Sarah Adams, née Flower, was born at Harlow, Essex on 22 February 1805, and died in London on 14 August, 1848.
She was the younger daughter of Benjamin Flower, editor and owner of The Cambridge Intelligencer; and was married, in 1834, to William Brydges Adams, a well-known inventor and civil engineer. In 1841 she published 'Vivia Perpetua', a dramatic poem dealing with the conflict of heathenism and Christianity; and in 1845, the 'Flock at the Fountain', a catechism and hymns for children.
As a member of the congregation of the Rev. William Johnson Fox, a Unitarian minister in London, she contributed 13 hymns to the Hymns and Anthems, published in 1841. Of these hymns, the most widely known are 'Nearer, my God, to Thee', and 'He sendeth sun, He sendeth showers'.
'Robert Browning' admired her and was a frequent correspondent.
There is a tradition that the band played "Nearer, my God, to Thee" on the Titanic as the ship sank.
She was painted by 'Margaret Gillies', a Scottish artist who worked in London. Unitarian in belief, like many major writers and social reformers of the period, her convictions owed much to health reformer Thomas Southwood Smith (with whom she lived for over twenty years) and to her association with 'William Johnson Fox''s radical Unitarian congregation of the 1830s.
Through these connections she met 'William Wordsworth', 'Charles Dickens', 'Leigh Hunt', 'Harriet Martineau', 'Richard Hengist Horne', Sarah Flower Adams and many other celebrities of the time, a large number of whom she portrayed (reproduced above). She contributed to the first illustrated Government report (on Children in the Mines).
Her feminism and professionalism, the nature of her work, and her unconventional lifestyle were all grounded in Unitarianism, the most progressive and liberating ideology of the 19th century.