The Enduring Work of Mrs. Elizabeth Scudder Lathrop (Lothrop)

 by Margery Boyden, Scudder Association Foundation Historian

©Scudder Association Foundation, All rights reserved


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Images of early colonial American women often show them in action fulfilling their domestic duties but that is far from a complete picture. Dale Taylor states, “It has often been said that women in the colonial period had no power.” He continues, “This was true as it applied to property ownership (when married), the franchise and other legal distinctions,” but does not take into account gender roles and essential divisions of labor. “Women had their own sphere of influence, and a capable practitioner here could exert strong influence outside her sphere.” Taylor asserts that “in many households the woman had as much or more influence in the management of the estate as her husband did” and women were engaged in farming and farm management so the husband could focus on “commercial business, politics and war.”[1]


Women working in the field[2]

When Elizabeth2 (Scudder) (E) Lathrop married Samuel2 Lathrop, he was already engaged in building houses at Boston where the couple met. After their marriage, he would become very successful at real estate development in Connecticut. Given her heritage and upbringing in a well-educated home environment,[3] Elizabeth (E), was well suited to the tasks of those women in her day who were called upon to be literate, to be able to do basic accounting and to have home and farm management skills in addition to domestic skills of cooking, sewing, mending, spinning, sometimes making homemade cloth, and growing a vegetable garden, while raising and educating her children. In her era that thrust Elizabeth2 (E) into the work of founding new settlements while doing all of the above tasks, families had to be organized and to divide labors efficiently in order to avoid “duplication of effort.”[4] Not distracted by entertainment and media, or being under close scrutiny by the king of England, Elizabeth2 (E) and female contemporaries in her early Connecticut society were free to teach their children their own religious and moral values that were also generally shared by their community. Their influence is incalculable.


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While exploring the remarkable story of four Lathrop sister missionaries to Ceylon, who were descendants of Elizabeth2 Scudder (E) Lathrop, in the December 2019 issue of the Scudder Family Historical & Biographical Journal, we asked the why questions: “Why did four Lathrop sisters from one Norwich, Connecticut family, (whose Scudder roots were just as deep), each decide to give their lives to missionary service in faraway Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]? Was It Heredity or Environment?”[6] we asked. The first of the four sisters, Harriet Wadsworth (Lathrop) Winslow died in Ceylon before the others followed. We had observed that the religious and cultural environment at Norwich, Connecticut, as well as family culture, seemed to play a role


To better describe the social environment experienced by the Lathrops and their Norwich neighbors, and their cultural and religious values, a brief explanation of Massachusetts and Connecticut Puritan ideas about the family unit is in order. These ideas were also part of Congregational thinking in Connecticut and there were significant differences between these New England ideas and systems from other parts of early America. They were also different from their English monarchy and the state church of England. In Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer describes what he calls The Puritan Idea of the Covenanted Family:


[They] thought of the family not as an end in itself, but as an instrument of their highest religious purposes…which was also described as ‘the root whence church and commonwealth cometh.’[7]


Fischer’s statement explains why their heritage and its strong thread is still embedded among a substantial number of persons in America’s plural society. It has been for many for centuries and generations a core concept of self-identity, as well as of family identity. Fischer describes its early manifestation as “an attitude which historian Edmund Morgan calls ‘Puritan tribalism,’ that is, the Hebraic idea that the founders of New England were God’s chosen people.” Fischer quotes John Cotton’s perspective from the Bible in genealogical terms, “The Covenant of God is, I will be thy God, and the God of thy seed after thee.” Fischer then states that Puritan minister William Stoughton went even further. Stoughton, who was Elizabeth2 (E)’s first cousin on the Stoughton line, “prophesiedthe books that shall be opened at the last day will contain Genealogies among them. There shall be brought forth a Register of the Genealogies of the New England’s sons and daughters.[8] In reality, this predicted register would grow to include many of their descendants who spread their ideas to other colonies. See this editorial note:[9]


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Because of its importance to America’s cultural roots, even now, four hundred years later, there is still widespread interest in the history of early New England families. Elizabeth2 (E) is only one of many with this heritage who passed it along to countless descendants. This background seems to have motivated many of Elizabeth2 [E]’s [posterity in the choice of their life’s work. Particular traits have been passed down for 400 year, still surviving in some families today. See examples of some of these persons cited in the article “Elizabeth Scudder Wife of Samuel Lathrop (Lothrop), Was the Immigrant Ancestress of These Remarkable Descendants” previously published in this issue of the Journal.[11] It is worth noting that the same heritage of faith and service, and family character traits were shared by specific individuals from diverse religious and political persuasions over four centuries.


Fischer states: “This obsession with family and genealogy became an enduring part of New England’s culture” and that two centuries after the great Puritan migration, abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe was influenced by these values and character traits, having grown up among them. She stated that the colonists brought to Massachusetts Family feeling, family pride, family hope and fear and desire, [that] were in my early day, strongly-marked traits.[12]  Fischer notes the difference in why family history was significant to New Englanders as distinguished from family history interest among “high born families in England or Virginia.” For New Englanders it “was not a pride in rank and quarterings, but a moral and religious idea that developed directly from the Puritan principles of the founders. They looked at family “in terms of the covenant theology which was so central to their faith. They believed that God’s covenant with each individual Christian was enlarged into another sort of contract which they called the family covenant.” Fischer calls it a complex web of mutual obligations. He states “the urgency of its spiritual purpose set New England Puritans apart from other people—even from other Calvinists—in the Western world.[13] No wonder their families became so tight knit!


This covenant concept of family spilled over into New England’s marriage customs. In Puritan New England, marriage was a social contract, not a church sacrament. New England was unique in that “Puritans cherished true love and insisted that it was a prerequisite of a happy marriage.” Parental approval was key but there were many interesting customs developed to give couples a chance to discover if theirs was true love while also remaining chaste.[14] Family love and loyalty were important and their paradigm of family having religious purpose as well as obligation. In this approach, one can hear an echo of the two great commandments taught by Jesus: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.[15]


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This perspective of a covenant relationship with God and with the other members in the family made making sacrifices for others and giving service to others seem natural, logical and desirable. With this perspective, one can see why the strong traits of service to God and service to others continue to flow through the lives of many of Elizabeth2 (E)’s posterity.


This background shared about the culture and views about the family covenant that produced the Elizabeth Scudder/Samuel Lathrop heritage of family love, with its obligations to each other and to God and to their neighbors, suggests what the curriculum of religious doctrines, principles and practices was that Elizabeth2 (E) must have taught to her children. Historical and biographical evidence suggests seven bedrock characteristics in the lives of Elizabeth (E)’s posterity that have persisted for centuries. These seven values are shown in bold although they are incomplete.


  • To believe and to pray to God with faith in His power to assist and to bless.

Azariah5 Lathrop, Elizabeth2 (E)’s great-grandson, was known for showing his faith in action through frequent, diligent prayer. A resident of Norwich, Connecticut, Azariah is described as “one of the solid and enterprising men of the town, both in the church and in civil life.”


Home of Azariah Lathrop

Home of Azariah Lathrop

In his introductory chapter, Miron Winslow shares this insight in the memoir he wrote about his deceased wife, Mrs. Harriet Wadsworth (Lathrop) Winslow. He notes the piety of her ancestors. Of Harriet’s grandfather Azariah2 Lathrop, Winslow reports that despite his otherwise busy life, her “grandfather Lathrop used often to retire to the fields to pray for his posterity, to the latest generation; a practice which might well be imitated.”[17]


Lowthorpe Meadows, Norwich, Connecticut

Lowthrope Meadows, Norwich, Connecticut[18]

Presumably Azariah’s prayers out in the field were especially focused on the spiritual welfare of his offspring for his prayers yielded remarkable positive spiritual results in Harriet’s immediate family. They became more engaged and committed in spiritual life and experienced what Christians call the “new birth’ or change of heart or one’s nature.[19]  After Harriet was spiritually reborn, she, and later three of her younger sisters, heeded the Spirit’s call to serve foreign missions in Ceylon which was a lifetime commitment. Although he did not go to Ceylon, their brother Daniel Whiting Lathrop became a minister.[20]


How did Grandfather Azariah develop such faith and confidence in God? There is a story preserved in the History of Norwich, Connecticut that gives a clue. Miss Caulkins describes:


In these houses the Family Bible was never wanting It occupied a conspicuous station upon the desk or best table, and though much used, was well preserved. It came from home, for so the colonists loved to call the mother country; it had voyaged with them over the billowy waters, and was revered as the gift of Heaven. One of these blessed volumes, long preserved as a precious relic in the Lathrop family, and now deposited in the archives of the American Bible Society, merits a particular notice. It is in the old English text, and of that edition usually called Parker’s, or the Bishop’s Bible. It was preserved in the family of Mr. Azariah Lathrop, grandson of the second Samuel Lathrop of Norwich, with the tradition that it was brought from England by an ancestor, who

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reading one night in his berth, fell asleep over the book, when a spark escaped from his lamp, and falling upon the leaf, ate its way slowly through a large number of pages, committing sad havoc in the sacred text. The owner afterwards with great neatness and patience repaired the ravage with his pen, restoring the text to each of the inspired leaves, as may be seen by inspecting the venerable relic.


The Rev. John Lathrop of Barnstable, Mass., a devout lover of the Sacred Book, was the emigrant ancestor of the Lathrop family: to him, therefore, the above incident may with some probability be referred. But the volume is found among the descendants of his son Samuel, the ancestor of the Norwich Lathrops, and the latter, though only a lad at the time of his emigration, may nevertheless have been the sleeping student who came so near to losing of his treasure. All that can be asserted on this subject is, that the repaired Bible, with this interesting tradition connected with it, comes down to the present generation in the line of Mr. Azariah Lathrop.[22]


It appears that other values that came from the family Bible that Elizabeth2 (E) embedded in her offspring include:


  • To serve God and their fellow men.

See the many examples of her posterity that were public servants, ministers and missionaries listed in a companion article in this issue of the Journal, “Elizabeth Scudder, Wife of Samuel Lathrop (Lothrop) Was the Immigrant Ancestress of These Remarkable Descendants.Some of those featured can qualify in all three categories. Other family values that persist include:


  • To become competent and confident and to work hard.


  • To work well with others to strengthen the social and moral fabric of communities.


  • To be civil and respectful with others with whom you may disagree.


  • To be resilient when challenged by adversity or opposition.


  • To be grateful for country and for religious freedom and for other civil liberties and to defend them.  


These attributes can be found among Elizabeth2 (E)’s posterity from the beginning up to the present in such public servants as Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Gov. Thomas Dewey, Gov. George Romney and his son Gov. and Senator Mitt Romney and many more.[23] There are plenty of other examples also among Scudder descendants from the John (J) and Thomas (T) American Scudder lines who passed this same culture to their families.


From 1933–1945, Elizabeth (E)’s 7th great-grandson, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, exemplified these values when tasked with leading the United States of America through two of its most difficult trials, the Great Depression and World War II. Roosevelt stated in 1940:


Our modern democratic way of life has its deepest roots in our great common religious tradition, which for ages past has taught to civilized mankind the dignity of the human being, his equality before God, and his responsibility in the making of a better and fairer world….In teaching this democratic faith to American children, we need the sustaining, buttressing aid of those great ethical religious teachings which are the heritage of our modern civilization. For ‘not upon strength nor upon power, but upon the spirit of God’ shall our democracy be founded.[24]


Roosevelt’s 7th great-grandmother, Elizabeth2 (Scudder) (E) Lathrop, could not have said it better herself!


Elizabeth (E)’s story is to be continued in
“Mrs. Elizabeth Scudder Lathrop: a history of her adult life in America
that includes her residences and roles as a wife, mother and grandmother.”

[1] Dale Taylor, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America, From 1607–1783, (Cincnnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 1997, 120.

[2] Image from James Otis, Ruth of Boston, (New York: 1910), 23. Public domain.

[3] “Elizabeth Scudder, Wife of Samuel Lathrop: Early Life of Elizabeth (Scudder) Lathrop, Ancestress of the Scudder (E) Line,” Scudder Family Historical & Biographical Journal [SFHBJ], Scudder Association Foundation, volume 2, no. 2, (Fall 2020).

[4] Taylor, 120.

[5]Norwichtown,” Norwich’s Historic Neighborhoods, Norwich Historical Society, This drawing of Norwichtown from the collection of the Norwich Historical Society is described in Norwichtown Local Historic District and features Lowthorp Meadows, Norwichtown Green and the colonial Burying Ground,

[6] “Was It Heredity or Environment? Why Did Four Lathrop Sisters from One Norwich, Connecticut Family (with Scudder Ancestry) Each Decide to Give Their Lives to Missionary Service in Faraway Ceylon [now Sri Lank]?, Scudder Family Historical & Biographical Journal, Scudder Association Foundation, volume 1, no. 3, (December 2019), See other related articles.

[7] David Hackettt Fischer, Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, 68.

[8] Fischer, 69

[9] Ed. Note: Those who are active in family history, especially early New England family history, will recognize the fulfillment of Stoughton’s prediction in many ways, including in the undertaking by a leading historical society in America. The New England Genealogic Historical Society has spent decades on its Great Migration Project under the leadership of Robert Charles Anderson. His team of experts have been documenting in detail the immigrants and immigrant families who came to New England from 1620 to about 1640s that appear on an emigration record from England to America or are found in records in America then or shortly thereafter. Their effort has formed and preserved an invaluable cultural history. Their work has also dispelled many family history myths and inaccuracies that were speculatively devised by early researchers—such as assuming with no proof that people with similar surnames were of the same family or who “assigned” an unproven surname to someone’s wife. Scudders, Lothrops and Stoughtons have all been affected by such errors in the founding generations which is why the Scudder Family Historical & Biographical Journal is also engaged again in sharing correct data. NEGHS at is a significant source for history about early New England families and communities along with other groups also engaged in preserving this history.

[10] Image from Otis, 30. Public domain.

[11] “Elizabeth Scudder Wife of Samuel Lathrop (Lothrop), Was the Immigrant Ancestress of These Remarkable Descendants,” SFHBJ, (Fall 2020).

[12] Fischer, 69.

[13] Fischer, 69–70.

[14] Fischer 79.

[15] Matthew 22: 36–40, New Testament, Holy Bible.

[16] Image from Otis, 66. Public domain.

[17] Miron Winslow, A Memoir of Mrs. Harriet Wadsworth Winslow, Combining a Sketch of the Ceylon Mission, (New York: Leavitt, Lord & Co., (1835), 9.

[18] “Heritage Resource Guide, Norwich, Connecticut, 2017–2018,” Norwich Historical Society,

[19] Winslow, 11–16.

[20] See “Who Was Joanna (Leffingwell) Lathrop, Scudder Family Historical & Biographical Journal, Scudder Association Foundation, volume 1, no. 3, (December 2019).

[21] Excerpt from an original oil painting currently in the possession of the author, artist remaining anonymous, © 2020 Margery Boyden. This is not the original Bible of Rev. John Lothrop. Inserted here only to set the mood.

[22] Frances Manwaring Caulkins, History of Norwicih, Connecticut, (Published by the author, 1866), 77.

[23] “Elizabeth Scudder Wife of Samuel Lathrop (Lothrop), Was the Immigrant Ancestress of These Remarkable Descendants,SFHBJ, (Fall 2020).

[24] Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Letter on Religion in Democracy,” December 16, 1940, The American Presidency Project, University of California at Santa Barbara,”


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