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Anna Jane Linnard (1800-1835)

Robert Baird. Memoir of Anna Jane Linnard. 2nd ed. (Philadelphia, 1837), frontispiece; also 1835 ed.

Anna Jane Linnard (1800-1833)

Anna Jane Linnard was born in Philadelphia in 1800, the tenth of eleven children. Her father, Colonel William Linnard, served in the Pennsylvania militia during the American Revolution, and later held the office of Quartermaster General; her mother passed away after Anna’s younger sibling was born. As a child Anna was not particularly religious, and quipped that she was glad not go to church because “the society of the good was disagreeable” so how would she “bear that of angels and saints?” However, at the age of nineteen, Anna turned “weak and trembling” to Christianity after the tragic death of an older sister, and from that time forth Anna “resolved to live for God.” She taught Sunday school to educate the young, and worked diligently through benevolent societies to convert others, serving as the secretary of the Auxiliary Female Bible Association of the South-Eastern section of Philadelphia and the secretary of the Female Domestic Missionary Association. In addition, she not only studied the Bible and theology but also wrote extensively about her faith. Her book, Helen Maurice: or, The Benefit of Early Religious Instruction, was published by the American Sunday-School Union and sold over 9,500 copies by the early 1830s; a second edition appeared posthumously in 1837. In both, the author is listed only as “Sunday School Teacher.” On June 16, 1833, Anna passed away at the age of thirty-three. During the last few weeks of her life, Anna sat for the portrait which served as the basis for the engraved frontispiece shown here.

In 1834, the Rev. Robert Baird wrote a memorial to her containing extensive excerpts from her journals, such as the following, in which she expresses her passion for the words of the Bible:

“There is a touching simplicity and pathos in the historical parts of the Old Testament, unequalled by authors of ancient or modern times. I have been so much struck on reading the Psalms, with the grandeur and dignity of the ideas and the beauty of expression, that I have sometimes entirely lost sight of their devotional intention, in admiration of the composition. But the Bible is not the work of man. Every page bears the impress of divinity, where the purest precepts, and the most important lessons are conveyed in the simplest, yet most sublime language . . . and whether we take the power of its miracles, or remarkable fulfillment of its prophecies
 . . . we must acknowledge the Bible to be the true, unerring Word of the living God.” (p. 187)

The Rev. Baird’s memoir also made it possible to identify Anna Linnard as the author of Helen Maurice.



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