Isabel Hapgood

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Isabel Florence Hapgood was the compiler and translator of the Service Book of the Holy Orthodox-Catholic (Greco-Russian) Church which has been described as "a noble and Christian gift indispensable to the understanding of the teachings of the Orthodox-Catholic Apostolic Church." (History of Russian Church Music, N. P. Brill).


Isabel Hapgood was born on November 21, 1851 in Boston Massachusetts. Her parents were Asa Hapgood and Lydia Anna Bronson Crossley who were of English-Scottish decent. Isabel had two brothers Asa Gustavus, a twin, and William Frank Hapgood. Isabel grew up in the family living in Worcester, Massachusetts. Isabel's education came through attendance at private schools, Oread Collegiate Institute in Worcester between 1863 and 1865, and then transferred to Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, graduating in 1868, the year her father died. She showed a great aptitude for languages, mastering most Romance and Germanic languages as well as the Slavic languages of Russian, Polish, and Church Slavonic.

Isabel displayed a special interest in the Russian language. To achieve a natural fluency in the spoken language she engaged a Russian lady to help her develop a natural fluency in the spoken language. With this fluency, Isabel embarked on a lengthy journey through European Russia accompanied by her mother. During the two year sojourn, Isabel was able to meet important persons, including poets, writers, composers, as well as the Procurator of the Holy Synod and senior clergy. Her fame from translating earlier many Russian literary works into English had opened many doors into the intellectual world of Russia.

After her first trip to Russia, Isabel returned annually to Russia. Enchanted with the Russian choral singing, she embarked on a course of making the beauty of the Orthodox liturgy available in English. This course of action led to the translation of the Service Book that carries her name. The succession of Bishops of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands warmly supporting her efforts: Archbishop Nicholas gave her a complete set of Church Slavonic texts for use in her translation effort. Abp. Tikhon provided her practical advice and was remembered by Miss Hapgood as a sincere friend. The first edition appeared in 1906.

Written with the intent of revision as found necessary through practical use, Isabel prepared a second edition for which she asked Abp. Tikhon's blessing during her last visit to Russia in 1916-1917. Endorsement of the second edition came from Patriarch Tikhon on November 3, 1921 in which he extended his blessing on …Our American flock, always so near to Our heart: and upon Our never-to-be-forgotten American friends, and unto you all. This edition was published in 1922.

The preparation of the Service Book was considered by Isabel Hapgood as a "gift of love". For her eleven years of labor she was provided an honorarium of $500.

Isabel Hapgood reposed in New York City on June 26, 1928 and was buried in Worcester, Massachusetts.


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