Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) was a British social theorist and Whig writer and is often credited as being the first female sociologist. Her written works included economic novels, social theory, romance novels and children’s books. Harriet was one of the only women in Victorian England to support herself financially entirely through writing, and often focused her work on themes of feminism and domestic issues - rare topics for her era.
William Smith (1756–1835) was an MP for Sudbury in Suffolk between 1784 and 1790. In 1802, Smith accepted to stand for the Radicals in Norwich, leading to his involvement in the Octagon Chapel as a result of him being a dissenter.
Smith was most notable for his work in relieving the suffering of Unitarians through the Doctrine of the Trinity Act of 1813 and dedicated his life to advancing the equality of the Unitarian cause and the progress of numerous social movements.
James Martineau (1805-1900) was an Norwich born English religious philosopher influential in the history of Unitarianism. Martineau’s writings emphasized the individual human conscience as the primary guide for determining correct behaviour. For 45 years he was lecturer and Principal at Manchester New College where he was responsible for training ministerial students. He wrestled with questions concerning the Bible, sources of authority, the meaning of Christ, the validity of non-Christian religions and the roles of reason and conscience. He instrumental in shaping both Unitarian and general religious thought.
Other people you may not know where Unitarians...
Often considered the finest English novelist of the 19th century. Although Dickens was baptized and reared in the Church of England and was a nominal Anglican for most of his life, he turned to Unitarianism in the 1840s as a Broad Church alternative. He associated with Unitarians until the end of his life.
Elizabeth Gaskell was a life-long Unitarian and the author of a half-dozen novels, numerous short stories, and a biography of Charlotte Brontë. In her fiction she examined some of the the social issues of her time, particularly those associated with industrialization in mid-19th century England.
An American Founding Father who was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Jefferson expressed general agreement with Unitarianism and although never joined a Unitarian church he did attend Unitarian services and was friend of Joseph Priestley.
Find out about the history and origins of Unitarians within the UK. What was the Clarendon Code, the Doctrine of the Trinity Act? Who were John Biddle and Theophilus Lindsey?