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Historical Notes and
Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Unitarian Universalist?

bulletan informal answer 
bulletFor the sake of this web site, individuals are identified as Unitarian Universalists if they
bulletwere raised Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist, and/or
bulletat some time in their lives regularly attended or joined a Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist church or society, and/or
bulletat some time in their lives identified themselves as Unitarian, Universalist, or Unitarian Universalist in theology or membership.

Was Thomas Jefferson really a Unitarian?

bulletLike many others of his time (he died just one year after the founding of institutional Unitarianism in America), Jefferson was a Unitarian in theology, though not in church membership.  He never joined a Unitarian congregation: there were none near his home in Virginia during his lifetime.  He regularly attended Joseph Priestley's Pennsylvania church when he was nearby, and said that Priestley's theology was his own, and there is no doubt Priestley should be identified as Unitarian.   Jefferson remained a member of the Episcopal congregation near his home, but removed himself from those available to become godparents, because he was not sufficiently in agreement with the trinitarian theology. His work, The Jefferson Bible, was Unitarian in theology.  For a slightly different analysis (one that slights the fact that the Unitarians were not formally organized into a sect until 1825), see the relevant "Matters of Fact" factsheet at the Monticello website.

Was Henry David Thoreau a Unitarian?

Thoreau was a non-joiner, as were many who identified in his time as Unitarian in theology.  But he identified with  Transcendentalism, a movement that grew as a rebellious Unitarianism, and he considered himself Unitarian.

Was Sylvia Plath really a Unitarian?

Recent work has indicated that Plath was a Unitarian. See the article in the Dictionary of UU Biography for details.

Where can I find more about Unitarian Universalist history?

bulletThe Links page of this web site will include, as they are found, links to substantial UU history web pages or sites.
bulletLinks to good books on UU history will be added soon.

Some disputed UUs:

These individuals have been removed from these listings, because we could find no positive evidence that they they considered themselves Unitarian and/or Universalist.   If you find any resources identifying them with UUism, please email us.

bulletWendell Phillips [quotes] [portrait]
bullet[excerpt] [address]
bulletPhillips was an active member of the Free Religious Association, but identified himself in writing as an "evangelical."


* People marked with an asterisk have appeared on postage stamps (in most cases, US stamps). Thanks to George Barner and Jon Durbin for supplying the information about stamps.

Links and lists by: Sue Bennett (CVUUF), Dan Hotchkiss, Lorella Thomas (CVUUF), Steve Champion (CVUUF), Jone Johnson Lewis, and Jim Mason (PNWD-UUA) and others. For additional credits see the Credits page.

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