Retired scientist hopes to find rare book written by Ipswich woman

Retired scientist Dr Peter Schwarz is searching for a copy of a rare book with an Ipswich link

Retired scientist Dr Peter Schwarz is searching for a copy of a rare book with an Ipswich link - Credit: Dr Peter Schwarz

A retired scientist from Scotland plans to ask Ipswich churches to help him find a rare book written by a pioneering woman from the town.

Dr Peter Schwarz is researching the history of his Edinburgh house, and discovered a link to Harriet Isham Grimwade, who was Ipswich's first publicly-elected woman.

His home, built in 1837, was owned by Dr David Brodie, a pioneer of juvenile mental health, from 1858 to 1882. Dr Brodie was married four times - and his second wife, Jessie McFarlane, was a young evangelist who travelled across England as well as Scotland.

Dr Schwarz said: "Jessie died in my house at only 28, on August 18, 1871, almost exactly 150 years ago. Looking for her led me to a book, In Memoriam: Jessie McFarlane, written anonymously by 'HIG', who turned out to be from Ipswich."

The cover of the rare book In Memoriam: Jessie McFarlane, written by pioneering Ipswich woman Harriet Isham Grimwade

The cover of the rare book In Memoriam: Jessie McFarlane, written by pioneering Ipswich woman Harriet Isham Grimwade - Credit: Dr Peter Schwarz

He was sent a pdf from the National Library of Scotland, and said: "Ipswich is mentioned 10 times, more than any other place except Edinburgh and heaven. This gave me a clue to the author, Harriet Isham Grimwade (1843-1893), a member of the Ipswich clothier family."

According to the Ipswich Women's Festival Group, Harriet was elected onto the School Board in 1880,  making her the town's first woman to be publicly elected. She began charitable work at the Tanners Lane Mission in her mid-20s, and was secretary of the new Ipswich Women's Suffrage Society in 1871.  

Dr Schwarz has cleaned up a copy of the pdf - but  would like to find a copy of the actual book that he could scan to create a cleaner copy.

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The retired academic, the former vice dean of the science faculty at Edinburgh University, hopes someone in the the Ipswich area may have a copy, and is writing to local churches to ask for their help.

He has also contacted the Oxfam shop in the town and offered to pay up to £100 if it can locate a copy for him to scan, saying he would then return it to be sold.

The book describes how Jessie became an evangelist at 17, first preaching only to girls, then to women and ultimately to large halls all over Scotland and later also in England.

New Wolsey Studio

The former Salem Chapel, where Jessie McFarlane preached in the 19th century. It was later the New Wolsey Studio and is now the home of the Gallery Players - Credit: Google Maps

She visited Ipswich three times and preached at the Salem Chapel, which later became the New Wolsey Studio Theatre and is now the home of the Gallery Players.

Dr Schwarz said: "She and Harriet were of the same age and must have become close friends."

He said Harriet travelled all the way from Ipswich to Edinburgh to visit Jessie when she was ill. 

He has made a cleaned-up pdf of the book, which is out of copyright, available to read freely at this link

If you have a copy of In Memoriam: Jessie McFarlane, you can contact Dr Schwarz by emailing

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