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Hurnard, Hannah (1905-1990) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Hurnard, Hannah (1905-1990)

Historical Note:

Hannah Hurnard was born in England in 1905 to wealthy Quaker parents. She had a severe stutter and because of this struggled in her youth. She also struggled with her faith, uncertain of her belief in Christian teachings. Additionally, she remained frustrated with her continued sinfulness and regular attempts at repentance. She attended a Keswick convention meeting with her father and was troubled by the joy she saw in others. She was even more troubled when her father volunteered her for overseas missionary service—fleeing the meeting. In 1924 she found herself able to surrender her life more fully to the God she sought to serve.

In response to her newly found spiritual security Hurnard sought theological training. This began in England at the Ridgelands Bible College where she studied for two years after which she traveled with the "Friends Evangelistic Band." She was influenced by John Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress which was reflected in her best-seller Hinds' Feet on High Places.

In 1932 she went as an independent missionary to Haifa, Israel, where she worked in a clinic and Bible distribution. She had a connection to Israel that lasted over 50 years, although in her later years she traveled back and forth between England and Israel. She published a portion of her diaries relating to Israel’s struggle for statehood in the 1948.

Hurnard is best known for her book, Hinds' Feet on High Places, written in 1955, taking its title from Habakkuk 3. This work was a partially autobiographical allegory. It reached over a million copies in sales and still ranks high in all-time best sellers, gaining "classic" status. Though her Hinds' Feet on High Places found a wide audience many Christian readers many became concerned with her later writings. Critics believed her later works to exhibit an unorthodox universalism. Her biographer, Isabel Anders, noted "she entered a new stage of belief that is troublesome to many readers of her later books." She began to espouse unusual views on dietary and theological matters. Her theological metamorphosis isolated her from her mainstream readers. In all, Hurnard wrote over twenty books which were translated into at least a half-dozen different languages.

After refusing traditional treatments for cancer Hurnard died in on Marco Island, Florida in 1990.

Two biographers give greater detail about Hurnard's life. Isabel Anders wrote Standing On High Places in 1994 and John Wood wrote Hannah Hurnard: the authorized biography in 1996.

Note Author: Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections staff

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