Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution

WFMZ: History’s Headlines: Single Sisters of Bethlehem, Yesterday and Today


ALLENTOWN, Pa. - For most of its history, all that many Americans knew of Bethlehem’s Moravian Single Sisters’ House was contained in a poem written by renowned 19th century great Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Then a fledgling poet of 18, Longfellow’s “Hymn of the Moravian Nuns at Bethlehem,” written in 1825, penned an imaginative vision more akin to the Middle Ages than the American Revolution. In a letter Longfellow wrote on January 13, 1857, in response to one he received from C.W. Doster, a Bethlehem resident and student at Yale, he admits he took information from a brief reference in a magazine article he saw, calling the Single Sisters nuns, and the rest was “figurative,” aka poetic license.

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