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William Wood Letter Concerning Zilpha Elaw

An inventory of the item at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 24 Jul 2015

Biographical History

Zilpha Elaw (1790-1845?) was an African American evangelist. She began preaching the gospel in America in 1817 after attending a revival meeting, and for nearly twenty years she traveled the country -- both North and South -- as an evangelical speaker. In 1840 she departed for England, bearing a letter of reference from Peter Macy, vice president of the antislavery society of Nantucket, Massachusetts. There she continued her evangelical activities until her death in 1845 or thereabouts. Her autobiography, Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels, and Labours of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw, an American Female of Color, was published in London in 1846.

Nothing is known of William Wood. He may have been a minister in England, and was likely an abolitionist.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The William Wood Letter Concerning Zilpha Elaw consists of a letter dated 1 October 1841 from William Wood of Manchester, England, to Peter Macy, vice president of the antislavery society of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Wood writes as follows:

A female of color Mrs. Elaw has lately arrived here from Nantucket...She has shown me a letter with your signature which if genuine is very satisfactory. You will much oblige me if you will state...if you have given her such a letter.

Beneath Wood's request to Macy is a note from British antislavery orator and activist George Thompson, who refers to Wood as "a dear friend and truly Christian man." On the blank recto of the second leaf is a copy of Macy's reply, confirming his signature and recommending Elaw as "worthy of confidence."

It is unclear why Wood felt it necessary to write for confirmation of the authenticity of Elaw's letter.

Arrangement of the Collection

Single item.


Access Restrictions:

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Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Elaw, Zilpha, approximately 1790-1846.
Macy, Peter, 1792-1846.
Thompson, George, 1804-1878.
Wood, William, fl. 1841.


African American women clergy -- History -- 19th century.
African American women evangelists.
Women clergy -- England -- History -- 19th century.

Genres and Forms

Letters of recommendation.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

William Wood Letter Concerning Zilpha Elaw,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 2015.

Table of Contents

Correspondence, outgoing