Anna Hanson Dorsey

Anna Hanson Dorsey (1815 – 26 December 1896) was an American author of novels and short stories. A convert to Catholicism, she was a pioneer of Catholic literature in the United States.

Anna Hanson Dorsey
DiedDecember 26, 1896(1896-12-26) (aged 80–81)
Washington, D.C.
GenreNovels, Short Stories
Notable awardsLaetare Medal
SpouseLorenzo Dorsey


Born Anna Hanson in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., she was the daughter of the Rev. William McKenney, a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, and Chloe Ann Lanigan McKenney.[1] In 1837 she married Lorenzo Dorsey, a Baltimore judge.[2] Their only son died fighting on the Union side in the American Civil War.[1] Her daughter, Ella Loraine Dorsey, was an author.[3]

Writing careerEdit

Dorsey converted to Catholicism in 1840 and thereafter devoted herself to Catholic literature, mainly in the form of stories and novels, although she wrote a small amount of poetry as well.[1] Her more than 40 novels frequently centered on a religious conversion narrative aimed at her largely Protestant audiences, and her New York Times obituary referred to her as a pioneer of Catholic literature in the United States.[2] Her plots tended towards melodrama, with elements such as mistaken identities, mysterious disappearances, and false accusations.[2] Her novel Coaina: The Rose of the Algonquins was translated into both German and Hindustani and also made into a stage play.[1] At least two of her novels — The Student of Blenheim Forest (1847) and The Sister of Charity (1850) — were still in print at the end of the century.[2]

Pope Leo XIII twice sent her his benediction, and the University of Notre Dame conferred upon her the Lætare medal.[4]

She died in Washington, D.C.

Selected worksEdit

  • The Student of Blenheim Forest (1847)
  • Flowers of Love of Memory (1849)
  • Oriental Pearl; or, the Catholic Immigrants (1850)
  • Tears of the Diadem or, the Crown and the Cloister (1850)
  • The Sister of Charity (1850)
  • Woodreve Manor (1853)
  • Conscience, or the Trials of May Brooke (1856)
  • Coaina: The Rose of the Algonquins (1867)
  • Nora Brady's Vow (1869)
  • Tangled Paths (1885)
  • Adrift (1887)
  • The Heiress of Carrigmona (1887)
  • The Old House at Glenaran (1887)
  • Palms (1887)
  • The Fate of the Dane and Other Stories (1888)
  • Zoe's Daughter (1888)
  • Ada's Trust
  • Beth's Promise
  • Mona, the Vestal
  • The Flemings
  • The Old Gray Rosary
  • The Student of Blenheim Forest
  • Warp and Woof


  1. ^ a b c d Willard, Frances E., and Mary A. Livermore, eds. A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life. Moulton, 1893, pp. 253-54.
  2. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Eileen P. The Shamrock and the Cross: Irish American Novelists Shape American Catholicism, n.p.
  3. ^ James Emmett Ryan 2013, p. 104.
  4. ^ Waggaman, Mary. "Anne Hanson Dorsey." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 8 March 2019   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Anna Hanson Dorsey" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.


Further readingEdit

  • Thorp, Willard. "Catholic Novelists in Defense of Their Faith, 1829–1865". Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 78, pt. 1 (1968), pp. 25–117.

External linksEdit