Grace Shaw Duff

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Grace Shaw Duff was an American Theosophist and philanthropist who was heavily involved in work in the early days of Krotona Institute of Theosophy and the Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross.

Personal life

Grace Anna Shaw was born in 1846, in Ohio, to Henry Wheeler Shaw and Zilpha (or Zipporah) Bradford Shaw.[1] Her father (1818-1885) was quite famous as humorist "Josh Billings" surpassed only by his contemporary Mark Twain. Most of the newspaper articles ever written about Grace mention her father, who toured the United States reciting stories from his popular books. The family lived in Massachusetts and then New York, as Henry worked through an assortment of jobs until he found his voice as a folksy writer in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1858.

Wilhenford Hospital

Grace married William Hilduth Duff (1843-1909), a New York stock broker in the late 1860s.[2][3] They lived in Manhattan and were well-to-do. Bradford Ferris Duff, a son, was born on July 9, 1869. He married Clara Leland Rogers, Baroness Fairhaven, on November 17, 1890,[4] but he tragically died at the age of 25 on September 6, 1893.[5]

Grace took up writing around this time. Several of her poems and stories were published in The Arena (magazine) and in American newspapers. "Nicodemus" and "Two Beasts" drew considerable attention.[6][7][8]Her story "The Story of Major C. and His Relatives" was a study of musical harmony rendered as a fairy tale. [9] She also wrote an article for Mind (magazine) called "Cosmic Evolution", described "as poetic as it is incomprehensible" by a reviewer who had never considered the subject before.[10]

William died on March 19, 1909 in Augusta Georgia, where the Duffs had been spending their winters. After his death, Grace moved her main residence from Manhattan to the suburb of New Rochelle, New York.

In 1910-12, Mrs. Duff engaged in a project to honor the men in her life. She donated $26,000 to build and equip a hospital that was named Wilhenford Hospital for Children in Augusta, Georgia. It was the first children's hospital in the South. The unusual name represented William, Henry, Bradford.[11][12]

She died on May 21, 1923.[13][14]

Involvement with Theosophical Society

Mrs. Duff was admitted to the American Theosophical Society on November 12, 1901 at the Central Lodge in New York City. She was sponsored by Minnie C. Holbrook and Florence A. Taylor.[15] She remained a member of Central Lodge until the end of her life, even after she moved to Hollywood in December 1915 to be near the Krotona Institute of Theosophy.[16] She continued to maintain a household in New York.

Order of the Temple of the Rosy Cross


  1. 1865 New York State Census.
  2. 1880 United States Census.
  3. 1887 passport application. U.S., Passport Applications, 1795-1925.
  4. U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930. From New York Evening Post (November 18, 1890): 119.
  5. Duff obituary. New York Evening Post (September 8, 1893): 5.
  6. Anonymous, "Literary Notes" St. Albans Daily Messenger (June 17, 1895: 2.
  7. Grace Shaw Duff, "Nicodemus" Charleston News and Courier (December 29, 1895): 12.
  8. Anonymous, "The Arena for June 1895" St. Paul Representative (June 12, 1895): 5.
  9. Anonymous, "The Story of Major C. and His Relatives" review. New York Herald 63 (March 4, 1894): 14.
  10. Anonymous, "Mind" Baltimore Sun 128 iss.77 (February 14, 1901): 8.
  11. Anonymous, "In the Name and in Behalf of the Little Children" Augusta Chronical (October 18, 1910): 6.
  12. Anonymous, "Inscription Tablet for Wilhenford hospital to be Placed Wednesday" Augusta Chronical (February 27, 1910): 8.
  13. Obituary Augusta Chronicle (June 3, 1923): 9.
  14. Deaths The Messenger 11 no.3 (August, 1923): 60.
  15. Membership Ledger Cards roll 2. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  16. "Deaths" The Messenger 11 no.3 (August, 1923): 60.