“To upset the conclusion that all crows are black, there is no need to seek demonstration that no crows are black; it is sufficient to produce one white crow; a single one is sufficient.”–William James
This statement was made in 1890 by William James, American philosopher and psychologist, who had helped found the American Society for Psychical Research. William James believed that Boston medium Mrs. Leonora Piper was his white crow, an authentic medium capable of demonstrating evidence of (life after death) survival through her clairvoyant ability.
She was born Leonora Evelina Simonds, reportedly in Nashua New Hampshire on 27 June 1859 [although most biographies state she was born in 1857], the daughter of Stillman & Hannah (Stevens) Simonds. On 6 Oct 1881, at the age of 22, she married in Haverhill MA to William R. Piper, son of James M. & Minerva Piper. He was a manufacturer, born in Toledo, Ohio. They had two daughters, Alta and Minerva. Leonora (Simonds) Piper died 3 July 1950.
There is an often repeated story about how her “psychic” talents were known to her at an early age. She was “discovered” in 1885 by William James. Mrs. Piper’s trance speech and writing were studied extensively between 1885 to 1911 by James and other members of the American and British Societies for Psychical Research. She became for William James his ‘white crow’, when he became convinced of the paranormal origin of some of her trance utterances. In 1929 her daughter Alta, wrote a book about her called, The Life and Work of Mrs. Piper.
Web sites regarding this interesting woman can be found as follows (to name just a few)
Even if you think all of this clairvoyance stuff is baloney, the quote is cool!
Interestingly, I have been unable to locate Lenore in the early census records in Nashua, or otherwise, prior to her marriage to William Piper.
U.S. CENSUS RECORDS
1860 United States Federal Census > Nebraska Territory > Washington > Fort Calhoun
Jas M. Piper 32 M Merchant 1500 100 MA
Minerva Piper 30 F 1000 NY
W.R. Piper 5 M Ohio
U.S. Census > 1900 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Middlesex > Arlington > District 657
Piper, James M. Head W M Jan 1833 67 married 30 yrs NH MA NH merchant, books
Piper, Minerva wife W F Feb 1834 66 married 30 yrs 1 ch 1 living NY CT CT
Piper, William son W M May 1857 43 married 15 yrs Ohio NH NY
Piper, Leonora A. d-in-law W F June 1860 40 married 15 yrs 2 ch 2 living NH NH NH clairvoyant
Piper, Alta L. granddau W F May 1884 16 single MA Ohio NH
Piper, Minerva S. granddau W F Oct 1885 14 single MA Ohio NH
Chander, Ellen, servant W F May 1880 20 single Sweden Sweden Sweden
1920 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Suffolk > Boston Ward 25 > District 588
Piper, Leonora Head F W58 Widowed MA Canada-Eng England
Piper, Minerva dau F W 34 single MA Ohio MA
Piper, Alta dau F W 35 single MA Ohio MA
1930 United States Federal Census > Massachusetts > Norfolk > Brookline > District 19
Piper, Leonora E Head F W 70 widow NH MA NH
Piper, Minerva M. dau F W 44 single MA Ohio NH vocal teacher
Social Security Death Index Record
Name: Minerva Piper
Last Residence: 02107 Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States of America
Born: 7 Oct 1885
Died: Feb 1972 [22 Feb 1972, Boston MA]
State (Year) SSN issued: Massachusetts (1963 )