Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels, and Labours of Mrs. Elaw
264 pages, 6 x 9
15 b&w images, 2 maps
Release Date:01 Dec 2021

Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels, and Labours of Mrs. Elaw

SERIES: Regenerations
West Virginia University Press
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.
Outstanding. Kimberly Blockett’s edition of Zilpha Elaw’s memoirs will become the authoritative edition of this text and the best biographical treatment of Elaw.’
John Ernest, University of Delaware
Kimberly D. Blockett is associate professor of English at Penn State Brandywine. Her publications appear in the Cambridge History of African American Literature, MLA Approaches to Teaching Hurston, MELUS, African American Review, and Legacy.
Note on the Text
Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labours,
of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw, An American Female of Colour

Appendix A: Rebecca Elaw Pierce Crawford’s Life
Appendix B: Images and Archival Materials
Works Cited
Select Bibliography
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