CHIPMAN, ELIZA ANN (Chipman), diarist and teacher; b. 3 July 1807 in Cornwallis Township, N.S., daughter of Holmes Chipman and Elizabeth Andrews; m. 24 May 1827 William Chipman at First Cornwallis Baptist Church, and they had 12 children; d. 23 Oct. 1853 in Pleasant Valley (Berwick North), N.S.
The first milestone in Eliza Ann Chipman’s life occurred at the age of 16, when she “passed through . . . a sound conversion.” Following the declaration of her faith, she was baptized on 6 June 1824 by her influential pastor, Edward Manning, and was accepted as a member of the First Cornwallis Baptist Church. At age 19, after much soul-searching, she married her cousin William Chipman, a prosperous merchant and farmer, a prominent deacon in the Baptist church, and a 46-year-old widower with eight children, two of whom were older than Eliza herself. Despite such obstacles, the marriage proved stable and mutually supportive. In addition to her ready-made family, Eliza was to have 12 children, 8 of whom survived infancy. A year after their wedding, William decided to enter the ministry, and 1829 saw Eliza and her family, including her first baby, newly established in Pleasant Valley, where William was installed as the first pastor of the Second Cornwallis Baptist Church. Since this was a new and relatively small congregation, the Chipman family was forced to pioneer a farm in order to support its growing number, with all the attendant financial and physical hardships. Eliza lived the remaining 24 years of her life in the parsonage of Pleasant Valley, dying at 46, following a severe bowel disorder, three years after the birth of her last child.
She had begun a spiritual journal on 20 July 1823, at the age of 16, probably at the suggestion of Manning; her last entry was on 6 Aug. 1853, less than three months before her death. Three days before she died she revealed the existence of her diary to her husband in the hope that the perusal of it might be profitable to him and to her friends. In compliance with her desire, in January 1855 he published Memoir of the life of Mrs. Eliza Ann Chipman, wife of the Rev. William Chipman, of Pleasant Valley, Cornwallis.
Although she never travelled outside her native western Nova Scotia, Eliza exhibited a broad spiritual and intellectual outlook that belied her parochial situation. Her diary is couched in the religious expression common to her day and is essentially concerned with pious introspection, but it clearly reveals honest self-examination and a keen mind of literary bent. Manning wrote of her while she was yet in her teens that she possessed “powers of mind of some considerable promise.” Striving for a Christ-like existence was her first priority, but after marriage her concern for those in her care caused her to sacrifice many private spiritual aspirations, creating a constant tension in her life. However, far from being a mere appendage to her husband and family, Eliza remained a strong individual. Her awesome involvement in her church and community was based on personal conviction: besides caring for her large family, she organized and led women’s prayer groups, taught Sabbath school, maintained a hospitable hearth for ministers on circuit, established a day-school in her own home, and became a surrogate mother for lonely students at Horton Academy and Acadia College in Wolfville. At the same time she coped with 12 pregnancies, several severe illnesses with a resultant diminution of hearing, and extended absences of her husband on preaching tours. Little wonder that she confided in secret to her diary, “My body is so worn down with fatigue and care that I get no time for rest or reading.”
One of Eliza’s greatest concerns and spheres of influence was education – both secular and spiritual. She and her husband became vigorous supporters of Baptist educational institutions, namely Horton Academy and Acadia College. Her own children were sent there, her stepson Isaac Logan Chipman became one of Acadia’s first professors, and her daughter-in-law Alice Theodosia Shaw Chipman became a pioneer in women’s education at Grand Pre Seminary in Wolfville. With a woman of Eliza’s calibre to provide leadership and a model for younger women in the community, it is no surprise that her denomination played such a prominent part in female education.
Eliza Ann Chipman earned the attention of posterity primarily through the posthumous publication of her diary, which spanned virtually her whole adult life. A study of her life reveals not only that she left an intimate literary portrait of a 19th-century Nova Scotian woman, but also that she exerted a quiet, but definitive, influence on the social and intellectual development of her native province.
Eliza Ann Chipman’s journal was published under the title Memoir of the life of Mrs. Eliza Ann Chipman, wife of the Rev. William Chipman, of Pleasant Valley, Cornwallis (Halifax, 1855). Three copies are preserved in the ABHC; an original letter from George Armstrong to Mrs Chipman, dated 26 Jan. 1839, is affixed to the inside front cover of copy 1. Two entries from the Memoir appear in Pioneer and gentlewomen of British North America, 1713–1867, ed. Beth Light and Alison Prentice (Toronto, 1980), 60–61.
ABHC, William Chipman, day-book, 1837–57; Edward Manning, journals, 1812–45; D. O. Parker, “Berwick, its people and institutions as I knew them about sixty years ago” (scrapbook of clippings of articles by Parker in the Register (Berwick, N.S.), 1897). Bill, Fifty years with Baptist ministers. J. D. Davison, Eliza of Pleasant Valley: her family, church, and community in nineteenth century Cornwallis Township, Kings County, Nova Scotia (Wolfville, N.S., ).