Hannah Adams was the first professional female writer in America. Born in Medfield to an upper-class family that fell on hard times, Adams learned Greek and Latin from the divinity students that boarded in her house.
In order to supplement her family’s income during the Revolutionary War years, Adams tutored college-bound men, made lace, and published her first book, from which her agent took all profits. Undeterred, Adams continued to write and in 1799 published A Summary History of New England, keeping the proceeds. After the book was published, Adams discovered that certain ministers were copying passages out of it for use in their own books. One minister, Rev. Jedidiah Morse, defended his actions by saying that women should not be writers. A dispute followed and Morse was ordered to pay damages. He refused to do so, and his reputation was ruined.
A meticulous researcher, Adams set the standard for her profession:
As the materials for this work lay scattered in many large volumes and manuscripts, the compilation required a great variety of reading. If there had been only one History of New England… my labor would have been comparatively small. I was obliged to collect and condense a great part of the works and connect them together wholly without a guide… As there was not any authentic History of Rhode Island… I spent some time in Providence. When I had completed a great part of my compilation, I had the misfortune of almost entirely losing the use of my eyes…