Mrs Hamilton

In the summer of 1859, ‘Mrs Hamilton’ gave a Lecture and performance at Bridge of Allan Music Hall, the title of which was Phrenology, Mesmerism and Music’.

So who was Mrs Hamilton? Were women phrenologists common? And how was she recieved?

Fortunately for us Gaia Duberti, who recently completed a scholarship at the Anatomical Museum, has been studing phrenology, and has kindly shared her research into women phrenologists. Gaia’s research confirms that phrenology was a ‘discipline’ mostly of men and that Mrs Hamilton was one of very few women lecturers.

Mrs Hamilton was a native of Saltcoats in Ayrshire and was born there circa 1794. As a young woman she  married  Alexander Hamilton, a woolen weaver, and together in Saltcoats they raised their family.

Saltcoats by David Cathcart: Photo Credit: North Ayrshire Council

By 1841, as this census would seem to indicate, Mrs Hamilton was a widow and she describes her occupation as a ‘Lecturer on Phrenology’:The following newspaper advertisments and reports allow us to follow Mrs Hamilton around the British Isles as she lectured on Phrenology. She argued, in contrast with mainstream Phrenologists, that Phrenology indeed proved women’s intellectual capacities to be equal to men’s.

The True Sun, March 1833:

The True Sun, May 1833:

Greenock, April 1834:

The Scotsman, September 1834:

Kennoway, October 1835:

Falkland, June 1836:

Cupar, December 1836:

Belfast, May 1837:

Huddersfield: June 1838:

Dublin, December 1838:

Dublin, December 1838:

The Phrenological Journal and Magazine of Moral Science, 1840:

Whitehaven, September 1840:

Norfolk, August 1849:

Mrs Hamilton’s Phrenological Chart:

Bridge of Allan, summer 1859:

Edinburgh,October 1861:

Edinburgh, 1868:

At least two of Mrs Hamilton’s children followed in their mither’s footsteps.

The Northern Whig of June 1850 advertises Edward Hamilton [ born in Saltcoats 1814]

Archibald Sillars Hamilton [born in Saltcoats c1819] emigrated to Australia where he became both famous and controversial. Alexandra Roginski has written a  fascinating, and brilliantly researched account, of Archibald Sillars Hamilton in her book ‘The Hanged Man and the Body Thief’.

Archibald Sillars Hamilton [1871]

Archibald Sillars Hamilton described his mother:

Edinburgh, 1869:

11 Melbourne Place, Edinburgh, 22 October 1870, :

Personal conclusion:
I find that I very much admire Mrs Hamilton. She was bold and brave in a time of gross oppression of women [and even today we still have a long way to go]. Whilst the phrenology bandwagon was rolling, Mrs Hamilton used this now discredited medium to help emancipate women from patriarchy. She did so with style, including a mix of both music and song. Somebody [more talented than I am] really needs to write the Musical: “Mrs Hamilton”!