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Elizabeth Prentiss

Elizabeth Prentiss

      Elizabeth Payson Prentiss was an author, well known for her hymn "More Love to Thee, O Christ" and the didactic story Stepping Heavenward (1869). She was born and raised in Portland, Maine, United States, the fifth of eight children (only six survived) of the eminent Congregationalist pastor Edward Payson. The influences of New England Christianity, consisting of the inherited Puritan foundation with added evangelistic, missional, and philanthropic elements, were evident in the Payson family.

      As a young woman, she published some of her children's stories and poems in "The Youth's Companion," a New England religious periodical. In 1838, she opened a small girls' school in her home and took up a Sabbath-school class as well. Two years later, she left for Richmond, VA, to be a department head at a girls' boarding school. In 1845, she married George Lewis Prentiss, a brother of her dear friend Anna Prentiss Stearns, to whom are addressed some of her warmest and most intimate letters. The Prentisses settled in New Bedford, MA, where George became pastor of South Trinitarian Church.

      Though she continually struggled with poor health, Mrs. Prentiss went on to have three children. After Rev. Prentiss resigned his charge in New York, the family went abroad to Europe for a couple of years, returned to New York (where Rev. Prentiss pastored the Church of the Covenant), and eventually settled in Dorset, VT, where Mrs. Prentiss would die in 1878 at the age of 60.

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