Nantucket History & People

NHA Publishes Bio of Nantucket Reformer

The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is pleased to announce the release of Disturber of Tradition: A Portrait of Anna Gardner, a biography written by island resident Barbara Ann White and published by the NHA.

Anna Gardner (1816–1901) was a Nantucket edu cator, writer, abolitionist, and suffragist. A lifelong advocate of justice, she worked tirelessly toward her vision of an equitable society. A co-organizer of the 1841 Nantucket Anti-Slavery Convention, the first teacher and principal of the Jefferson School for freedmen in Charlottesville, Va., and among the first women to vote on Nantucket, Gardner engaged in movements locally, regionally, and nationally throughout the nineteenth century. Her story shows that societal change is possible at the ground level when everyday people put their principles into action.

In this first full-length biography, White draws on extensive new research, providing the most compre hensive account of Gardner’s life to date and contex – tualizing it within a period of enormous change in both education and civil rights.

“I first learned about Anna Gardner in the late 1970s when I was researching the African School on Nantucket. Over the years, I uncovered more about her contribution to reform movements, from abolition to suffrage. The more I learned, the more I realized how passionate she was about the civil rights of black people. She used her skill as a teacher, during and after the Civil War, to establish a cadre of professional black teachers in the South, believing that the best way to ensure full equality was through equal education,” says Barbara Ann White. “Her influence went far beyond the island, and, with this book, I hope that her story will reach beyond the island, too.”

Barbara Ann White is also the author of Live to the Truth: The Life and Times of Cyrus Peirce and Hidden History of Nantucket, written with Frank Morral.

Disturber of Tradition: A Portrait of Anna Gardner is available at the Museum Shop in the Nantucket Whaling Museum. For more information about this NHA publication or others visit

The NHA’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

Articles by Date from 2012