SOPHIA WILLIAMS [WHITAKER]
Sophia Williams [Whitaker] (1790-1891) was born into a Baptist family in Bratton. Her father, Thomas Williams (d. 1817), was a deacon in the same church attended by the Whitakers and Blatches. In the 1780s he had joined with Rev. Cooper, the Baptist minister at that time, to continue Jeffrey Whitaker’s school for boys; the school burned in 1789, however, the year before Sophia’s birth. Her diary is the work of a well-educated young woman, suggesting that she, like many of the other women in this series, attended a boarding school for nonconformist girls, although it is possible she was educated by her father, himself a teacher. Sophia had at least one brother, Henry, who was living in the Islington area of London c. 1818. In 1824 (most likely after her mother’s death), she married Thomas Whitaker (1776-1857), Philip Whitaker’s younger brother and the youngest son of Caroline Attwater Whitaker of Bratton. They moved into a home called Yew Trees, a house on the Lower Road of Bratton, not far from Philip Whitaker and his family at Bratton Farm or her close friend Anna Jane Whitaker (1784-1838), Philip’s youngest sister. Thomas and Sophia did not have children, and when he died in 1857, Sophia invited Joshua Whitaker’s son, John Saffery Whitaker (1840-1915), and his new wife Mary Brinkworth to live with her at Yew Trees. Their daughter, Jane Saffery Whitaker, collected most of the material that now comprises the Reeves Collection in the Angus and Bodleian libraries, Oxford.
For a more complete biographical notice of Williams and the complete text of her surviving diary, see Timothy Whelan, Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840, vol. 8 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), pp. 437-91. For a selection from her diary available on this website, click here.