From the Ontario County, NY page of the online USGenWeb Project, here is a page listing Phebe among the descendants of Isaac Hathaway.

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