Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps (1793-1884)
MSA SC 3520-15243

Biography:

Born July 15, 1793, in Berlin, Connecticut.  Daughter of Samuel and Lydia (Hinsdale) Hart.  Married (1) Simeon Lincoln (d. 1823), 1817, and (2) John Phelps, 1831. Four children: Emma Willard Lincoln, Jane Porter Lincoln, Charles Edward Phelps, and Almira Lincoln Phelps. Died July 15, 1884, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Educator and author. Phelps taught in various Connecticut district schools between 1813 and 1817. Between 1828 and 1837, Phelps established herself as a reputable publisher by publishing 10 textbooks, most focusing on botany and the education of young women. Her books, such as Familiar Lectures on Botany, received praise as excellent educational tools for women. These books became the standard textbooks across the United States and Canada, selling over 3,500 copies. Phelps became a household name through her writings and as a lecturer.

In 1841, Phelps arrived in Maryland and became head of the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott Mills, Maryland. At the time of her arrival, the school was in shambles. Phelps and her husband used their own funds to renovate the building. Through her work, Phelps transformed the Institute into a place of high academic standards with a curriculum rich in natural history, mathematics, and the sciences. As a Northern woman teaching mostly Southern young women, Phelps had the intricate task of teaching during the buildup of conflict prior to the Civil War. She published a popular book on the subject, Our Country in its Relations to the Past, Present, and Future, in 1864.

Phelps retired from the Patapsco Female Institute at the age of 62, after spending fifteen years transforming the school into a successful enterprise and her entire life improving educational opportunities for young women. Phelps died on the morning of her 91st birthday on July 15, 1884.

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