The Women Behind The 1689: Hanna Kiffin

Hanna Kiffin was born around 1615. Kiffin is not her maiden name; that name I was unable to discover. Hanna took the surname Kiffin when she married William Kiffin around 1640. Their marriage receives a passing mention in Kiffin’s memoirs:

…I joined myself to an Independent congregation, with a resolution, as soon as it pleased God to open a way, to go to New England; being now arrived at the age of 22 years. But the providence of God prevented me, and soon after it pleased God to provide for me a suitable yoke-fellow, who was one with me in judgement, and joined to the same congregation.

This church that Hanna belonged to was the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey church that we have learned about before.

Hanna appears to be a stalwart companion of her husband, from the little I was able to gather from Kiffin’s autobiography. Once when William was arrested, his fellow prisoner in the chamber below him sought to rile up some men to kill him. These men happened to enter Kiffin’s room while Hanna was visiting. William offered them some tobacco and drink, and was able to dissuade them from this plot. This fellow prisoner still attempted to harm William by accusing him of “preaching treasonous words against the king”. Hanna and some friends went to the judge to persuade him to take bail, but he refused. Kiffin was released shortly afterwards, however.


William Kiffin – Hanna’s Husband

William then fell ill. It appeared to relatives that he was not going to make it, so they took his money, claiming they would have to care for the children when he was gone. The physicians consulted also did not hope for a recovery. Hanna heard of a certain Dr. Trigg from a friend, and persuaded this doctor to take the case. Kiffin was able to recover, and the doctor refused to take payment. This relieved William, as the relatives did not give back the money they had taken after his recovery.

Money does seem to have been scarce for a while. By 1643 William Kiffin was a merchant and a leader in the Devonshire Square church. He had made some profit in selling goods in Holland, but he desired to spend time studying God’s Word, so he chose to not continue going to Holland.  Hanna “also diligently employed herself to get what she could, that we might eat our own bread, and not be burdensome to any.” By 1645, however, the financial situation was not looking good, so Kiffin formed a business deal with a fellow member of the congregation: this member would bring the goods to Holland for Kiffin. The Lord blessed this endeavor immensely, and left Kiffin the financial freedom to study and to give generously.

Together Hanna and William had at least three children. Their oldest son William died in 1669 when he was around 20 years old. Kiffin writes that this was heartbreaking for them. Hanna would have also witnessed the death of Priscilla, who died in 1679 at the age of 24. Their second eldest son was sent to Italy to improve his constitution . While there, he entered into a heated argument over theological matters with, and was subsequently poisoned by, a Roman Catholic priest. While Hanna did not live to see it, William watched his two grandsons, aged 19 and 22, be executed for treason.

Hanna passed away on October 6, 1682. She was 67. William Kiffin relates:

It pleased the Lord to take to Himself, my dear and faithful wife, with whom I had lived nearly forty-two years; whose tenderness to me, and faithfulness to God, were such as cannot, by me, be expressed, as she constantly sympathised with me in all my afflictions. I can truly say, I never heard her utter the least discontent under all the various providences that attended either me or her; she eyed the hand of God in all our sorrows, so as constantly to encourage me in the ways of God: her death was the greatest sorrow to me that ever I met with in the world.

A Fair Puritan  by E. Percy Moran

A Fair Puritan
by E. Percy Moran



Kiffin, William, with notes by William Orne. Remarkable Passages in the Life of William Kiffin



4 thoughts on “The Women Behind The 1689: Hanna Kiffin

  1. Another amazing woman. In a way, I find it touching and interesting how little history has to say about these women. It reminds me of the women who tended Jesus while he was here. Little is said about them, but you know they were dear to our Lord and faithful to him. Thank you again! And I didn’t mistake the picture for Hanna. It was obviously a man. 🙂

    • She must have been extraordinary for her husband to say he couldn’t recall her ever complaining – that convicted me right there. My knee-jerk response was to think “Oh, William is exaggerating.” Yet I have no reason to accuse him of such. And I’m glad you could tell that was a portrait of William, not Hanna!

  2. Pingback: Out And About (2014/05/14) » All Things Expounded

  3. Pingback: The Women Behind the 1689: Mrs. Adams | reformed baptista

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