Chapter Eight
Women of Protestant & Pentecostal Christianity

© Copyright 1991, 2017 by Timothy Conway, Ph.D.

Along with the split between the charismatic church and the episcopal church in the earliest centuries of Christianity, and the splits between the Roman Church in the West and the Orthodox Churches in the East during the first millennium of Christianity, the division created in the West by the 16th century Protestant Reformation has been the most significant polarization thus far within Christianity.  (Christianity has in fact been subject to all manner of diverse interpretations and schisms since its inception; currently there are almost 21,000 denominations of Christianity!) The many Protestant reform movements—which, as Professor Sydney Ahlstrom says, “may with small injustice be grouped under the traditional headings: Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, and Radical”—continued the potent criticisms previously leveled against the Roman Church by the much-persecuted John Wycliffe (d. 1384), the “proto-Protestant martyr” John Huss (d. 1415), and many other concerned individuals and groups of earlier centuries.  But by the time of the Protestant Reformation the medium of printing vastly helped to “spread the word,” mobilize larger numbers of people, and effect substantial change.  The Reformation can be said to have officially begun October 31, 1517 at a church in Wittenberg, Germany, with the posting (and subsequent printing) of the “95 Theses” against the Roman church’s abuse of “indulgences” by that religious genius, Martin Luther (1483-1546), a devout, insightful Catholic priest.  Over succeeding years, Luther outlined his form of Christianity, which was actually still very conservative, rooted in the views of St. Augustine and other Church Fathers.  Luther posited the primacy of God’s Grace-full love, faith, and Scripture (available to all souls) over the efficacy of human effort, the authority of the ecclesiastical structures of the Church, and the intercessory power of saints and indulgences.  For Luther, as for all true holy mystics, what was most important is a complete ego-death, an undoing of the “old self” and a new birth in Christ and in the mystery of the Cross.

The many Protestant reform movements—which, as Professor Sydney Ahlstrom says, “may with small injustice be grouped under the traditional headings: Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, and Radical”—continued the potent criticisms previously leveled against the Roman Church by the much-persecuted John Wycliffe (d. 1384), the “proto-Protestant martyr” John Huss (d. 1415), and many other concerned individuals and groups of earlier centuries.  But by the time of the Protestant Reformation the medium of printing vastly helped to “spread the word,” mobilize larger numbers of people, and effect substantial change. 

The Reformation can be said to have officially begun October 31, 1517 at a church in Wittenberg, Germany, with the posting (and subsequent printing) of the “95 Theses” against the Roman church’s abuse of “indulgences” by that religious genius, Martin Luther (1483-1546), a devout, insightful Catholic priest.  Over succeeding years, Luther outlined his form of Christianity, which was actually still very conservative, rooted in the views of St. Augustine and other Church Fathers.  Luther posited the primacy of God’s Grace-ful love, faith, and Scripture (available to all souls) over the efficacy of human effort, the authority of the ecclesiastical structures of the Church, and the intercessory power of saints and indulgences.  For Luther, as for all true holy mystics, what was most important is a complete ego-death, an undoing of the “old self” and a new birth in Christ and in the mystery of the Cross.

The “Lutheran Reformation”—which in the 1530s found an echo in the similarly conservative Anglican Church movement of King Henry VIII (d. 1547) in England—would quickly be followed by more “radical” theorists and their reforms designed to sweep away even more accretions and return to the Christian church of the earliest period.  These more radical reformers included 1) Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) in Zurich, John Calvin (1509-64) in Geneva, and John Knox (c.1513-72) in Scotland, all of whose ideas gave rise to the Reformed tradition (this would subsequently come to influence the Anglican Church); and 2) the truly “radical,” “left-wing” Anabaptist composite movement (heir to the spirit of the Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites in prior centuries) which spawned the Swiss Brethren, Hutterites and Mennonites.  Other developments and/or splits, such as the Puritan, Quaker, Baptist, and Wesleyan (Methodist) movements in England would follow in the next two centuries.  All the mainstream Protestant denominations would eventually deposit themselves (and blossom) on American soil, where there now flourishes a rich pluralism of Protestant traditions, both mainstream and non-mainstream—as well as many other traditions (Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim/Sūfī, Amerindian, “new religions,” etc.), as we have learned in these pages.


The various denominations of mainstream Protestant Christianity, whose members now collectively total some 400 million people worldwide (the Evangelical Lutheran denomination leads with about 75 million members, followed by some 60 million Baptists) have, up until the last 100 years or so, seen very little influence of women.  All the leaders of the early major Protestant movements, both in Europe and America, were male.  And, as Rev. Elsie Culver remarks, “neither Luther nor Calvin [nor Zwingli, Knox, et al] set an example of making women feel needed and wanted in the new Protestant faith,” given as they were to casually accepting the prevailing cultural patterns of keeping women in submission.  In fact, as in a few of the other religious traditions, Protestantism sometimes involved a severe denigration of women, such as in the form of Martin Luther’s unfortunate statement that women cannot be priests of Christ, for they are “priests of Satan.”  Luther, Calvin and other reformers all regarded woman as best suited for the role of subservient wife, to alleviate man’s sexual “hunger.”  A certain double-standard regarding women was operating in the minds of male Protestant leaders:  though noblewomen, like female “commoners,” were publicly told to be “chaste, silent, and obedient,” Luther and other leading reformers, especially Calvin, were highly solicitous in trying to win over “ladies in high places,” since wealthy women had the power to set up endowments for pastors and teachers, and provide scholarships for students at Protestant universities.  Nevertheless, if a woman tried to comment publicly on theology, she was open to being criticized, such as Argula von Grumbach, who was variously ignored and ridiculed for trying to articulate her views. [1] 


In discussing further the situation of Protestant women, Dr. Rosemary Radford-Ruether explains:

“The mainstream Reformation abolished celibacy and Christian monasticism, which had been the mainstay of an independent female vocation in the early and medieval Church.  But it did not substitute a new inclusion of women in the Protestant married clergy.  Instead the Reformers adopted the patriarchal reading of the Pauline tradition, which enjoined silence and submission on women as their vocation.” [2]

In an earlier section, we have heard Merry Wiesner articulate the plight of Catholic women religious in the wake of the Protestant Reformation and the subsequent Catholic Counter-Reformation, especially the nuns who were turned out of convents and not allowed to become leaders in the new Protestant churches.  Here we would quote again from her very illuminating article about the plight of women under the new Protestant policies in Germany:

“The Protestant exhortation to marry was directed to both sexes, but particularly to women, for whom marriage and motherhood were a vocation as well as a living arrangement.  Marriage was a woman’s highest calling, the way she could fulfill God’s will: in Luther’s harsh words, ‘Let them bear children to death; they are created for that.’  Unmarried women were suspect, both because they were fighting their natural sex drive, which everyone in the sixteenth century believed to be much stronger than men’s, and because they were upsetting the divinely imposed order, which made women subject to man. Even a woman as prominent and respected as Margaretha Blarer, the sister of Ambrosius Blarer, a reformer in Constance, was criticized for her decision to remain unmarried.  Martin Bucer [of Strassburg] accused her of being ‘masterless,’ to which she answered, ‘Those who have Christ for a master are not masterless.’  Her brother defended her decision by pointing out that she was very close to his family and took care of the poor and plague victims ‘as a mother.’ ...

      “Every Protestant territory passed a marriage ordinance that stressed wifely obedience and proper Christian virtues... Religious processions, such as Corpus Christi parades, which had included both men and women, and in which even a city’s prostitutes took part, were prohibited. ... Women’s participation in rituals such as funerals was limited... Lay female confraternities, which had provided emotional and economic assistance for their members and charity for the needy, were also forbidden, and no similar all-female groups replaced them. ...

      “The Protestant reformers attempted to do away with the veneration of Mary and the saints. ... For women, the loss of St. Anne, Mary’s mother, was particularly hard, for she was a patron saint of pregnant women; now they were instructed to pray during labor and childbirth to Christ, a celibate male, rather than to a woman who had also been a mother. ... The Protestant Reformation not only downplayed women’s public ceremonial role; it also stripped the calendar of celebrations honoring women and ended the power female saints and their relics were believed to have over people’s lives.  Women who remained Catholic still had female saints to pray to, but the number of new female saints during the Counter Reformation was far fewer than the number of new male saints, for two important avenues to sanctity, missionary and pastoral work, were closed to women. ...

      “A woman who backed the ‘wrong’ religion [from the Lutheran point of view, this would be either Catholicism or Anabaptism] was never as harshly criticized as a man; this was seen as simply evidence of her irrational and weak nature.  One who supported the ‘right’ religion too vigorously and vocally, however, might be censured by her male compatriots for ‘too much enthusiasm’ and overstepping the bounds of proper female decorum. ...

      “Because of the importance Protestant reformers placed on Bible-reading in the vernacular, many of them advocated opening schools for  girls as well as boys.  The number of such schools which opened was far fewer than the reformers had originally hoped... Religious instruction was often limited to memorizing the catechism....

      “Swept up by the enthusiasm of the first years of the Reformation, single and married women often stepped beyond what were considered acceptable roles for women.  Taking literally Luther’s idea of a priesthood of all believers, women as well as uneducated men began to preach and challenge religious authorities.  In 1524 in Nuremburg, the city council took action against a certain Frau Voglin, who had set herself up in the hospital church and was preaching. ... Several women in Zwickau, inspired by the preaching of Thomas Müntzer, also began to preach in 1521. 

      “All of these actions were viewed with alarm by civic authorities, who even objected to women’s getting together to discuss religion.... In 1529, the Zwickau city council banished several of the women who had gathered together and preached.  In the same year, the Memmingen city council forbade maids to discuss religion while drawing water at neighborhood wells.  No German government forbade women outright to read the Bible, as Henry VIII of England did in 1543, but the authorities did attempt to prevent them from discussing it publicly. ...

      “After 1530, women’s public witnessing of faith was more likely to be prophesying than preaching.  In many ways, female prophets were much less threatening than female preachers, for the former had biblical parallels, clear biblical justification, and no permanent official function. ... [These female prophets, who were not rejected in many or most cases, and who were usually taken no less seriously than their male counterparts, tended to be radical Anabaptists, but some were Lutheran as well.] ...

      “The most dramatic public affirmation of faith a woman could make was martyrdom.  Most of the female martyrs in Germany were Anabaptists...A good indication of the high degree of religious understanding among many Anabaptist women comes from their interrogations.  They could easily discuss the nature of Christ, the doctrine of the Real Presence [in the sacramental bread], and baptism, quoting extensively from the Bible.  [However, it is the view of most historians that male Anabaptists did not grant their women any greater role than was available elsewhere in the 16th century.] ...

      “Many married women ... carried out what might best be called domestic missionary activity, praying and reciting the catechism with their children and servants.  Those who were literate might read some vernacular religious literature [out loud to their households]. ... [However,] the role of women as domestic missionaries was recognized more clearly by Catholics and English Protestants than it was by continental Protestants, who were obsessed with wifely obedience....

      “Although most of the women who published religious works during the Reformation were either nuns or noblewomen, a few middle-class women wrote hymns, religious poetry, and some polemics. ... Female hymn-writing became even more common in the seventeenth century...

       “Seventeenth-century women often wrote religious poems, hymns, and prose meditations for private purposes as well as for publication. ... If a woman’s works were published while she was still alive, they included profuse apologies about her unworthiness and presumption. Many such works were published posthumously by husbands or fathers and include a note from these men that writing never distracted the author from her domestic tasks [her “proper” role] but was done only in her spare time.  Unfortunately, similar works by sixteenth-century women are rare. ...

      “There are several spectacular examples among noble families of women whose quiet pressure eventually led to their husbands’ conversions and certainly many among common people that are not recorded.  But what about a married woman whose efforts failed?  What could a woman do whose religious convictions differed from those of her husband?  In some areas, the couple simply lived together as adherents of different religions. ... As a final resort, a married woman could leave her husband (and perhaps family) and move to an area where the religion agreed with her own.  This was extremely difficult for women who were not wealthy, and most of the recorded cases involve noblewomen ... Even if a woman might gather enough resources to support herself, she was not always welcome, despite the strength of her religious convictions, for she had violated that most basic of norms, wifely obedience [—this is a classical ‘double-bind’ situation: damned if you do, damned if you don’t]....

      “It was somewhat easier for unmarried women and widows to leave a territory for religious reasons ... But women still had greater difficulties than men being accepted as residents in any city. ... Because innkeepers were forbidden to take in any woman traveling alone, no matter what her age or class, women’s cities of refuge were often limited to those in which they had relatives....

      “[Certain] female occupations ... were directly affected by  changes in religious practices.  [For example,] the demand for votive candles, which were often made and sold by women, dropped dramatically, and these women were forced to find other means of support....

       “Charitable institutions were secularized and centralized. ... The women who worked in ... [the] hospitals as cooks, nurses, maids, and cleaning women now became city, rather than church, employees.  Outwardly, their conditions of employment changed little, but the Protestant deemphasis on good works may have changed their conception of the value of their work, particularly given their minimal salaries and abysmal working conditions. ... [Many nuns who became pastors’ wives] were still likened to priests’ concubines in the public mind and had to create a respectable role for themselves.  They were often living demonstrations of their husbands’ convictions and were expected to be models of wifely obedience and Christian charity. ...

      “Pastors’ wives opened up their homes to students and refugees, providing them with food, shelter, and medical care.  This meant buying provisions, brewing beer, hiring servants, growing fruits and vegetables, and gathering herbs for a household that could expand overnight from ten to eighty. ... The demands on pastor’s wives were often exacerbated by their husbands’ lack of concern for material matters.  Often former priests or monks, these men had never before worried about an income and continued to leave such things in God’s (or actually their wives’) hands.” [3]


This was the situation in Germany.  What about in the Nordic/Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland, countries which became “more thoroughly Lutheran than Germany itself”?  Grethe Jacobsen paints pictures of the pre- and post-Reformation situations with words which also deserve to be quoted at length: 

    “The [pre-Reformation] Nordic church [like the church in other regions] as an ecclesiastical institution was by the late Middle Ages a man’s world headed by a few learned and quite a number of not so learned men.  Women ... had no active and recognized role in the institutional church. ...         

      “Women had more of a role in the monastic movement but, as elsewhere in Europe, they were disadvantaged in relation to men.  The convents were fewer and poorer than the monasteries and the few extant sources tell little if anything of the intellectual activity of the convents, apart from the Birgittine motherhouse in Vadstena, where the first printing press in Sweden was installed. ...

      “Of popular religion we are better informed. ... The saints, legends, and the holy sites of medieval Christianity were well known to the Nordic population.  ... The images of Anne, Mary, and the Christ Child must have looked like a female version of the Trinity to the women and men who could feast their eyes on the paintings during Mass.  Together with the pictures of the female saints they stressed the female element in the religion. ...     

      “Confraternities provided another outlet for women’s religious needs.  They were especially important for those women who were not born or married into the craft and merchants’ guilds of the city, who thus could not become members of these guilds as could eligible journeymen.  Most of the confraternities were restricted to a specific social group, but one, the Saint Lucius guild in the diocesan town of Roskilde, had members drawn from all layers (except the very bottom) of society, from the bishop of Roskilde to female servants. ... It is clear from extant sources that the popular [pre-Reformation] religion of the late Middle Ages [thus] offered women several opportunities to express their piety and find female models in the divine hierarchy....

      “The institutional Reformation in the Nordic countries was begun shortly after 1520, had largely succeeded by 1536, and was completed in 1550 with the establishment of the Lutheran church in Iceland.  The popular Reformation took much longer.  Catholic rites and beliefs continued to exist, albeit underground, for several centuries.  The institutional Reformation was carried out by men, who all belonged to the elite. ... The church they established was for both sexes, but because women had no say in the shaping of the new church, it was men that determined proper religious behavior....

      “There were to be no opportunities for women to introduce a female element into the new religion or to express religious feelings on their own premises.  After the Reformation, women could express religious feelings but only according to rules determined by men (attending services, singing authorized hymns).  The Nordic Reformation caused a change in the relationship between the sexes which left the female sex at a disadvantage in one of the most important areas of contemporary life:  religion.

      “Although marriage to a Protestant minister offered an opportunity for women, primarily of the bourgeois class, to be a part of the church, their role was that of caring for the ministers and bringing up future generations of ministers and ministers’ wives. ... Peder Palladius ... argues that bright boys should be put in school to become ministers whereas girls (and slow boys) should be taught the basic tenets of the faith....

      “Thus, by the Reformation women gained a visible and socially acceptable role in the institutional church.  The new role was, however, an extension of the domestic aspect of their role in society at large.  They were not given a voice in the affairs of the church or in the discussions of the faith.  That remained a male perogative.  In the long run, this visibility and the emphasis on the domestic role of the minister’s wife as a model for other women may have helped undermine the acceptability of women’s public role and work outside the family. ... Within marriage the superiority of the husband was stressed, perhaps more so than before. ...

      “Opportunities for single women to lead a spiritual life disappeared with the Reformation.  Convents could no longer accept new members, although the current population of nuns was allowed to remain in the convent if they so chose. ...

      “The mendicant orders [Franciscans and Dominicans] were violently expelled during the Reformation. [Thus, it became impossible for women to undertake the tertiary vocation which a number of women were able to adopt in Catholic countries]. ...

      “For single women leading a secular life outside the household, life also became difficult.  During the late Middle Ages urban society had offered a wide range of opportunities for women to make a living... [Now,] “self-supporting maidens” [were directed] either to become domestic servants or be banished from town.  Widows were allowed greater freedom [but they too became] restricted to marginal trades and crafts, which in turn had the effect of making them operate on the edge of the law in order to survive. ... [Thus,] the new religion ... made women invisible except when in the role of wife. ... The female elements in religion were eliminated, as can be seen in the post-Reformation wall paintings.  They depict Old Testament motives, primarily the (male) prophets, stress the maleness of Christ, and reduced Mary to a small person at the edge of the painting whose only role is to give birth to Christ....

      “[Yet] in spite of the hard work of the reformers, old rites and beliefs hung on.  The medieval paintings, for example, were not covered for a century after their work; thus, women still saw images in the churches showing powerful female divine characters.  In one peculiarly female aspect of their lives, during childbirth, a cult of the Virgin and the female saints [such as St. Margaret, patron of women in labor] was kept alive, albeit hidden from the clergy.  Ironically, the increasing gap between public and private, along with the domestication of women, also meant that women could retain whatever they needed of the medieval religious culture in their private world.” [4]


Jacobsen also notes that charity work in the countryside tended to still be the responsibility of women, but no names have come to us of the exceptional women functioning in this area.


In Holland, the Reformed church (based mainly on John Calvin’s views, with some softening in certain circles by Jacobus Arminius’ thinking) eventually became dominant in the northern provinces; as in the Lutheran countries, women enjoyed no empowerment at the institutional level of the Reformed Church, and the model of women (and men) saints was obviated.  However, as Sherrin Marshall has observed, because of a tradition of family harmony among the Netherlanders, there seems to have been in Dutch writings more emphasis than in the Lutheran countries upon the reciprocal partnership between husband and wife and less stress upon the idea of the man being the authoritarian ruler over the submissive wife.  The fervent and diverse, uneven Anabaptist movement which flourished in Holland (and elsewhere), characterized by a simple, unsophisticated ideology, drew many women adherents (for women, despite the spread of printing of books, were not nearly as well educated as men in those days, and most women could not read); many courageous women martyrs are to be found among the Dutch Anabaptists.  The Anabaptists were trying to take the Protestant reform to much greater depths and breadths, returning to the kind of primitive church of the New Testament times, with much more zeal for change and disregard for secular states.  Yet Wiesner has commented on the status of women in this and other extremely radical Protestant groups: 

“Wives received a particularly ambiguous message from the radical reformers... Some radical groups [e.g., the Anabaptists] allowed believers to leave their unbelieving spouses, but women who did so were expected to remarry quickly and thus come under the control of a male believer. ... In practical terms, Anabaptist women were equal [to men] only in martyrdom.” [5]


The Huguenot Protestants in France (espousing mainly the Reformed Church ideas of John Calvin, et al) never had the political power to close down convents or take away the female saintly role models as happened to such an extent in Germany, Scandinavia, and Holland, but in their congregations which were intermittently allowed by ruling Catholics between times of terrible persecution, women’s role was certainly deemphasized, as in the northern countries.  The same lack of empowerment of women would hold true in other pockets of Europe where some form of Protestantism (Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian, Anglican, or radical/Anabaptist) took root, such as in England and regions of Moravia, Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.


Since Protestantism has followed Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, et al, in rejecting intermediaries or intercessors between God and humanity—even to the extent that the Catholic saints are of no help to us whatsoever—and upholds his idea that every Christian is a saint (for the Apostles’ Creed speaks of the Church as being the “communion of saints”), there is in the Protestant traditions very little singling out of individuals as especially “holy”—except for within the later Holiness, Pentecostal, and Anglican High Church movements).  There is certainly no special venerating of “saints” with a posthumous power of “intercession” in any of the Protestant traditions, unlike the Catholic and Orthodox traditions (and the Hindu, Sūfī, Taoist, and some Buddhist traditions), though the Anglicans and Lutherans do commemorate saints’ feast-days on their calendar.  (The non-acknowledgement of saints’ helping power is a view which I critique in the endnotes.)  With this relative lack of valuing saintly persons, there tends to be within Protestantism little emphasis on role-modeling oneself after them.  Instead, a direct personal relationship with Jesus Christ, fashioned in one’s own way, is much preferred.  Thus, a Protestant girl grows up with few exemplary heroines who demonstrate what it means to be deeply devoted to God. [6]


Moreover, along with a widespread influence of the more radical formulation by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin of the old Pauline doctrine of “faith over works” (especially in Reformed, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, and most Baptist circles, wherein it is believed that one can do nothing to earn salvation and that one is necessarily fated to being an evil creature in this world—a view, incidentally, remarkably similar to Shinran’s Jōdō Shinshu Buddhism), Protestantism, with only a few exceptions, does not tend to promote the kind of deeply contemplative and/or mystic life of “purification, illumination, and union” such as has been articulated by Evelyn Underhill and others as the crux of authentic spiritual life.  (The endeavor to become “sanctified” within Methodist, Holiness, Pentecostal and certain other circles, and the contemplative orientation of Jacob Boehme and his followers, are the major exceptions to this pattern).  Deep levels of contemplative prayer and union with God are just not emphasized in most Protestant circles.  This lack of emphasis on contemplative or mystical depth, and the absence of “heroinic,” saintly female role-models, combine to create a situation in most mainstream Protestant denominations wherein it is rather difficult to find conspicuous cases of “the holy female”—or the “holy male” for that matter.  The type of saintly contemplative, wonderworker or wise spiritual director found so often in the mystical Catholic, Orthodox, Hindu, Buddhist, Sūfī, and Hasidic traditions is a rarity in Protestant traditions.  As we shall see, it is usually only in the Holiness, Pentecostal, and certain non-mainstream circles (especially the black churches) that women akin to these types of spiritual figures can be found within Protestantism. 


Those Protestant women and men who do come into the limelight are mainly 1) the early martyrs, and/or the brave Protestant supporters and missionaries, 2) visionary founders of new denominations (for women, these have been non-mainstream denominations), 3) extremely vital, eloquent, or rousing preachers or authors (and note that women were not even allowed to preach in most Protestant circles until the mid- and late-1800s), 4) ardent social justice/welfare workers; or 5) the first women to be ordained into the ministry or episcopacy of their denomination.  Admittedly, many of the women who belong to these categories have gained recognition for their genuine effulgence of Christian virtues and love of God and neighbor.  Some came to notice because they were in the right place at the right time and/or possessed a tremendous charisma or determination or intelligence (not necessarily accompanied by the kind of “enlightenment” factors such as outlined in the Introduction to this book and found in the lives of women in Catholic, Hindu, and other traditions).  In the case of the first female ministers, who will be mentioned later herein, sometimes it is merely “political timeliness” due to shortage of male priests, male guilt, and/or massive feminist pressure which have motivated male bishops or elders to start ordaining these women, though of course many of these ladies are indeed quite devout, even “saintly” women.


Such comments aside, let us here survey the influential women of both the mainstream Protestant churches and the non-mainstream Protestant denominations (i.e., Holiness, Pentecostal, and neo-Pentecostal traditions), realizing that each in their own way have had a deep love for God, especially in the person of Jesus Christ, and that this has been the source of empowerment for their lives and work.  We will try to proceed chronologically in the first part of this section, later proceeding more by topic, such as women of the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, women with potent healing ministries, black women, women missionaries, women theologians, women ministers, Anglican and other Protestant women religious (nuns), and women authors of religious works. [7]    


We start with Katharina von Bohra-Luther (1499-1552):  forced into a Cistercian convent by her father when she was a girl, she later fled with eleven other nuns to join Martin Luther’s new movement.  She eventually wed Luther in 1525, eight years after he founded his movement of “Evangelicals,” and encouraged and supported his campaign until his death, while caring for their five children.  We have learned how important it was for the wives of Protestant leaders and ministers to financially support their households; Katherine von Bora Luther was no exception:  she purchased and ran an orchard, so as to raise funds for the household.  She also “occasionally took part in the theological discussions that went on after dinner in the Luther household and was teased by her husband for her intellectual interests; he called her “Professor Kate.” 


Mention has already been made of Margaretha Blarer as the wife of an early Protestant reformer and a woman of great piety who deeply cared for the poor.  Katharine Schutz Zell (1497-1562) was another German Lutheran woman of exemplary charity, visiting the sick and imprisoned, giving shelter to Protestant refugees (especially the Anabaptists, who were hated as much by Reformed and Lutheran Protestants as by Catholic authorities), and writing letters of spiritual edification, especially for women (she also compiled a small religious songbook).  Married to Matthaus Zell, first Protestant preacher of Strassburg and ardent follower of Zwingli, Katharine outlived her husband by 14 years, carrying on the work.  Ursula of Münsterberg‚ was a noblewoman-nun who left the convent to join the Reformation and stirred up a good amount of commotion among her family-members and community for writing an articulate justification of why she left.  Elisabeth of Brandenburg was exiled for her adherence to the new faith, and her daughter, also named Elisabeth, became a Lutheran while respecting the Catholic faith of her husband, the duke of Brunswick-Calenburg; after his death, she became regent and brought the Reformation to Brunswick. 


In France, where the Reformation never took hold with any great numbers (because of tremendous persecution—e.g., the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, wherein some 20,000-50,000 French Protestants/Huguenots, were slaughtered), Margaret de Valois, Queen of Navarre (1492-1549) was a devout Protestant mystic, a brilliant woman who wrote considerable prose and poetry, and edified her courts at Nerac and Pau, in the southwest.  Anne de Bourg (d. 1559) was an eminent Huguenot martyr.  Speaking of France, we also find Margaret of Angoulême, sister of King Francis I (d. 1547), at the center of a humanistic group at Meaux, which, though never breaking from the Roman church, created great interest in reform, and helped inspire some of the later French Reformation leaders. 


In the Nordic countries, we have...

“very few references to women directly participating in reform activities.  The wealthy Norwegian noblewoman Inger of Austrat [widow of a large landowner] played an important political role during the tumultuous years between 1532 and 1537 ... Her household was already in 1529 rumored to have introduced Lutheran customs, such as the singing of psalms.  Inger and [son-in-law] Vincent [Lunge] led the opposition to the Norwegian archbishop, whose fight for the old church... eventually cost the lives both of Vincent Lunge and another of Lady Inger’s sons-in-laws.” [8]


Over in Hungary, a person most sympathetic to the Protestant cause was Mary of Austria (1505-58), wife of King Louis II: “briefly queen of Hungary, and, for most of her life, regent of the Netherlands, [Mary was] ... a strong-willed, forceful, cultured, and learned woman. ... Loved by many, she was, in the eyes of her enemies, the “hated importer of ‘foreign ways.’  She was regarded as the patron of the pestiferous ‘German heresy’ infecting the court and spreading through the land...”

Mary manifested great piety in the wake of the Mohacs disaster in 1526 in which the Turks slew her husband, many nobles and soldiers—the greatest disaster in the history of Hungary.  She left for the Netherlands sometime around 1530 and we have no record as to her remaining life.  In the minds of some, she was the “patron of the early Reformation in Hungary.”  She was one of those noblewomen received works by Luther, though ultimately she was not drawn to his cause.  More importantly, she was unwilling to repudiate those in her courtly circle who were supporting Luther and other reformers. [9] 


Isabella Jagellion (1519-59), the Polish wife of John Zapolya, like Mary, “remained nominally a Roman Catholic for her entire life.  At the same time, she criticized abuses in the established church, maintained an independence in her religious views and practices, allowed advocates of ecclesiastical reform to hold positions in her court and on her lands, eventually extended extensive liberties to the Protestants in Transylvania ... [After Mary left for Flanders, Isabella, first queen and later queen regent, became the single most influential woman in Hungary.]  She ... exercised the formal episcopal right of confirming clerics in their position.  In 1558 she sanctioned the election of Matthias Hebler as bishop of the Saxon Lutherans, granting him the extensive privileges and legal jurisdiction formerly held by the Roman clergy. ... [In 1557, she posited an edict which decreed that] each person maintain whatever religious faith he wishes, with old or new rituals, while We at the same time leave it to their judgement to do as they please in the matter of their faith, so long, however, as they bring no harm to bear on anyone at all, lest the followers of a new religion be a source of irritation to the old profession of faith or became, in some way, injurious to their followers.”  [10]


Effectively, this limited toleration to the Lutherans and the old religion; Anabaptists and other radicals would not be tolerated. 

Sometime before Luther’s reforms reached Spain, Isabel de la Cruz of Guadalajara was the teacher of the influential heretical sect known as the alumbrados, or “illuminati,” which taught the revolutionary cry of “Scripture alone,” a notion that was sweeping through the anti-clerical circles of Europe.  Soon Isabel developed a doctrine that there should be nothing whatsoever between men and God, not even the Bible or the humanity of Christ.  Isabel and Pedro Ruiz de Alcaraz, her most important disciple and collaborator, formed conventicles in the provinces of Guadalajara and Toledo where they taught the practice of “mental prayer” (cf. vocal prayer) and their new doctrine of abandonment of one’s will to God through “pure love” to various friars, clerics, and laity (speaking of the laity, Isabel and Pedro taught a novel idea for those times that the sexual act can bring one “as close to God as if [one] were in prayer”).  They rejected scholars, attacked ostentatious church ceremonies, and the supernatural excesses of the pseudomystics rampant during that time.  In 1524, with Luther’s movement having become salient in the north, and fearsome to many members of the Catholic hierarchy, Isabel and Pedro were arrested by the Inquisition, tried, and in 1529 flogged through the streets; their movement was crushed.  María de Cazalla, also from Guadalajara, was a married woman, mother of several children, with no formal education but well-read, and quite inspired by the ideas of that leading humanist thinker, Erasmus.  Influenced by Isabel’s and Pedro’s alumbrados movement, María developed her own doctrine, which included the idea that marriage is more meritorious than virginity, and the alumbrados’ idea that one must love God unconditionally, without self-interest or seeking for one’s own spiritual good.  María preached and explained the New Testament to a circle of disciples, and advising clerics and country women on spiritual matters.  She was finally arrested by the Inquisition in 1532 and kept at a secret prison for two years; she endured many tortures, without confessing or admitting any wrongdoing, and showed tremendous courage which impressed a number of men at her trials. 


The “Lutheran outbreak” at Valladolid, Spain, evidently involved a number of women, though nothing is really known about them; Leonorthe Vibero, the mother of six of those convicted at the subsequent trials by the Inquisition, was probably a leading figure; and her daughter Beatriz‚ was also quite active in this movement which never really amounted to much.


Up in the British isles, Anne Askew (1521?-46) emerges in England as a courageous Protestant martyr noted for her learned, steadfast character.  Anne had left her Catholic husband because of her growing Protestant affiliations and come to London.  Arrested twice and examined for her views, the second time she was tortured on the rack and burned for heresy.  Anne Boleyn (d. 1539), wife of Henry VIII, deserves a nod here as the one who persuaded her husband to inaugurate the first “official” translation of the Bible into the English language (several “unofficial” translations had already been made, such as one by Wycliffe back in 1380 and a fine version in 1535); of course, later Anne was beheaded by Henry for her “infidelity.”  Joan Bocher (d. 1550), an Anabaptist martyred in England at the hands of the Privy Council under the Protestant reign of Edward VI (Henry VIII’s son), became subject to persecution for her radical view that Christ was wholly divine, not human—his body was a phantom one which made its appearance in the realm of mortals.


Betkyn (d. 1563) was a Dutch maidservant in the house of Peter Van Kulen, one of the elders of the Reformed Church that was so influential in Holland; he was hosting a regular meeting of that not-yet-accepted church, and Betkyn was an active member of the group.  Betkyn followed Peter as a Reformed Church martyr, impressing the crowds and some of the Roman Church commissioners with her obvious sanctity and her equanimity in facing the flames.  Lysken Dirks (16th century) became a martyr of the much-persecuted Anabaptist radical reform movement which was also salient in the Netherlands.  She was an effective witness to this gospel-type Christianity even from her prison cell and was secretly drowned by her captors to avoid rousing the people who loved her.  Another Anabaptist, whose place and date are unknown to us, was a woman simply known as Claesken:  of her, it is said that she was especially judged harshly for being able to read and having converted many people. 


Rev. James Anderson’s long-out-of-print work, Ladies of the Reformation (Edinburgh, 1855), drawing especially on the famous martyrologies of Jean Crespin in France, John Foxe in England, and Thielemann van Braght in Holland, has told the tales of some of our leading Protestant women, as well as the story of the pre-Reformation Queen Anne of Bohemia (1367-94), wife of Richard II of England.  Anne was well-loved in Prague, England, and all over Europe for her beauty, goodness, and friendliness, and was an avid student of the Gospels (which she collected in various languages).  She was a friend and supporter of the English would-be reformer, the saintly preacher John Wycliffe (1320-84), whose ideas (with Anne’s help, disseminated to Bohemia and elsewhere) laid the groundwork for Luther’s Reformation.  Rev. Anderson, whose book is known to me only in second-hand form, has evidently also detailed something of the lives of other influential women of the Reformation 1) in England (e.g., Katherine Willoughby, Ann de Tserclas, Katharine Vermilia, Mildred Cook), 2) in Scotland (Katharine Hamilton, Helen Stark, Isabel Scrimger, Elizabeth Aske, Marjory Bowes, Elizabeth Campbell, Elizabeth Knox), and 3) in the Netherlands (Wendelmuta Klaas, Mrs. Robert Oguier, Elizabeth Vander Kerk, Charlotte de Bourbon, Louise de Colligny)—most of whom are completely forgotten today in the Protestant world. [11]     


A very useful work, the Europa Biographical Dictionary of British Women, yields profiles of many remarkable Protestant women of England and Scotland.  (One wishes a similar work on the notable Protestant women on the continent were available in English translation.  Sherrin Marshall’s recently edited collection of articles on women of the early Protestant world details only a very few names or life-sketches.)  Among these ladies of the British isles, we find ... Helen Stark (d. 1543), one of the earliest Scottish Protestant martyrs (drowned to death).  It would no doubt interest certain contemporary “anti-mariolatry” feminists that Helen was considered a heretic for denying Mother Mary as anyone with special qualities which would render her superior to other women.  A blind, illiterate Englishwoman, Joan Waste (1534?-56), bought a New Testament, had friends and strangers read it to her for a penny or two, and thus came to learn the scriptures, which became the basis for her preaching and attack of religious abuses.  Questioned by the Catholic authorities (again in power under the 5-year reign of Catholic Queen Mary Tudor), Joan referred to herself simply as a blind, poor, unlearned woman; yet she refused to recant her Protestant doctrines, and for this she was burnt at the stake in 1556.  Jane Wilkinson (d. 1557), a wealthy, devout supporter of the Protestant cause, bravely ministered to imprisoned preachers before finally being exiled by authorities of the same Tudor regime.  Anne Locke (flourished 1530-90), one of the many Protestant exiles to the continent (in her case, to Geneva), was the friend of Scottish reformer John Knox (1513-72), a former Catholic priest influenced by Calvin while on the mainland, and who would later help organize and lead the wing of the Reformed movement in Scotland known as Presbyterianism.  While Anne was in Geneva, she translated sermons of John Calvin, married Edward Dering (d. 1576), a prominent English Puritan divine in exile, and then, after his passing, wed Richard Prowac, living out her life as one of the more illustrious matrons of the Reformed Church.


During the Reform-influenced “Puritan century” in England (c.1558-1660), the great “second phase” of Protestantism in that country (called “the true English Reformation” in contrast to the earlier, more conservative “Tudor secession from Rome,” and marked by the highly influential 1643 Westminster Confession of faith), we find a highly respected woman—Lady Mary Vere (1581-1670).  After the death of her first husband, Lady Mary married Sir Horace Vere in 1607, the “leading English soldier” for the Protestant cause on the continent.  Lady Mary was the patron, friend, and even spiritual adviser and comforter to many eminent Puritan divines, as her correspondence reveals.  The “model of the Puritan matriarch,” a “godly lady,” she turned her home into a spiritual community, conducting myriad charitable works.  An earlier English patron of that pious English wing of Reformed Protestantism known as “Puritanism” was Catherine Killigrew (1530?-83), an ardent humanist.  Speaking of the Puritans, we should mention that in America, where they dominated New England religious affairs (sometimes rather viciously), no salient Puritan women are to be found, except for a few, such as Anne Hutchinson (profiled in the next chapter), who was not accepted by the narrow-minded Puritans because she held more radical views and dared to explicate the Gospel to assemblies of people meeting in her home.


Catherine Chidley (1590?-1667) and Janet Livingston (fl. 1674) were two women independently working hard to promote toleration and reduce a nasty authoritarianism which was running rampant among certain circles of the Presbyterian movement in England and Scotland (the Presbyterian church would later come to be dominant in Scotland, Puritanism in England).  Margaret Wilson (1667-85?) was a radical Presbyterian of the Cameronian group (yet her parents were staunch Anglicans); she would not recant at the behest of the authorities.  Her father wrangled to get her a reprieve from being drowned, though the subsequent fate of Margaret and her colleague, Margaret McLauchlan, is unknown—they may have been drowned after all.      


Jane Lead (1623/4-1704), a Norfolk wife and mother, was greatly influenced by the sublime writings of that saintly Lutheran shoemaker—the contemplative, panentheistic nature-mystic and psychic visionary (and alchemist?), Jacob Boehme (1575-1624).  Jane had some of her own writings discovered by a certain itinerant mystic, who encouraged her to publish.  Jane’s works, such as the 4-volume A Fountain of Gardens, and The Heavenly Cloud Now Breaking, have a marvelous ecumenical spirit inviting the reunion of all Christian souls along with Muslims and Jews.  These works gave rise to the formation of the Philadelphia Constitutions (first of which arose in Stepney), a movement which would be highly influential in Germany as well as in England.  Around this time, Anna Maria von Schurman, a leading member of the British “spiritual society,” called by some “the most learned and accomplished woman of her age,” came to Germany via Holland and cast her spiritual influence in that country.


Another popular female British religious writer was Susanna Hopton (1627-1709), author of Daily Devotions, Devotions in the Ancient Way, and A Collection of Meditations and Devotions.  A close friend of eminent mystic Thomas Traherne, at one point Susanna converted to Roman Catholicism but later returned to the Anglican Church, which had reasserted itself politically over Puritanism in England with a “normative,” episcopal/diocesan, liturgically-rich, anti-Calvinist (and anti-Catholic) stance. 


The left-wing Fifth Monarchist millenarian movement of 17th century England, prophesying subsequent times of glorious joy when Jesus would return again, featured several notable prophetesses—Mary Cary (fl. 1653) and Anna Trapnel (fl. 1642-60).  Anna became widely known in the area around Allhallows in 1654 when she experienced a remarkable ecstasy lasting twelve days, during which time she uttered many prophecies and millenarian visions.  She later went to Cornwall, where she became known as the “singing prophetess,” staunchly opposed to Cromwell’s government.  A spiritual autobiography, as well as books of her visions, were published by her friends.


Moving into England’s next century, we find some remarkable women were associated with John Wesley (1703-91), a charismatic, itinerant Anglican priest whose electric warmth, insightful preaching, and service work were inspired by Moravian Pietists and in turn inspired that Anglican reform movement of “sanctification” which would finally separate from the Church of England to become Methodism.  We should start with mention of Wesley’s mother, Susanah Annesley Wesley, twenty-fifth (!) child of a minister of the Church of the Dissenters in England, who went on to become a highly educated woman, studying Greek, Latin, French and theology. At age 13, Susanah left her father’s congregation and joined the Anglican church. Later she married an Anglican clergyman, and exerted a strong influence on the lives of her 19 children through her devoutness, her promotion of their education, and her insistence on their spending one hour a week in regular communion with God via prayer and conversation.  Susanah later came to dwell at the Foundry Preaching House, which her son John had established at Moorfields, site of his first great meeting where he preached to 5,000 people.  Here, at the headquarters of the Methodism movement, she would influence the movement with her own piety.  Hester Ann Roe Rogers was one of the first Methodist women to take the public role of leading prayer meetings throughout England.  Selina Hastings (1707-91), “Queen of the Methodists,” promoted and strongly supported the movement, opening Trevecca House in N. Wales as a Methodist seminary.  Barbara Ruckle Heck (1734-1804), “Mother of American Methodism,” was born in Ireland of German parents; she was converted to Methodism, following the lead of her cousin, Philip Embury, in 1752.  In 1760 she would marry Paul Heck and emigrate that year with him and her cousin to New York City.  A pious woman, “zealous for the spiritual welfare of family and neighbors,” Barbara launched and helped organize with her cousin the First Methodist Society in N.Y. in 1766/7.  In 1768 they opened the Wesley Chapel, which became a center of early Methodism in the U.S., and the headquarters for Boardman and Pilmoor, Wesley’s first appointed missionaries who arrived the next year.  In 1770 or 1771, Barbara and Paul and their family (which would by 1772 include five children) moved to the upper Hudson Valley, where they formed the first Methodist Society north of Manhattan, soon founding a church as well; and within a few years, they had moved further north to Canada (following the loyalist sympathies of their Palatine immigrant group), eventually settling in what is now known as Ontario, on the St. Lawrence River (near present-day Maynard), forming yet another Methodist Society amongst the locals.  Paul died most probably in 1795, and Barbara followed him nine years later, leaving behind their children to promote the cause of Methodism in Canada.  (The chapters of the “Methodist” movement would not be recognized by the Anglican bishops, and so became a separate denomination of Christianity, the Methodist Episcopal Church; by 1844 the Methodists had become the largest religious body in America, with over one million members, almost 4,000 itinerant preachers, and 7,730 local preachers.)  Hannah More (1745-1833), a highly intelligent, benevolent English author and moral reformer, set up Sunday schools but was accused of allowing “Methodist doctrine” in her classes.  Hannah is said to have become perhaps the most influential woman of her day, a crucial figure in the development toward that high moral and religious seriousness characteristic of Victorian England.


Somewhere in these pages mention must be made of the Great Awakening, that period of tremendous spiritual revival and democratic empowerment of the “sovereignty of the people” in the Colonies in the late 1730s and early 1740s.  This Great Awakening was ushered in by the Calvinist preaching of that “Grand Itinerant” and charismatic “phenomenon,” the Anglican minister George Whitefield (1714-70), whose speaking tours in 1739-1740 through the Colonies occasioned the most important religious (and social) revival in the history of the land, before or since.  (A novelty in that he was an itinerant unattached to any particular congregation, Whitefield was often preaching to open-air crowds of 10,000-20,000 or more; such assemblies were the precursor of the “camp meeting” and “tent revivals” which became so prominent among evangelical Protestants from the early 19th century on.)


At Whitefield’s death in 1770, it was a young black girl, Phillis Wheatley (1753?-84), who would become the most famous black poet in the 18th century, who penned the elegy which enjoyed the greatest circulation.  Whitefield’s revolutionary missionizing inaugurated a movement of popular oratory and defiance of the inflexible rules then in force concerning who could preach in public.  In his wake came other itinerants, predominantly male (such as the famous Jonathan Edwards [d. 1758] and the Tennent brothers), but also including a few women and even “girls,” as critics judged them, who dared to speak beyond their “place” and “station”—when only the established, tax-supported clergymen were considered divinely appointed to speak and lead prayers.  Of course these female preachers were not licensed to speak by any mainstream denominations except the Quakers (see next chapter)—this would not come until the 1790s, when the Freewill Baptists, evidently the only other mainstream group to do so besides the Quakers, allowed women such as Mary Savage (1791), Sally Parsons (1797) and Clarissa Danforth‚ (1800s) to preach the Gospel.  (Note that women preachers were still an anomaly well into the 1830s.) 


Back in England, Eliza Gould (1770-1810) deserves brief mention as a noble philanthropist and founder of Sunday schools for children.  Another Britisher, Sarah Martin (1791-1843), orphaned in early age, was apparently raised as an Anglican, but converted to evangelical Christianity in 1810 and began teaching Sunday School.  Sarah went on to become, along with the Quaker woman, Elizabeth Fry (see next section), the foremost prison visitor, leading prison congregations in Sunday services and raising money to instruct them in Jesus Christ’s ideals.  Ellen Henrietta Ranyard (1810-79), a nonsectarian Christian reformer, founded the Bible and Female Domestic Mission in the 1860s, organizing destitute women as evangelists, paying them to spread the word of God.  Ellen also trained many of forgotten, destitute women as itinerant nurses to go out and serve the sick poor.  Sarah Robinson (1834-?) was brought up in a strict Calvinist setting, but experienced a powerful conversion to Christ in her late teens; she went on to become another leading British Christian reformer, a fearless, determined advocate of temperance, and particularly concerned with reforming godless soldiers and prostitutes.  Annie Macpherson (1824?-1904), the “children’s home finder,” experienced deep conversion at age 19 and began to serve as an evangelist in Cambridgeshire and the London slums.  Later in life Annie became an esteemed philanthropist who, in addition to establishing various kinds of charitable missions, pioneered child emigration from the London tenements to residences in Canada (she sailed across the Atlantic some 120 times in carrying out this work).  Catherine Marsh (1818-1912), youngest daughter of an Anglican vicar at Colchester, was holding regular Sunday School classes at age eleven, and regularly spent her pocket money on the needy.  Her family having moved to Leamington in 1839, she began to seek out the working class poor who were constructing the railway there, distributing bibles to them and preaching to them.  Catherine’s English Hearts and English Hands (1858), an account of her mission to laborers, found a huge audience, inspiring many other Christians to begin philanthropic work.  Catherine labored hard her entire life, not only preaching, but also comforting and praying with the dying after the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in 1866, undertaking care of the many resulting orphan children (founding a home at Beckenham for them), establishing a productive convalescent home in Brighton, and writing over fifty works. 


Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) in 1851 finally renounced her “good life” as a respectable upper middle-class girl to follow her inner divine calling to become a nurse.  She trained with the Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth and then with some Catholic nuns in Paris before accepting the post of Superintendent in the Hospital for Gentlewomen in London.  A year later she and a band of nurses went to the front of the Crimean War, where Florence soon became “a legend” for her nursing care and her reforms of British army hospital administration; she later effected similar reforms with the Indian Army’s hospital program (and, in the process, became a real Indophile).  Her Nightingale School of Nurses opened at St. Thomas’s Hospital in England in 1860, and in short order highly trained nursing staffs and other nursing schools were to be found all over England and even in Australia, thus helping not only the afflicted, but also helping to establish nursing as a well-paid profession for women of all classes.


Eglantyne Jebb (1876-1928) studied history at Oxford, became an elementary school teacher, then quit due to ill health.  But she went on to found, with her sister Dorothy, the Save the Children Fund in 1919 and the Save the Children International Union the next year in Geneva, which daily fed hundreds of thousands of children throughout Europe, as well as providing health and educational facilities.  Tireless and dedicated, Eglantyne became a member of the League of Nation’s advisory council for the protection of children, which did much work to create infant welfare centers, children’s hospitals, and model villages.  Another British woman, Agnes Maude Royden (1876-1956) was the youngest daughter of the former mayor of Liverpool; educated at Cheltenham and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, she returned to do service work at Liverpool before becoming a member and frequent speaker for the National Union of Suffrage societies, beginning in 1908.  Agnes was becoming more and more spiritually inspired, but, feeling constrained by her Anglican Church, which would not allow women preachers, after she found satisfaction preaching from 1917 on at the invitation of a number of non-Anglican religious meetings (Baptist, Congregational), in 1920 she founded the interdenominational “Fellowship Services” in Kensington Town Hall, which later was housed at her new church, the Guildhouse.  Agnes traveled widely in the 1920s and 1930s, esteemed as one of the great preachers on both sides of the Atlantic.  A longtime pacifist, she was one of the organizers of the “Peace Army,” and devoted most of her time to this work in her last years. 


Two women stand out around the turn of the century in launching the deaconess movement in America, wherein women would consecrate themselves to working on behalf of church and society.  Elizabeth Fedde (1850-1921), who became a pioneer Lutheran deaconess in the States, was raised in the pietistic Haugean movement of the Lutheran Church in Norway.  In 1873 she entered the motherhouse of the new deaconess movement in Oslo.  After her training, Elizabeth worked for four years in northern Norway.  In 1882 she made the bold move to accept an invitation to come to New York.  Within days of her arrival, she organized in Brooklyn the Voluntary Relief Society for the Sick and Poor, which in 1892 would be renamed the Norwegian Lutheran Deaconesses’ Home and Hospital, today the Lutheran Medical Center.  Elizabeth began a deaconess home in Minnesota in 1888 and then returned to her Brooklyn center.  After thirteen years, she had organized the first effective nursing system within the Scandinavian American community.  Her two hospitals have grown into major medical facilities.  In 1896 she returned to Norway, married, and lived on a farm her last years.  A contemporary of Elizabeth Fedde working to found the Methodist deaconess movement in the U.S. was American-born Lucy Rider Meyer (1849-1922).  Raised a Baptist, she converted to the Methodist Episcopal Church at a revival during her teenage years.  She attended Oberlin and then, for a time, the Philadelphia Medical School.  Lucy wrote Sunday school literature while working as a science teacher, later becoming a chemistry professor at McKendree College in Illinois.  She opened in 1885 the Chicago Training School (now part of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) as an arena for women who desired to enter more dedicated Christian work.  Lucy married that same year, and in 1887 became a member of the first graduating class to receive their M.D. from Women’s Medical College at Northwestern.  Some of the women stayed to work in Chicago under Lucy’s direction.  She proposed an order of deaconesses which was approved by the 1888 general conference of the MEC.  Over the course of her years, Dr. Rider-Meyer founded Wesley Hospital, a children’s home, a seniors home, a retired deconess’ home, and several boarding schools.  She wrote an important historical work, Deaconesses: Biblical, Early Church, European, American (1890) and a later work documenting her and her colleagues’ work.  Lucy had to defend herself and the deaconess enterprise—all the general conferences of the MEC wanted to take the deaconess movement away from her and put it in the hands of the Women’s Home Missionary Society.  In 1904 she finally triumphed, and a new branch of the church was established, the Board of Hospitals, Homes and Deaconess Work.


Clara Barton (1821-1912), taught at the free school she had founded in Massachusetts, but later she came to fame as an “embodiment of compassion” during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, Franco-Prussian War, and Cuban War, enduring terrible situations, mobilizing needed supplies, and caring for the ill, wounded, and dying.  In the Civil War, Clara ministered to both armies, and then after the war she organized a nationwide search for missing soldiers, which located 13,000 missing dead.  Clara eventually formed the American National Red Cross, ratified in 1882 (the International Red Cross had been created by the Geneva Conference in Switzerland, 1864).  Kate Harwood Waller Barrett (1857-1925), raised in Virginia, married an Episcopalian minister, and while moving around the country with him when he changed jobs, she carried out what would become a life-long ministry of her own serving “fallen women” after she met an unwed mother and her baby at the front door one day in the late 1870s.  After ministering to and evangelizing among prostitutes in Henderson, Kentucky, Kate earned a medical degree in 1892 in Georgia and the next year opened a home for unwed mothers, a move which brought her scorn from a hostile public.  In 1895, she joined Charles Crittenton in his work to serve unfortunate women, and by 1898 there were over 50 chapters of their National Florence Crittenton Mission (named after Charles’ daughter).  Rev. Barrett had died in 1896, and then Charles Crittenton died in 1909, but Kate continued, achieving prominence as a spokesperson on women’s issues.  Mary (Christina Gill) Moise (1850-1930) was raised in a prominent southern family, then moved to St. Louis in the 1880s with her husband.  She began to volunteer her home as an Episcopalian mission for unfortunate women.  Her husband left her over this, though they parted amicably.  Mary became famous for her work.  In 1905 she founded the Door of Hope Rescue Mission and became its director.  A couple of years later she became a Pentecostalist and hosted preacher Mother Mary Barnes and her husband.


The interdenominational Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) was founded in England in 1855 by Emma Roberts‚ to serve, illumine and edify the “body, mind, and spirit” of needy urban girls (it would merge two years later with Lady Arthur Kinnaird’s General Female Training Institute).  The prototype of the YWCA in the United States was founded in N.Y. in 1858 as the Ladies’ Christian Association.  A number of YWCA groups would soon flourish in the U.S.  Grace Dodge (1856-1914), a devout, highly educated, wealthy New York debutante, in the 1880s was a guiding spirit in the bringing together of these various “Young Women Christian” organizations in this country to officially form the YWCA, becoming president of the National Board of the YWCA at its formal inception in 1906; she was also prominent in the field of education. 


Mabel Cratty (1868-1928), the “stateswoman” of the YWCA, and a highly effective organizer, deserves a major part of the credit for the success of the YWCA, which, by the time of her death, had a membership of some 600,000 in more than 1,300 local associations; in addition to serving for a time as general secretary of the National Board, she worked her whole life to secure social justice, world peace, and the improving of conditions for working women.  Two black women were prominent leaders of the YWCA in the U.S., Sue Bailey Thurman, a highly respected lecturer and writer, and Eva Bowles‚ (1875-1943), who functioned as an executive for the YWCA.  They helped to heal the segregationist and separatist tendencies by whites and blacks in the movement and allow blacks to be an integral part of the YWCA, spreading the message into society of interracial understanding.  The YWCA spread to many countries, emphasizing an ecumenical, evangelical, “social gospel” Christianity.  It has been a major influence on a numerous Christian women leaders, especially those working to unite the various denominations of Christianity in the ecumenical movement, as Elsie Thomas Culver has observed:

“Cornelia van Asch van Wijck, who almost singlehanded ... broke down the Biblical-theological barriers to women’s ordination in the churches of her country; Suzanne de Deitrich, long a teacher at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland; and Ruth Woodsmall, well known in ecumenical circles of both England and the United States, are among many women worthy of mention who came up through the YW. ... The YW [was] ... a training ground for leadership of such persons as Sarah Chakko, one of the first presidents of the World Council [of Churches].” [12]

The WCC is by far the largest and most important of worldwide ecumenical groups; Sarah Chakko was the first layperson and only woman ever honored as president for the WCC's first two decades. (Ms. Elizabeth Palmer was General Secretary of the World YWCA during the 1980s.)

Another remarkable woman emerged in the middle of the 19th century in the United States:  in the chaotic aftermath of failed apocalyptic visions of “adventist” Baptist minister William Miller and others (Miller had predicted that Christ would return between 1843 and 1844), Ellen G. White (1827-1915) founded the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, centered in Battle Creek, Michigan—now by far the largest of such groups.  Ellen and her twin sister were the youngest of eight children of Methodist parents living in Gorham, Maine.  At age nine, she was dealt a blow to the face which rendered her unconscious, and she lay in a stupor for three weeks—which may have figured in her later tendency to swoons, trances, and visions.  Her parents became involved in Adventist meetings, and Ellen, hearing William Miller preach in 1840 and again two years later, was wrought with tremendous anxiety over the impending end of the world; the young teenager would pray all night, often moaning and trembling, and experiencing many visions, during which she claimed to have met Jesus and received revelations from him.  Later Ellen married James White, an Adventist minister, with whom she would have four sons.  The first part of Ellen’s career largely involved the promotion of health through the ingesting of God’s light via vegetarian food, fresh air and sunlight (she would start a significant vegetarian movement in this country).  She and James inspired John Harvey Kellogg to begin his Battle Creek food manufacturing concern and his medical studies, which culminated in the building of the world-famous Battle Creek Sanitarium.  In her forties, having overcome an earlier “frail” condition, Ellen, claiming to be the “Spirit of Prophecy,” began to preach to ever-larger crowds (these would later sometimes number as many as 20,000 people) and to write more volumes, revealing the Seventh-Day Adventist doctrines as the “word of God.”  Ellen’s words and writings would indeed be hailed by her church as “the teachings of the Spirit of God,” but rejected by many defectors as often contradictory or else plagiarized.  In any case, she was an ardent patron of good works: “She was very active in establishing schools and colleges.  When her husband suffered four successive strokes, she took over his work and carried on two heavy loads instead of one, besides caring for his comfort until his death, fourteen years after the first attack. When Ellen White herself died in 1915, the Seventh-Day Adventists claimed 140,000 members, 2500 clergy, eighty medical centers, a mission on every continent.  Forty publishing houses had printed seventy books, and twenty-five were published posthumously.  And everything was left in capable hands that would carry on effectively.  One can hardly doubt why, when Ellen White preached about the miraculous, folks said that she spoke with conviction.” (Culver) [13](Curiously, women have still not been allowed to be ordained as ministers within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church—which now claims some 666,000 members in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide—in deference to the branches of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in those foreign countries where sexist cultural attitudes are still quite strong.)


In passing, we find several other notable women of adventist or millennarian groups in modern times:  Mary Purnell (d. 1953) was the leader of the “City of David” group in Michigan; Mrs. Tracy B. Bizich’s Remnant Church, based at Sewickley, Pennsylvania, grew out of her adventist visions; Ruth Lang started the now defunct Star of Truth Foundation; and Mina Blanc Orth began in 1930 the True Church, centered in Seattle; she authored a number of books and maintained a radio ministry. [14]


In the Holiness, Pentecostal, and neo-Pentecostal movements which have grown out of certain Protestant traditions in America, women have played a major role, despite being outnumbered by men in terms of organizational leadership.  All these movements have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and as Susie Stanley, an ordained Church of God minister observes, “Women generally hold prominent positions in groups who derive authority from the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is no respecter of persons but dispenses gifts of ministry to both men and women.” [15]


The Holiness movement arose in America in the mid-19th century as a powerful attempt to renew the Moravian Pietists’ and John Wesley’s emphasis on the more authentic life of Christian perfection, what Wesley called “sanctification”—abandoning evil and “worldliness,” engaging in charity and social work, and experiencing more of God’s Spirit-infused love and perfection of virtue.  Not so much concerned with any doctrinal innovation, but with a reform of Methodism and other increasingly “institutional” Protestant churches, the Holiness movement emphasized experience of the Spirit


Significantly, it was a woman of the mid-19th century, Phoebe Worrall Palmer (1807-74), co-editor of The Path of Holiness, an important Methodist/Holiness magazine, who articulated in her writing and preaching a new slant on Wesley’s notion of sanctification, advocating sanctification as the immediate possibility for all believers.  Mrs. Palmer encouraged everyone, no matter how new in the faith, to seek it as the instantaneous gift of the Holy Spirit.  She saw “sanctification as a two-part process, the person must consecrate or sacrifice his/her life through Christ and then have faith that the work was accomplished.” (S. Stanley)  This subtle change of emphasis led to a renewed concentration upon the search for Holiness among Methodists.  (Note: a Holiness movement was already operative in non-Methodist “Methodist” circles, through the efforts of proponents of sanctification such as Charles G. Finney—a Congregationalist and defender of women’s rights, Asa Mahan, T.C. Upham, William Boardman, and A.B. Earle.) 


The new center of interest in Holiness among Methodists was the “Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness” led by Mrs. Palmer, who belonged to a Methodist church in New York City.  In 1866, after the Civil War, Phoebe and her husband Walter toured and preached throughout the U.S., establishing centers of the new Holiness movement within various Methodist circles.  Her biographers note that Mrs. Palmer was also an ardent pioneer in social reform activity, distributing educational tracts in the early 1840s, donating money and goods for poor relief in orphanages and prisons, and establishing in 1850 “a model Protestant welfare institution maintaining a chapel, schoolrooms, baths, and rent-free apartments for local families.  She was also instrumental in organizing the Ladies Christian Association (later Union) which conducted prayer meetings, Bible classes, and boarding houses in urban slums in addition to providing rescue homes for delinquents and asylums for the deaf.”  In sum, “her influence on Methodists—clergy as well as laymen—was both profound and lasting.”  [16]     


While men primarily comprised the conspicuous leadership of the Holiness movement within Methodism (e.g., William Osborn, John Inskip, Jesse Peck, Randolph Foster, Stephen Merrill and Gilbert Haven), several women were major figures, in line with Mrs. Palmer’s idea that a sanctified person, regardless of gender, must testify publicly to the holiness experience, lest it be lost.  Beverly Carradine was a famous southern Methodist Holiness preacher, the most formidable woman evangelist in the new generation of Holiness advocates within Methodist circles in America (this second generation would include such male preachers as J.A. Wood, Alfred Cookman, John Brasher, and Milton Haney).  It was Carradine’s views and activities which led to the establishment of several Holiness colleges, Asbury College in Kentucky, and Taylor University in Indiana in the latter 19th century.  And the efforts of Emma Dryer led to the formation of a school of “Bible Work” in Chicago in 1873 which would become in 1889 the highly influential (Dwight) Moody Bible Institute.  Moody himself worked with women like Dryer as equals in “spreading the gospel.” [17]


“One researcher [Janette Hassey] having carefully examined the school’s official publications from 1889 to 1945, has found hundreds of examples of women alumnae, staff members, and guest speaker who were serving with evident institute approval as evangelists, pastors, Bible teachers, pulpit supply preachers, instructors of Bible courses at Bible colleges, leaders of Bible classes for audience of both men and women, evangelists and Bible teachers employed by Moody Bible Institute’s extension department as official representatives of the school, and ordained ministers in several denominations.  Women preached from the pulpit of Moody Church and were instructors for the summer Winona Bible School conducted by the extension department.” [18]



Frances Willard (1839-98), the esteemed women’s rights, temperance, and education leader, was probably the most influential Methodist woman to be inspired by the Holiness movement.  In the words of Prof. Sydney Ahlstrom, Frances was born to


“…westering Vermonters then living near Rochester, New York.  The family soon moved on to Oberlin, Ohio ... and then in 1846 further west to Wisconsin.  Frances grew up on an isolated farm near Janesville under the stern rule of an ultra-Methodistic father. ... She went away to schools in Milwaukee and Evanston.  After graduating in 1859, she spent the next decade teaching in various schools, serving as secretary to the Methodist Centenary Fund, and traveling in Europe and the Middle East for twenty-eight months.  Shortly after her return she became president of the Evanston College for Ladies.  When the College became part of Northwestern University, she was appointed its dean, but ... resigned in 1874.  By that time she was already a vice-president of the Association for the Advancement of Women, and before the year was out she was elected an officer [the crucial post of corresponding secretary] in the organization with which her name will always be linked, the W[omen’s] C[hristian] T[emperance] U[nion] [begun in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1874 by women social reformers] ... For two decades [she] would not only make the WCTU her lengthened shadow, but ... made it also the greatest women’s organization of the century.... [After becoming its president in 1881,] she began to implement her own ideas [in contrast to the “conservatives” who wanted to keep the WCTU focused solely on the issue of prohibition of alcohol]:  a vigorous membership campaign, endless speaking tours ..., spectacular annual conventions, a major emphasis on women’s rights, including the vote, expansion of the union’s concern for a wide range of social issues, including the traffic in young prostitutes which prudery had heretofore kept from public discussion, and finally, the development of diverse political strategies to gain these ends.  Her success in carrying out this vast ‘Do Everything’ program owed most, perhaps, to her amazing gifts of leadership...” [18]


And Elsie Culver writes:

“Frances Willard was actually a born politician.  She had some cause for everybody and a way of getting support without making enemies.  There were departments in the WCTU for every phase of life that touched the American home, from kindergartens to prisons, physical culture to prostitution.  The movement spread to every state in the union and claimed 200,000 women.” [19] 

Giving her a grand eulogy, Ahlstrom notes, with a touch of sadness:

“[Today,] Americans generally, including church historians, have almost forgotten the single most impressive reformer to have worked within the context of the evangelical [/holiness] churches. ... Frances Willard had given American womanhood a new place in society and in the churches.  And beneath her zeal was the burning evangelical faith which she had always communicated with such unparalleled effectiveness.  She could be inspired by anyone who sought holiness, from Marcus Aurelius to Emerson, and she was an eclectic in theology; but Christianity was her bridle.  ‘I am a strictly loyal and orthodox Methodist,’ she said... In this spirit she made the WCTU a vast national organization with lively, growing roots in and amid the parishes of every state and territory.  She succeeded, moreover, in making it the chief exception to the rule of [conservative] evangelical social complacency during the ‘halcyon years.’”


In passing, we might mention one of the “conservatives” in the WCTU, with whom Frances Willard vied and won:  Annie Turner Wittenmyer (1827-1900), the first president of the WCTU.  After her wealthy husband passed away, she helped organize a congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1850s in Keokuk, Iowa.  She rendered much social service during the Civil War, setting up a hospital sanitation movement, establishing big kitchens, working with orphans of the war, and so forth.  In 1871 she started the Christian Women periodical, and through her contributions as editor she was able to highlight woman’s new role in society as agent of compassionate social service.  In 1874 she joined and was appointed first president of the “Woman’s Crusade” manifesting as the WCTU.  A few years after Ms. Willard took control of the expanded version of the WCTU in 1879, Mrs. Wittenmyer started a new group, which continued to focus more stringently on the temperance issue and stay out of politics (the WCTU had become allied with the Prohibition Party).


In England, Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911), American-born Quaker wife of Presbyterian Holiness leader R. Pearsall Smith (who, together with William Boardman, started the Keswick Movement of Holiness within the Anglican Church), preached and wrote The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, “one of the great classics of the Keswick era,” which in turn influenced leading Holiness spokespersons in the U.S. such as Dwight Moody, R.A. Torrey, A.J. Gordon, A.B. Simpson, and Wilbur Chapman. 


Another English Holiness group to emerge even more powerfully was the Salvation Army, which has become an influential movement internationally, exemplifying with great forcefulness the importance of the “social gospel,” that is, caring for the needy.  Catherine Mumford Booth (1829-90), born at Derbyshire, England, was an active Methodist at Brixton, where she met her future husband, William Booth, with whom she would have eight children.  She persuaded him to leave the Methodists so as to pursue, in the 1860s, the evangelical life among the urban poor in the horrible wake of the Industrial Revolution.  She was actually preaching in London before he joined her; Catherine, a prolific writer, also authored one of the earliest tracts defending an ordained female ministry.  The Booths built up the Salvation Army movement amongst their listeners and converted criminals.  The Salvation Army is an organization with a Wesleyan-Arminian doctrinal slant, emphasizing free will and equal chances for all to “enter the Kingdom” (in contrast to the Calvinist notion upholding a “predestination of the elect”); this movement utilizes a quasi-military structure, aims at bringing souls into a true relationship with God through Christ, emphasizes a balanced ministry of social and spiritual work, and dispenses with the sacraments, viewing of all life as capable of being sanctified.  Significantly, the Salvation Army ordained both men and women to the ministry, and the American work was initiated chiefly by women, such as the “Seven Hallelujah Lassies” who arrived in New York City with Army Commissioner George Scott Railton in 1880.  For many years the Salvation Army has featured the largest number of women clergy of any denomination in this country (in 1986, there were some 3,220), and its number one rank in this regard was only in the mid-1980s eclipsed by the much larger Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church. 


Evangeline (Cary) Booth (1865-1950), born in London, the seventh child of Catherine and William, was one of the best preachers of her time, and known as the “white angel” for her intense work among the poor in London’s slums.  A sergeant of the Salvation Army at age 15, and a captain two years later, Evangeline was placed in charge of all London operations before being sent in 1895 to Canada.  She commanded the Army in the U.S. from 1904 to 1934, expanding it to become a major welfare organization here; Evangeline was in 1934 appointed as general of the International Salvation Army, relocating to the headquarters in London.  The daughter of her eldest sister, Victoria Booth Demarest (1889-1982), also had an influential 70-year career with the Salvation Army, preaching to many thousands of people, up into her 90s (such as at the Evangelical Women’s Caucus International, at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1980).  General Eva Burrows has since 1988 led the Salvation Army and overseen its multi-faceted social welfare program, which is, in Professor Melton’s words, “one of the most far-reaching of any church organization.”

“It includes feeding, and housing the homeless, disaster relief, alcohol and drug rehabilitation, youth camps and programs, senior citizen camps and programs, hospital and prison visitation, support for unwed mothers, to mention only a sample.  These pioneering efforts have provided a model for many other churches.” [21]


Mention may here be made of another outstanding female member of the Booth family, Maud Ballington Booth (1865-1948), daughter of an Anglican clergyman, who joined Catherine Booth in starting the Salvation Army’s work in France and England, and in 1886 married Ballington Booth, son of William Booth.  As a couple, the newlyweds were placed in charge of the Army’s incipient work in the U.S.  Maud would build a ministry in the New York City slum area modeled on the efforts in London.  Growing friction between father and son led to the couple’s resigning from the Army after nine years in America and starting their own movement, the Volunteers of America, with Ballington becoming its elected life-time leader, and Maud doing much charitable work in a new field of endeavor—prisons, helping inmates rehabilitate and find work after being released, and helping prisoners’ family members.  Her rehabilitation work was widely acclaimed for its clearcut success, and she went on to become a leading exponent of prison reform.  In 1940, upon the death of her husband, 75-year-old Maud took over leadership of their movement, and over her remaining seven years traveled widely, lectured often, and labored hard in overseeing the work.


Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was the most popular hymn writer in America, penning many thousands of religious songs.  Blinded when only six weeks old, her father died that same year.  Fanny grew up in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and then attended the Institution for the Blind in New York City, which began to feature her poems.  In the 1850s she worked with George Root, the music director there, who was also one of the great hymn-writers of the century.  In 1858 Fanny left school and married a fellow blind man.  She joined the Holiness revival and later teamed with the famous composer Henry Ward Beecher; together they would generate a massive output of devotional offerings to God.  New Yorker Margaret McDonald Bottome (1827-1906), an associate editor for the Ladies’ Home Journal, and married to a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1886 co-founded the nondenominational Bible-study, service and spiritual self-improvement group for women which later went coed and was renamed the International Order of the King’s Daughters.  By the year after her death, it had established a membership of one-half million souls in 26 states and Canada.  It published the Silver Cross monthly from 1888 onward, for which Mrs. Bottome contributed regular articles.  In 1896 she was elected president of the Medical Missionary Society in recognition of her group’s efforts in that field.


Belle Harris Bennett (1852-1922) experienced sanctification at a revival among Methodists in 1884, and from the experience gained the energy to launch a number of projects serving diverse fields of labor.  She and her sister had already started a Sunday school for the poor children in Ohio, and in 1887, after a quite successful fund-raising effort based on her inspiring preaching, Belle founded the Scarritt Bible and Training School in Kansas City (re-located in 1924 to Nashville), one of the earliest institutions for preparing deaconesses within Methodism.  Belle “stands as the most distinguished woman in the history of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South”; she “presided over both the Woman’s Home Mission Society and the Woman’s Board of Home Missions... [and] bore primary responsibility for the struggle and final victory of laity rights for women in the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South”—becoming in 1921 the first woman elected as a delegate to this assembly.  Belle led in the opening of mission fields in Japan and the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), and in the establishment of a college in Brazil and a medical college in Shanghai.  She also emerged as a prominent Southern leader against racial prejudice, and recruited many women to work on the Council for Interracial Cooperation.


According to Melton’s analysis, schismatic voices within the “mainstream” Protestant Holiness movement in America began to be heard in the 1880s, dominant in the 1890s, and by 1910 had almost totally removed the Holiness movement from the main denominations (Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopal Churches) into independent Holiness churches.  The most important founders and spokespersons for the schismatic Holiness movement were again men, such as Daniel Warner, founder of the Church of God (headquartered at Anderson, Indiana), John Brooks, Glenn Griffith, and H.E. Schmul, but a few women were also notable, inspired by male evangelists such as Warner, and by B.T. Roberts, W.B. Godbey, A.J. Gordon, Fredrik Franson, and Seth Cook Rees, who, through their pamphlets, books and lectures in the 1890s, supported full equality and public ministries for women.


In the large Church of God Holiness movement (founded by Daniel Warner at Anderson, Indiana) were to be found a high percentage of women leaders.  A Church of God publication from 1902 showed photographs of Church of God leaders, and about one-fourth of them were women.  In a recent Church of God publication honoring women of that denomination, a number of women have been profiled as representative early female leaders. [22]  Mother Sarah Smith (1822-1908) was raised in Ohio with only three months’ total schooling, and a strict moral upbringing; deeply converted to Christ at age 20, she began praising God openly and praying vocally in her Lutheran church which then cast her out.  She underwent “sanctification” and the concomitant major personality change in 1859 and began a Holiness association in Jerry City, Ohio, with about 35 people meeting four times a week.  Warner visited her group in 1882 and she and most of her group became affiliated with his nonsectarian movement, Mother Sarah contributing often to his “Gospel Trumpet” periodical.  At age 61, she felt the call to leave her household work and family to become an itinerant evangelist—a radical step which her family, especially her husband, nevertheless lovingly supported.  She associated herself with Warner and his colleagues Barney Warren, Frances (Frankie) Miller, and Nannie Kigar, this being the first evangelistic company of the Church of God.  They “preached the whole truth—justification [conversion], sanctification, one church, and divine healing,” and they never took up any collections, relying entirely upon God’s Providence.  Mother Sarah sang, gave “blazing testimonies,” prayed, and occasionally preached, “a firebrand for God and a terror to Satan” at various camp meetings with this group from 1885-9.  Mary Cole (1853-1940) was 7th of 12 children born to farmers near Decatur, Iowa, who subsequently relocated to Missouri, where Mary was raised; weak in health, she was an invalid by age 15, but experienced a powerful yet quiet conversion three years later at her Methodist Episcopal church.  At age 22 she distinctly heard the call to preach, but backed off, feeling inadequate due to lack of education and a stammering speech.  At age 26 she was engaged to be married but broke it off, feeling that God did not want her to marry.  In 1880 she was miraculously healed of her physical affliction and her stammering, and received the gift of exhortation, which she began to use soon thereafter, preaching her first sermon at a Holiness convention in Salisbury, Missouri.  Mary and her brother Jeremiah would hold evangelistic meetings in schoolhouses for 2-4 weeks at a time, preaching twice a day.  She faced much opposition from those who felt it inappropriate for women to preach, and soon left her Methodist church.  She conducted services in camp meetings all over the midwest, joined mainly by her younger brother, George, and by Sister Lodema Kaser.  Mary and six others traveled to California in 1894, holding services in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fresno for 16 months.  She and George finally settled in Chicago in 1898, assuming responsibility for the rescue mission, doing much charity for the homeless, conducting cottage meetings in private homes, and building an exemplary missionary home and chapel.  Nora Siens Hunter (1873-1951) experienced conversion in 1892 after a childhood spent in Kansas with various relatives and in an orphanage.  She began to travel with various Holiness ministers (the Bryants and the Smiths) and doing charity work.  With the encouragement of Warner, she began to preach at age 19 at Grand Junction, Michigan.  She worked with the “Floating Bethel” gospel houseboat up and down the Ohio River, holding tent-meetings, distributing evangelical literature, and visiting the sick, before teaming up with Lena Shoffner in a very successful ministry.  Nora married Clarence Edgar Hunter in 1896 and they wound up pastoring congregations in Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles, the major preaching responsibilities falling to Nora, though her husband also preached.  In Los Angeles, Nora also engaged in extensive charities and civic responsibilities.  A five-month trip to Europe and the Middle East in 1929 led her to start the important Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society, which is currently called Women of the Church of God, Nora serving as its president from 1932 until 1948.  (Note: In 1922 the Anderson Bible Training School had elected Bessie Hittle Byrum as head of its important mission department, a decade before Nora organized the specific women’s missionary group.)  The above-mentioned Lena Shoffner (1868-1936) was raised in Missouri by devout parents dead against worldly amusements.  Lena experienced conversion in 1886 and sanctification at a meeting conducted by Warner four years later.  She left her family in 1892 for what she thought would be a ten-day evangelical mission, but wound up traveling for two years from Kansas to Michigan to Pennsylvania, and thence to England before joining Sister Nora in 1895.  Then for eight years she pastored a Church of God congregation in Oklahoma City.  She married in 1904 and evangelized with her husband until her death three decades later.


Black women have also been prominent in the Church of God, although after 1917 “blacks tended to evangelize blacks, and whites evangelized whites,” and blacks would form separate groups (such as the Church of God in Christ), due to subtle patterns of discrimination which entered into even the egalitarian Holiness movement.  Jane Williams, who already had much Bible knowledge and a strong Holiness orientation before coming to the Church of God, started a congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, around 1886, which became headquarters for the growth of the Church of God in the South.  Alice Dise observes, “Much of the work among blacks had its beginning under her influential preaching.”  From 1888 to 1898 Jane served in Augusta and we have much correspondence between Warner and her from this period.  Mary Frambo, born in slavery, became active in a Methodist Episcopal church prayer band, and helped found an important Church of God congregation in Atlanta, later serving in a store-front church in Chicago; “she was a prayer warrior and a preacher evangelizing everywhere she went.” 


Lena Cooper, Christine James, Katie Alexander, and Elizabeth Peters were black women pioneers serving the Church of God in Illinois in the 1890s. Priscilla Wimbish and her brother made great sacrifices to found the important West Middlesex, Pennsylvania campgrounds, which spawned the National Association branch of the Church of God.  Emma Alberta Nelson Crosswhite (1882-?), married and mother of three, was healed of tuberculosis by a white Church of God minister, George Lorton; Emma and husband decided to build a Church of God fellowship in their town of Washington Court House, Ohio, for blacks, but it was 40 whites who became their first converts.  Lorton ordained “Mother Crosswhite” to the ministry to guide this flock, which she did for 47 years, and this constituted one of the most successful interracial fellowships.  Ozie Garrett, who would in 1958 succeed Emma as pastor at Washington Court House, entered the ministry as a full-time evangelist in 1947, in 1950 becoming the first home missionary sent into the deep south of Louisiana and Alabama.  In 1953 Ozie was called to pastor an all-white congregation in the all-white town of Columbus, Nebraska, which she carried out for two years before returning to Cleveland.  Later she would pastor and preach in Houston and East Atlanta.  Nancy McClure Ford, Willie Taplin Barrow, Ivory Virginia Smith Downer, and Vivian Moore are a few of the other leading lights among black women of the Church of God in the 20th century.  Hispanic women, too, have played their part in the Church of God since the mid-20th century, bucking a strong machismo orientation of males.  Lillian Meier, ordained in 1929, for 42 years in Brazil and Argentina “evangelized, visited new colonies, cared for 19 orphans, taught hundreds of children, organized youth and women’s groups, prayed for the sick, and proclaimed the Savior everywhere she went,” according to her daughter, Nilah Meier-Youngman, herself an ordained minister for the Church of God and director of its Hispanic Ministries (another daughter, Tabita Meier Kurrle, carries on the work of missions, ministry and pastoring three congregations in Paraguay).  Amelia Valdez Vazquez converted in 1945 and began an outstanding missionary work in Mexico in 1950, teaching for 26 years at the Bible Institute in Saltillo, pastoring churches, also starting the first Hispanic Church of God in Albuquerque.  Dondeena Caldwell, who helped start the Bible Institute in Saltillo, has been an inspiration to women not only in Mexico but also in Brazil.  Edith Peters (40 years working as a missionary and teacher in Panama) and Daisy Taylor (26 years work in Panama and Columbia) are important Hispanic Holiness women of Central America.  And two women especially prominent in their ministries to Cubans are Rev. Carmen Martinez Romero (b. c.1930), president of the National Assembly of the Church of God in Havana, has been preaching since age 17; Hilaria Palmer and husband Ellsworth have served Cubans for 31 years in Miami after their flight from Cuba in 1960.  Hilaria and Ellsworth have preached in the pulpit and on radio, and she has a very potent healing prayer ministry.  Cheryl Sanders (at Howard University, Washington, D.C.) and Juanita Evans Leonard (at Anderson University, Indiana) are two of the leading women theologians of the Church of God today.


Elsewhere in the Holiness world prominent women could be found from the earliest times, as Letha Dawson-Scanzoni and Susan Setta explain:

“In other Holiness groups, women also occupied a central role in the formative years.  In the Church of the Nazarene, for example [founded by Phineas Bresee in 1895], women such as Mary Lee (Harris) Cagle, Lucy P. Knott, Mrs. A.F. Reynolds, and Mrs. Delance Wallas‚ pastored churches, founded and taught in church schools, opened new areas to the gospel, and were active in formulating church doctrine and polity.  [Mrs. M.D. Wood, Miss Carrie Taylor, and Miss Lillian Sprague were three important women among the first five Church of the Nazarene missionaries to set up a work in India which is still flourishing.]  From its beginning, the Church of the Nazarene ordained women; and its leaders maintained that stance in spite of opposition from certain groups that refused to affiliate with it on that account.” [23]



One of the most important women of the Holiness movement was Kentucky-born Alma Bridwell White (1862-1946), who was living with her husband in Colorado in 1893 when, after having tried to express her religiosity in various ways as a teacher, lay exhorter, and songleader for the Methodist churches in the area, she experienced the “second blessing” of complete sanctification.  No longer fulfilled in serving merely a subsidiary function, she aroused and endured controversy by daring to adopt a preaching role in hopes of stirring up the sagging piety in various Colorado churches.  Both she and her husband finally left the Methodist church in 1895 to embark on independent Holiness revivals throughout the mountain states.  For six years they worked as an evangelistic team, and in 1901 her followers founded the Pentecostal Union, a Holiness church, appointing her as a leading officer.  This church emphasized sanctification, vegetarianism, practiced faith healing, and accepted ordination of male and female ministers.  Since Alma opposed tongue-speaking and differed somewhat in her views from the emerging Pentecostalist movement, her church (relocated to Zarephath, New Jersey in 1907) was renamed in 1917 the “Pillar of Fire Church,” and she was consecrated by her followers the next year as the first woman bishop of Christendom.  A woman of obvious sanctity, who exemplifed and invited her followers to abandon worldliness (eschewing tobacco, alcohol, and ostentatious living), Alma led the Pillar of Fire Church until her passing at age 84 (succeeded by her elder son).  She “established congregations from Los Angeles to London, crossing the Atlantic fifty-eight times, and presided over enterprises ranging from radio stations to accredited Bible schools.  Her voluminous writings [including many articles for the magazine which she edited, Woman’s Choice] spread the doctrine of personal holiness even farther, so much so that by the time of her death over 4,000 members were counted among the faithful.” [24]


Miss Mamie E. Caske and Miss Jennie E. Goranflo in 1914 founded the Grace and Hope Mission in Baltimore, which came to have twelve centers, mainly in the larger cities, with a Wesleyan doctrine and emphasis on evangelism, sanctification, and hope in the second coming of Christ.  All the officers, elected annually, are single females (there were slightly under a 1,000 members of this church in 1988).  Lela G. McConnell was a deaconness in the Methodist Episcopal Church who, after being ordained in 1924 undertook a vigorous ministry in eastern Kentucky and the next year founded the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association, with a strong emphasis on sanctification.  This Association runs a high school and a three-year Bible Institute, radio station, and campground for revival meetings.  The Door of Faith Church and Bible School was founded in 1940 by Mildred Johnson Brostek, who was raised a Methodist, experienced a baptism of the Holy Spirit in the Assemblies of God church in Florida, graduated from the Holmes Theological Seminary, and went to the Hawaiian islands.  In 1937 she began to hold evangelist services on Molokai, and her work spread to the other isles, facilitated by a daily radio ministry.  A prosperous mission also developed in New York and in the Philippines, where a Bible college was established.  By 1979, there were some 40 churches and 3,000 members in Hawaii and mission work in Okinawa and Indonesia.  Brother E.K. Leary and Sister Jemima Bishop led the Sanctified Church of Christ, organized at Columbus, Georgia in 1937 by former members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a pacifist group which eschewed worldliness, like all the other Holiness groups, and which ordains both women and men to the ministry.  G.W. Pendleton and his wife Martha Pendleton in 1942 founded the New Testament Church of God after leaving the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) for its cooperation with the National Council of Churches.  The Pendletons have sponsored camp meetings, publish gospel literature, and hold regular radio broadcasts, and their church has congregations across the country.  Other husband-wife Holiness teams include T.P Ferguson and Manie Ferguson who found the (now-defunct) Peniel Mission in L.A. way back in 1886 to win the urban masses to Jesus; their work spawned missions along the West Coast as far north as Alaska, also in Hawaii and even Egypt.  A.J. Gordon and Maria Gordon established in the 1890s a Holiness training school that developed into what is now Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. [25] 


Unfortunately, as Letha Dawson-Scanzoni, Susan Setta, Susan Stanley and others relate, the egalitarian views and openness to women in leadership roles found in many circles of the Holiness movement began to diminish over the decades.  In 1930 the Gordon Divinity School imposed a limit of women’s enrollment of one-third the total number of students.  The percentage of female pastors in the Church of the Nazarene decline from 20% in 1908 to 6% in 1973.  The Church of God had women pastors in nearly one-third of its congregations in the peak year of 1925, but only 2% of its congregations in 1985, and these were small churches that women pastored.  The Moody Bible Institute in 1979 fired one of its faculty members because of his and his wife’s views on the equality of the sexes.  The same would be true of women’s role in the Pentecostal churches...



Pentecostal Christianity emerged quite forcefully in this century, attempting to restore the Holy Spirit and practices of the earliest Christian community.  Pentecostalism now embraces over 3 million members in the United States and several more million worldwide, is directly related to the Holiness movement.  It differs from the latter by emphasizing not only conversion or “justification” in Christ as well as “sanctification,” but also the “third blessing” of spiritual baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the manifestation of the charismata, the gifts of the Holy Spirit—such as speaking in tongues (glossolalia, sometimes taking the form of xenoglossia, speaking another known language), healing, prophecy, and discerning of spirits (angels, demons, troubled ancestors, etc.).  Though Pentecostalism has been dominated organizationally by males, several females are of considerable historical importance.  We can go back in time several centuries to find a little girl, Isabelle Vincent, fleeing her home in the Cevennes mountains of southern France, after witnessing a massacre of Huguenots (French Calvinists) by the Catholics and the accepting of a bribe by her father to become a Catholic.  Isabelle went to her Huguenot godfather and in February 1688, at about age ten, she entered a trance and began to “speak in tongues” and prophesy, becoming the first of many “little prophets of Cevennes.”  These Huguenot children, the “proto-Pentecostalists,” so to speak, of our latter day, were seized by the Holy Spirit and prophesied and spoke in tongues like the early apostles of Christianity. 


As Prof. Melton observes, tongue-speaking happened occasionally among the Quakers in England and Methodists in America in the next two centuries; and in the 1830s the Catholic Apostolic Church in England and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) in the United States both saw their members frequently speaking in tongues.  From the latter 19th century on, a number of people spoke in tongues within the Holiness churches in the U.S. (such as Rev. R.B. Swan and his “Gift People,” Daniel Awrey, R.G. Spurling, Jethro Walthall and their followers).  But the real beginnings of the modern Pentecostal movement occured at Charles Parham’s Bible college in Topeka, Kansas late in the evening of Jan. 1, 1901.  Here Agnes N. Ozman (LaBerge), among a number of students seeking a deeper meaning of “baptism of the Spirit,” enjoyed the first experience in the classic American Pentecostal revival of glossolalia—a phenomenon which has since then come to be shared by somewhere around five million Pentecostalists and neo-Pentecostalists in the United States, England, Germany, and elsewhere. “Thus Agnes became the first person in modern times to seek and receive the experience of speaking in tongues ... as a sign of being ‘baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  At that moment was inaugurated the Pentecostal Movement.”


Several days after Agnes’ experience, many others in that small group began to speak in tongues as the Spirit rested upon them, eventually including Parham himself (who had been absent due to a speaking engagement).  Tongue-speaking would become the confirming sign of the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” which became, for Pentecostals, the “third experience” after justification (conversion, or full acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s savior) and sanctification.  A number of Holiness churches became the first centers for the Pentecostal preaching and Holy Spirit baptisms, though the rapid growth of the movement, along with frequent outlandish emotional expressions, led to some Holiness leaders disapproving of the new movement, and a split occurred in 1914, when, amidst “growing hostility, factionalism within the movement, and the need for coordination of activities,” the Assemblies of God pentecostal church was born at a large meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  The Assemblies of God, along with the Church of God (this one headquartered at Cleveland, Tennessee) and the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, became the leading Pentecostal churches.  According to Melton, the many other Pentecostal churches are offshoots of these or else are very closely modeled on them, differing only on a few points.  Several important black Pentecostal churches arose which deserve special discussion later in this section. 


Among whites, several woman stand out for their important roles in spreading this potent new/old form of Christian experience. Maria Beulah Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924) converted at the age of 13 in a revival meeting at the local Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and she felt a distinct call to the ministry, though she knew the churches of her day would not acknowledge her in this capacity.  In the 1860s she married one P.H. Woodworth (whom she would divorce in 1891 after he committed adultery), and settled down, and then went through the tragedy of losing five of her six children to illnesses.  In 1879, in a revival meeting in a Quaker church, she felt a spiritual renewal and began to preach locally.  Her work spread... Around 1883, people in her meetings began to go into trance-like states which she described as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Healings also began to occur.  Shortly thereafter, Maria and her husband joined the Church of God, and in loose association with this Holiness church she continued her powerful yet controversial ministry for the next two decades, drawing large crowds to her meetings, which were held all over the United States.  Except for the speaking-in-tongues phenomenon, her gatherings bore all the signs of what we today would call Pentecostalism, and because of these characteristics, which were even a bit much for many Holiness ministers, in 1904 the Church of God dismissed her and revoked her ministerial credentials.  She began to align herself with the incipient Pentecostal movement—though with some caution, due to rampant false teachings in many circles of the movement—and later that year people began to speak in tongues at one of her meetings in St. Louis.  She was a major figure at the months-long revivals in Dallas in 1912 and Pasadena in 1913, after which she moved to Chicago, where she continued preaching well into her late 70s.  Maria not only was a gifted evangelist—over the years she also wrote some quite popular autobiographical books about her Spirit-filled ministry. 


Carrie Judd Montgomery (1858-1945) was raised by pious Episcopalians in Buffalo, New York, and became an invalid after an accident, but was healed by a black woman, Mrs. Edward Mix.  Carrie wrote The Prayer of Peace about the experience, becoming an early advocate for the power of healing prayer.  In 1881 she launched a periodical, Triumphs of Faith, and started speaking at healing conventions.  She became a leading member of Albert Simpson’s Christian Missionary Alliance in 1885 and opened the Faith Rest Cottage in Buffalo as a place where the sick could receive healing prayer and comfort.  Carrie moved to Oakland, California, in 1890, where she married and started a similar work, Home of Peace, in 1893; she would also inaugurate the Shalom Training School for Missionaries in 1894, an orphanage in 1905, and became one of the early California Pentecostalists to be filled with the Spirit which came through so formidably at the Azusa Street Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles led from 1906 on by the charismatic black minister, William Seymour.  In 1904 she had became a charter member of the Assemblies of God, and would become one of its prominent writers and speakers.  Florence L. Crawford (1872-1936) was a Methodist laywoman who was healed of an eye disease and began to experience xenoglossia, speaking in Chinese, after her “baptism in the Spirit” at the Azusa St. revival in Los Angeles.  She worked and preached as an itinerant home missionary along the West Coast, finally settling in Portland, where a minister turned over his pulpit to her, so beloved was she among the people.  She used Portland as her base for further travels throughout the West, Midwest, and Canada, preaching her Holiness doctrine, emphasizing a strict code of conduct, and utilizing footwashing as a third ordinance in addition to baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  In 1908 Florence began a new periodical, The Apostolic Faith, and in 1922 a large headquarters building for her burgeoning movement was erected.  Today her Apostolic Faith Mission of Portland, Oregon numbers some 4,000 members and 50,000 members in foreign lands (such as Nigeria, which has 20,000 members). 


Virginia Moss (1875-1919) started up an early Pentecostal bible college—Beulah heights Bible Missionary Training School—in 1912.  She had been badly injured at age 13 and became increasingly paralyzed over the years, yet was healed at a prayer service of the Christian Missionary Alliance.  In 1906 she opened her Door of Hope Mission with an emphasis on evangelism and healing.  She received the Pentecostal experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit in Nyack, New York, and her later her bible college became part of the Assemblies of God.  The Rev. and Mrs. Ivan Q. Spencer both founded in 1924 the Elim Fellowship (now in Lima, N.Y.) to train young men and women for full-time revival ministry.  Their doctrine is similar to the leading Pentecostal church, the Assemblies of God, with a strong emphasis on a Spirit-filled, sanctified life.  (Later in their ministry they were influenced by the “Latter-Rain” brand of pentecostalism disseminated, in part, by Myrtle D. Beall—see below.)  The Elim Fellowship currently has some 20,000 members, 300 ministers, and 200 congregations in the U.S., and a number of members worldwide.


Edith Mae Pennington (1902-74) had her plans to teach school competely interrupted when in 1921 she won the “Most Beautiful Girl in the U.S.” contest in which her aunt had secretly, unbeknownst to Edith, entered her.  She tourned the country, developed a night-club act, married, and had a child.  In 1925, though, this lifestyle, too, would be disrupted, when she experienced conversion, and then baptism in the Holy Spirit, in a small Pentecostal Church in Oklahoma City.  Edith became assistant pastor of an Assemblies of God Church in her hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and in 1930 she was ordained by the AGC.  By this time she had divorced her husband, who evidently did not favor his wife’s new spiritual direction; in 1932 Edith began to travel and preach with remarkable oratorical ability in Assemblies of God churches throughout the U.S., witnessing many conversion-experiences in her congregations.  After much traveling for almost two decades, she settled down in 1937 in Shreveport, Louisiana, to found the Full Gospel Temple, which at first was affiliated with the AGC, and then later, for no clear reason, made an independent church.  It is now pastored by her daughter. 


Aimee (Kennedy) Semple McPherson (1890-1944), “least of all saints,” stands as an amazingly energetic, joyous, passionate, compassionate, optimistic, witty, flamboyant woman.  Also sometimes quite stubborn, confused and temperamental.  Born and raised on a farm in the Safford area of Canada, she got involved in theatre in school, and at age 17 met Robert Semple, a charismatic, Pentecostal evangelist from northern Ireland, who baptized her into the ecstatic life of the Spirit.  They soon wed, departed for China in 1909 as missionaries, but then tragedy struck when he died in August of the next year.  Aimee returned to America, settling in N.Y. with her mother, Minnie, a strong-minded evangelist for the Salvation Army.  Aimee married again, this time a more worldly man with whom she had problems (eventually they divorced); in time, feeling a renewal of the Divine Spirit, she began a spirited revival campaign in the Eastern U.S., living austerely with her son and daughter as they traveled the rounds with their old car, 30’x60’ tent, and placards.  Finally, in 1918, “Sister Aimee” traveled across the country to Los Angeles, quickly establishing, with the help of her mother, a Pentecostal church which would come to be known as the International Church of Four-Square Gospel (emphasizing a Spirit-filled charismatic life, and the two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper).  By 1921 there were 32 churches affiliated with Aimee’s work.  Her own radio station, KFSG (one of only three in L.A.), made her the first evangelist of the electronic media; in 1917 she had also begun to publish the Bridal Call journal.  Aimee built the colossal Angeles Temple in L.A. (opened in 1923), and was probably the most famous evangelist of her time, utilizing her thespian and songwriting talents to become not only a dazzling star for her church, but also an illustrious celebrity on the Los Angeles scene.  She also occasioned thousands of faith-healings, though she often downplayed this aspect of her mission.  A bizarre “kidnapping” escapade, which seems to have been Aimee’s desperate cover story to hide a romance with her radio engineer, tainted her career in 1926 when it was at its peak.  But she recovered from this setback and was able to resume her work and recover a genuine holiness, with the same electrifying results among the people which had earlier characterized her ministry.  Yet Aimee Semple McPherson died a rather depressed woman, her ministry complicated by conflicts with her mother, son, daughter, and others.  (Her son Rolf would succeed her as president until his own retirement in 1988; note that the number of women ministers in the Church of the Foursquare Gospel has slipped somewhat; for instance, in 1977 there were 804 female clergy, but in 1986 only 666.) [26] 


An historian of the Pentecostal movement, Steve Durasoff, declares, “From the beginning of the Pentecostal revival, women have taken an active part in blazing a trail for God in the evangelistic and missionary fields.Their great contribution cannot be dismissed or ignored.”  Lillian Trasher (1887-1961),

“subject of the film, ‘Nile Mother,’ is one fine example: born in Florida, raised in Georgia, she studied at Bible schools, including one in North Carolina. Ten days before her wedding in 1910, she felt the call to work in Africa and left with a mere $100.  Soon after her arrival in Egypt, a dying Egyptian mother asked Lillian to care for her soon-to-be orphaned baby. Trasher rented a home in the predominantly Christian city of Assiout (about 230 miles south of Cairo), and, after a period of a few months, a man came to her with his infant daughter whose mother was dying. The man asked Lillian to take care of the girl for him, and this was the beginning of the Lillian Trasher Orphanage, Egypt’s first orphanage. Trasher was ordained a minister in 1912 by the Church of God of Cleveland, Tennessee. By 1916 her orphanage family had mushroomed to fifty children. A visit to the USA in 1919 led her to shift denominational allegiance to the Assemblies of God for their financing of missions and prayer support. She worked from 1929 to 1954 without a vacation at her orphanage. By the time of her passing in 1961, it had grown to c1200 children. ‘She never did marry, but literally thousands of unwanted Egyptian orphans [some 8,000 over fifty years] now rise to call her blessed.’ Through her were evidently wrought numerous miracles ‘as she attempted to feed, house, and clothe a little army of helpless dependents day in and day out.’” 


Florence Steidel was another Pentecostal woman leader, who directed New Hope Town, “a colony of love and concern for lepers in Liberia which has been lauded by the Nigerian government.”  Marie Brown, associated with N.Y.’s Glad Tidings Tabernacle, has mobilized tremendous support for overseas missions run by Pentecostalists. [27] 


In the wake of the “Latter-Rain” spiritual revival within Pentecostalism, which first emerged in 1948 at an independent Pentecostal school in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, headed by George Hawtin, and emphasizing a renewal of prophecy and healing (via laying-on-of-hands), the potential for “manifested sons of God” (individuals glorified by God to lead with spiritual authority), and a distrust of denominationalism, several hundred independent congregations have arisen in Canada and the U.S.  A few women have been significant in this Latter-Rain movement:  B. Maureen Gaglardi succeeded Reg Layzell as pastor of the Glad Tidings Temple in Vancouver, which had become a main center for disseminating the ideas and practices of the Latter-Rain movement throughout the North American continent.  Myrtle D. Beall was the pastor of the Bethesda Missionary Temple, an Assemblies of God pentecostal church in Detroit, Michigan, who encountered Hawtin at the Glad Tidings Temple and returned to inspire a revival at her own church; this drew a number of people who would later becoming leading figures in the Latter-Rain movement (such as Ivan Q. Spencer and Stanley Frodsham, a leader in the Assemblies of God church).  In 1949, Beall opened a large church structure capable of seating 3,000 people, and in 1951 she began the Latter Rain Evangel ministry, which helped spread the new movement across the U.S.  Myrtle’s work included the founding of the Bethesda Christian Schools which provide education from first grade through high school, and the two annual festivals each spring and fall which attract leading Pentecostal ministers to Detroit each year.  (Myrtle has been succeeded by her son as pastor of the Bethesda Missionary Temple.)


Several more notable women in the Pentecostal movement are Jean Stone, who was a wealthy laywoman and communicant of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California (where Rev. Dennis Bennett had begun to lead a neo-Pentecostal group engaging in tongue-speaking); Jean organized in her living room the Blessed Trinity Society, which published the important journal for the Charismatic movement, Trinity (1961-1966), and sponsored “Christian Advance” seminars and traveling speakers (Bennett, et al) in the budding neo-Pentecostal movement (which is less emotional and more “educated” than much of the “classical” Pentecostalism which spread through the country in earlier decades of this century).  Jean was one of the leading authorities and lecturers on “Charismatic Renewal” until 1966, when she divorced and moved to Hong Kong to engage in missionary work with her new husband, Richard Willans.  Bob Weiner, a former youth pastor for the Assemblies of God, and his wife, Rose Weiner, founded the Maranatha Christian Churches in 1972, a campus ministry, and have written a number of books, used as texts in the discipleship training work; their movement also sponsors a biennial world leadership conference and the Marantha Leadership Training School. 


Susan Alamo (d. 1982; née Edith Opal Horn), an independent Pentecostal minister, began in Hollywood, California the Music Square Church in 1969 with her husband, Tony Alamo (née Bernie Lazar Hoffman), whom she had converted (both were Jewish and focused especially on evangelizing to Jews).  Their church was one of the marginal expressions of the Jesus People movement; headquarters has since moved to Alma, Arkansas, where it has a school, large tabernacle, and has developed several businesses to provide work for some of the former drug addicts whom it has rehabilitated.  (Perhaps indicative of an inflated ego, Susan had predicted that she would rise from the dead, an event which never happened.  Moreover, Tony Alamo has since been indicted by the judicial authorities on various serious infractions of the law.)


As within the Holiness churches, women’s leadership roles diminished in many of the Pentecostal churches in mid-century, notwithstanding the presence of the few women we have mentioned above from the latter 20th century:

“With the move toward more priestly and bureaucratic approaches to ministry, women lost privileges in the Pentecostal groups as well.  Already, at its 1914 founding, the Assemblies of God had practiced a form of male-female hierarchy by reserving the highest office, ruling elder, for men—although women could be ordained as ministers and evangelists.  By 1931, with the shift toward ‘priestly Pentecostalism’ in full swing, an official resolution stripped ordained women of the right to administer the ordinances—a right restored by another resolution four years later, but which nevertheless served as a harbinger of a deterioration of the status and freedom women had enjoyed during the beginning stages of the Pentecostal movement. Other Pentecostal groups, such as the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, the Church of God in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Pentecostal Church of Christ, also limited the offices their female ministers were permitted to hold and the duties they were permitted to perform.  With declining support for women’s equality, the percentage of ordained female ministers among Pentecostal groups has also declined—even in groups founded by women, such as the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, founded in 1927 by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.  [From 1977 to 1986 its total number of women clergy dropped from 804 to 666; yet the Assemblies of God saw a great increase over this same time period, from 1,572 to 3,718.] ... Even more widespread [than the restriction of women’s exercising of priestly functions] was the teaching that, although a married woman could be a spiritual leader at church, she was under her husband’s leadership at home.” [28]



All of this must have been a blow to women who had been inspired by the Bible-based views of total equality between men and women such as found in the views of Margaret Fell, Catherine Mumford Booth and even more painstakingly researched and articulated by scholar Katharine Bushnell in her milestone work, God’s Word to Women, first published in 1912.


We must not close our coverage of the Pentecostal tradition without discussing a “gift of the Holy Spirit” (charismata) probably even more important than tongue-speaking—namely, spiritual healing, which has already been mentioned in passing as a part of the ministries of a number of leading Pentecostalists.  Healing was, of course, centrally important in the ministry of Jesus and the early Church. [29]  Ignored in subsequent centuries (except in the cases of great saints) and today totally forgotten in mainstream forms of western Christianity, the ministry of spiritual healing has nevertheless made a remarkable comeback in the twentieth century, especially as part of the Pentecostal movement and the neo-Pentecostal “charismatic renewal” (which, together, are the chosen affiliation of some 30 million or 19% of the world’s Christians), as well as in Christian Science, New Thought, and certain New Age groups, which we will explore in the next chapter.  Attempts to completely debunk the reality of spiritual healing have been made by secular-humanist groups such as the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), and affiliated writers such as Paul Kurtz and James Randi.  Whereas their exposés have done a great service to weed out frauds and hoaxes and wishful thinking in too many cases, they also ignore, in most unscientific manner, a mass of evidence clearly indicating the existence of spiritual healing, including the rigorously-designed scientific experimental studies in the last several years (such as by Randolph Byrd, Daniel Wirth, William Braud, et al) which have clearly demonstrated the efficacy of various forms of spiritual healing. [30] 


Significantly, whereas most of the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal movement, rather like the Holiness movement, has been dominated by men in terms of organizational governing, it seems that a significant number of the really great instruments of Christian healing of modern times are women.  (Let us not forget, however, the number of men in the healing ministry, such as the early pioneer, Episcopalian physician Charles Cullis around the turn of the century, and others such as Albert Benjamin Stone, F.F. Bosworth, Paul Rader, John Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, William Marrion Branham, Alfred Price, George Hawtin, Leroy Jenkins and Francisco Olazabal.)  The women healing ministers profiled below are especially remarkable, not only for the wondrous healing (and often diagnostic) abilities which manifest through them, but also for their pure-hearted, self-effacing attitudes, and their inspiring words about God’s love.  The illustrious women discussed below actually come from a variety of Christian denominations (not just Pentecostal) but all of whom may be embraced within the category of charismatic figures, in the literal sense of the word “charismatic”—that is, “gifted by the Holy Spirit.”


The evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-1976), well-known from her numerous radio and television broadcasts, stands out as the most spectacular “instrument” for the awesome healing power of the Spirit, with many thousands of scientifically “inexplicable” bodily healings taking place at her poignant and masterfully presented, non-denominational Miracle Services at Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and many other places nationally and internationally.  (Many of these cures were carefully examined and documented by physicians—notably, the healings included babies and atheists, for whom it is not a matter of their “faith” healing them.)  Yet even more impressive than the physical cures in Ms. Kuhlman’s ministry were the inner transformations in countless people who were influenced by the Spirit moving through and around her.  Also remarkable were her instant diagnoses of people’s conditions sitting out in the churches or auditoriums, and the way in which many people would experience the “falling phenomenon” (“being slain in the Spirit”) when a blessing was invoked by Kathryn (with regard to this last phenomenon, people would experience a state akin to what the Hindus would call samādhi, wherein one is fairly oblivious to the body and lower mind, completely open to the transforming power of God; moreover, people would often experience this empowerment at some distance away from her).  Born on a farm near Concordia, Missouri, of a Methodist mother and Baptist father (she would later join the Baptist church and remain a Baptist—at least in name—to her dying day), Kathryn experienced a powerful baptism into the Holy Spirit shortly after her 14th birthday at a local Methodist church.  Two years later she joined in the ministry work of her older sister and brother-in-law in the Pacific Northwest.  Around 1928, in Boise, Idaho, she set out on her own evangelical ministry, with back-up pianist and close friend, Helen Gulliford (the two became known as “God’s Girls”), traveling, singing and preaching—enduring much hardship and criticism—throughout Idaho, then Colorado (where her 5-year stint in Denver, beginning in August, 1933, brought her much publicity).  In 1938, Ms. Kuhlman married a minister from Iowa, though separating from him in 1944 after a profound deepening into the Divine Life, thereafter renouncing all human conjugal love relationships in order to be devoted solely to Jesus.  Her ministry at this point had been devastated by nasty critics, but in 1946-7 she rose again to fame, in Franklin, Pennsylvania, where miracle healings began to happen, soon becoming countless in number, as she filled to overflowing the halls and churches in Franklin, Pittsburgh (which soon became her life-long home), Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and so on.  Though she was not free of foibles and insecurities, Kathryn was extremely Spirit-filled, God-loving, self-effacing, radiant, and compassionate.  Her closest biographers describe her with the highest superlatives.  (The Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation is carried on today by her longtime friend and co-worker, Marguerite Hartner and many people are being healed, just as people were when Kathryn was alive, by simply reading the books and listening to the audio tapes.) [31] 


A less dramatic but no less influential “instrument” of healing was Agnes Sanford (1897?-1983), a woman who blended together dignity, humor, insightfulness, and a multi-faceted nature (she was a mother of three children, teacher, writer, painter, gardener, and nature mystic).  Raised in China by Presbyterian missionary parents from Virginia, Agnes married an Episcopalian missionary there at age 24; later she returned with him to the U.S., functioning as minister’s wife and mother in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts (living out her last years in Monrovia, Calif.).  In Moorestown, Pennsylvania, after being healed in the early 1930s of a severe depression by a charismatic Episcopalian minister, she began to conduct the highly efficacious healing missions which eventually grew into her worldwide Schools of Pastoral Prayer (established in 1952).  In these powerful 5-day workshops, Agnes, her husband Ted (d. 1960), and eventually other charismatic teachers instructed ministers (chiefly from the mainstream churches) on how “Jesus still lives and heals the body, mind, and spirit,” and on how to be instruments for this power of his Holy Spirit.  Mrs. Sanford, who was conducting missions well into her 80s, wrote a number of inspiring books and novels on healing, beginning with her famous work, The Healing Light, published in 1947 (the same year, incidentally, that Ms. Kuhlman’s healing ministry began in force).  Her autobiography, Sealed Orders, is another gem she has given us. [32]          


Olga Worrall (d. 1984) was born to a Russian Orthodox father, a theologian who had trained to be a priest earlier in his life; her mother was an Hungarian Roman Catholic of noble ancestry.  The couple moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Olga grew up, one of eleven surviving children, going to public school during the day and to a Russian Orthodox school in the early evening.  From the age of at least three years old, Olga could see the spirits of the departed, detect auras around people, and precognitively perceive events such as when people were going to be leaving the body—a talent not at all appreciated by her family (this is a plight which has afflicted many psychic children).  What eventually did become greatly appreciated was Olga’s gift of healing, which manifested a number of times with her mother, family members, and neighbors, and saved a few lives in the process.  In 1928 she married Ambrose Worrall, an English Methodist, who also turned out to be a psychic and healer; six months later they moved to Baltimore, where he went on to attain success as an aeronautical/electronic factory executive, an engineer, and consultant.  In 1929, the couple experienced the wrenching anguish of losing within three days of each other their infant twin sons.  Visions of a deceased relative caring for the two souls helped the Worralls to rebound from this and go on to fulfill their life-mission of working together as sensitives and healers for the sake of thousands of friends and strangers, never charging any money for their gifts.  After Ambrose’s death in 1972 he began to appear and speak to Olga, and, along with several other guides, gave her much help “from the other side” in her healing work; through her he gave the world many messages about the deathless nature of spirit.  Olga was a deeply prayerful and selfless woman, also quite charming, even flamboyant, yet not at all pretentious, a down to earth woman very much “in the world” (though not of it).  Her New Life Clinic at the Mt. Washington Methodist Church in Baltimore, Maryland, occasioned thousands of cures since she started her public healing ministry there in the late 1940s.  Moreover, Olga and Ambrose allowed themselves to be the much-valued subjects of many scientific studies of spiritual healing, psychokinesis, psychometry, precognition, energy fields, and so forth conducted at different laboratories around the country. [33]


Dorothy Kerin (c.1890-1963), an Anglican woman living in London, came back from a clinical NDE (near-death experience) in 1912 after experiencing healing visions of Christ and Mary.  Sometime after this Dorothy became evidently the first Protestant mystic to participate in Christ’s suffering with the stigmata wounds.  In 1929 in Ealing, London, she opened a House of Healing, marking the beginning of her potent healing ministry, full of love and laughter and that total trust in God’s Providence so characteristic of sanctified souls.  Dorothy eventually founded the large Burrswood Healing Centre (near Groombridge in Kent), still flourishing to this day. [34]


The Mita Movement was organized in Puerto Rico 1940 by Mrs. Juanita Garcia Peraga, who received a healing after a long illness, and the new name, “Mita.”  She not only evangelizes and composes numerous hymns, she is considered a powerful instrument of physical healings and moral conversions (even said to be capable of affecting the weather), a sanctified messenger of God, equal in stature to the prophets of the Old Testament.  Mrs. Peraga’s movement is still mainly centered in Puerto Rico, but also has churches in New York City, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago.  Rev. Lilian G. Fitch and husband, Rev. William Fitch, were Pentecostal “deliverance” (healing and exorcising) evangelists who founded the small First Deliverance Church of Atlanta in 1956, emphasizing the “Three Experiences”—justification, sanctification, and tongue-speaking, as well as healing, fasting and tithing.      


Charles and Dorothy Schmitt founded in the 1960s in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Body of Christ Movement, a “Latter Rain” Pentecostal group, which arose as part of the quieter, more reflective neo-Pentecostal movement.  Their Body of Christ Movement, emphasizing healing and involving tens of thousands of people, has spread through the U.S. with their tape ministry and home Bible study course.  In the 1980s they moved to the Washington D.C. area.  Evangelists Charles and Frances Hunter of Kingwood, Texas, who both exude an extraordinary confidence and enthusiasm to heal and win souls for Christ, have a very widespread spiritual healing ministry, and a huge collection of inspirational and “how-to” books and audio-video cassettes which show anyone how to set up a “healing school.”  Their colleague and fellow healing minister, Betty Tapscott, has also written a number of books on healing.


Ruth Carter Stapleton, sister of ex-President Jimmy Carter, was an evangelist since the late 1950s, finally gaining national and international recognition with her brother’s political rise to the top in 1976.  She sees herself more as a “spiritual counselor” than “faith healer,” and has a large following among Charismatic Christians in the U.S., Latin America, and the Orient, inspiring them to receive healings and glossolalia in the Spirit of Christ. [35]


In the Philippines, a Christian woman, Josephina Sison (1941- ), has been healing people since the age of 22 in the village of Villasis (Pangasinan province), serving as an instrument for the curative power coming from God and Michael the archangel.  Josephina is one of the most spiritually oriented and respected among the “spiritist” healers and psychic surgeons in that country.  Lucy Santos-Reyes (b. c.1956) of Paombong (Bulacan province) is another devout Christian Filipina healer (yet who maintains an ordinary life as a hog-butcher) whose ministry started around the age of 21 when, during a deathly illness, Santo Niño (the Christ-child) appeared to her in a vision and instructed her to cure her village’s illnesses.  She made a vow to have her healing power renewed each year for the next 14 years by allowing herself to be crucified, with actual nails, each Good Friday, after a week-long fast.  Lucy, who still maintains inner communication with Santo Niño, also makes use of help afforded by spirit guides in her healing work. [36]


Other noteworthy female instruments of spiritual healing in Christian (Pentecostal/Neo-Pentecostal, Catholic and Protestant) circles in recent years in the Western world also include the Nora Lam (a Chinese evangelist), Evelyn Wyatt, Louise Eggleston, Jo Kimmel, Sheila Fabricant, Sr. Jeanne Hill, Sr. Francis Clare, Vicki Jamieson, Ronda Chervin, and many others.      


Black women—who had to overcome not only sexism but also racism—have played a very important role both within the Holiness and Pentecostal movements.  We have already heard mention of Phillis Wheatley (1753?-84), a freed slave who became America’s most famous black poet of the 18th century, as well as some of the black Holiness women of the Church of God movement. Here we will discuss other black women in the “Sanctified Church,” as well as their black sisters in the more “mainstream” Protestant denominations.  Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915) is exceptional as the daughter of a slave in Maryland who taught herself to read and write.  Amanda and her family were given their freedom when the master’s little daughter, dying of typhoid, requested this as a last wish—she had earlier “got religion” from young Amanda and her mother and felt deeply indebted to them.  Amanda got a little schooling in Pennsylvania, and, at age 13, was greatly inspired while attending an all-white Methodist Holiness revival.  A bit later in life, when Amanda’s husband disappeared during the Civil War, and a second husband died after their brief marriage, she set out in 1865 on her own evangelical career, preaching throughout the Eastern U.S., as far south as Texas, traveling alone carrying an old carpetbag.  She received enough in the way of donations to travel to Great Britain in 1876, where she evangelized throughout England, Scotland, and Italy, subsequently spending 19 months preaching in Egypt and India.  She would also preach in Africa, adopting two children there.  She spent the rest of her years running the Amanda Smith Orphans’ Home in Chicago, and giving frequent sermons and speeches at the invitation of many church leaders.  Yet, having succeeded in circles few women had ventured, Amanda still had to contend with racism:  “Once, asked to lead the devotions at a Washington, D.C. conference, [she] walked around the city for two days looking for a restaurant that would serve her.”  Amanda’s autobiography is “one of the most amazing odysseys of faith and courage you will ever read,” declares Rev. Culver.  “Amanda never stopped serving the Lord long enough to accumulate any worldly goods, but she learned not to worry, that he would always provide, one way or another, for her needs.” 


Sojourner Truth (née Isabella; 1797-1883) began to converse with God while still a small child, a slave girl in the Hudson Valley experiencing frequent whippings.  Later she became famous “from the East Coast to the Western frontier as a preacher of God and freedom,” a “sign unto her people.”  Sojourner Truth got the law to free her son, she was the first to test the legal “Jim Crow” desegregation of Washington streetcars and win compliance, and she was a frequent speaker at religious meetings, women’s rights conventions, and political events in the latter 1800s.  She was illiterate and left no writings, nor did she leave any buildings or institutions—“she worked in the most perishable of materials, the human heart,” inspiring people to compassion and closeness to God.  Thousands loved and revered her, as evidenced by a “tide” of letters to her and about her, and by the many newspaper articles about her.  Her whole life was a rebuttal to the rhetorical question she would so often ask, and which is engraved on her tombstone—“Is God Dead?” 


Harriet Tubman (c.1820-1913), born a slave, became the “Moses” of her people before and during the American Civil War, leading hundreds of slaves out of the South to freedom in the North through repeated acts of courage.  An influential preacher, she also worked as a nurse, spy, and scout during the war.  Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911), though denominationally associated with the Unitarians (see next chapter), did much work for the African Methodist Episcopal Church throughout her life, including the organization of Sunday Schools for children in that church (which is one of the three largest black Methodist churches that arose in the 19th century, along with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church).  Born of free black parents who died in her childhood, Frances was raised by an uncle whose school brought her a good education and allowed her to develop the verbal skills which eventually made her the most popular black poet of her time and an eloquent speaker.  She put the latter ability to good use, stirring “hundreds of audiences with moral fervor and forceful oratory” on the need for abolition of slavery and, later in life, temperance reform and woman’s suffrage.  Before the Civil War, her home in Philadelphia became an important station in the underground railroad for fugitive blacks, and she sacrificed all her money, time, and energy for the cause.


Myrtle Foster Todd Cook (n.d.) was born in Canada, coming to live with her parents in Monroe, Michigan, where she became quite active in many capacities at her church.  Filled with a missionary spirit, she moved to various places in Kentucky, and, with her husband, to Oklahoma.  Myrtle taught school, and helped establish a hospital.  Her husband died, some time after which she remarried, and went on to serve God and her race in a number of ways, especially with the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and with several financial institutions which empowered blacks’ home-buying and investment opportunities.  Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was a leading black educator, church woman, and social reformer.  Third youngest of 16 children, she began studies at the (Dwight) Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1894, and, sometime after finishing her theological education, tried to become a foreign missionary, but was denied a post in Africa because she was black.  So she moved to Augusta, where she not only taught eighth grade black children but also collected homeless urchins, washed and clothed them and taught them Sunday school (soon there would be 1,000 youngsters involved in this project).  In 1904 Mary started the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro girls—this turned into the 4-story Faith Hall, whose motto on the outside of the front door was “Enter to Learn,” and on the inside, facing the girls as they left, was “Depart to Serve.”  This was the seed for her Bethune Cookman College, which she wound up serving as president for 38 years.  Married, with one son, Mary headed the Florida branch of the Red Cross, founded the National Council of Negro Women, advised F.D. Roosevelt, organized and directed the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration (NYA) which empowered young blacks to attend higher levels of school, and by the 1940s was the recognized leader of black women and youth in America.  “Mrs. Bethune was truly ecumenical and interfaith in her approach.  She was educated by the Presbyterians and was an active and committed Methodist ... She was also a member of the Executive Board of the Council of Church Women and an honorary member of Hadassah.” [37]


Jualyne E. Dodson and Cheryl Townsend Gilkes have spoken of the prime importance of black women within their churches, especially in the area of music, a contribution which has affected mainstream culture at large:

“One of the most profound impacts of black women on the aesthetics of the black community has been in the area of music.  As a women’s activity, it remains the least documented and the least heralded.  Regardless of the levels of sexism in specific black churches [wherein, for instance, a distinction was made between 'preaching' and 'speaking'—women could do the latter, but not the former, since women are forbidden to 'preach' according to that false reading of Scripture], black women carried a great responsibility for the distinctiveness of the music and prayer traditions.  The area of music, although generally viewed as women’s work, is particularly important because black sacred music has had a wide-ranging impact on contemporary music in general.  From the isolated music teacher in the rural black community who was also the leader of the local church choir, to women such as Mattie Moss Clark of the Church of God in Christ, Lucie E. Campbell of the National Baptist Convention, and Mother Beatrice Brown of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, one can observe the hand of black women in the black sacred music tradition.  The music ministries of black women advanced and institutionalized arenas for creative and individual expression. ... As the twentieth century progressed, black men could both preach and sing (the preferred combination of gifts), but black women were increasingly limited to the singing.  Women such as Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith learned to do their preaching through their singing (and long introductions to their songs) and gained national reputations as ‘evangelist.’ For more than thirty years, Lucie E. Campbell was one of the guiding powers in musical standards for black Baptists in the United States. ... Roberta Martin is credited with the stylistic refinement of gospel music and she, along with numerous other women, contributed and refined their musical talents through such organizations as the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. [38]


A few other black women singers deserve to be mentioned here.  Mahalia Jackson (1911-72), probably the most famous gospel singer of the 20th century, was raised in a pious Baptist family in New Orleans.  She left for Chicago in 1928, where she worked as a maid and sang for the Greater Salem Baptist Church.  In 1930 she organized a gospel group that would bring a new kind of black gospel music to the fore, one which became dominant in most Baptist churches, full of energy and enthusiasm.  In 1950, Mahalia began to appear at Carnegie Hall, and over subsequent years she made several widely acclaimed tours of Europe and Asia.  In the 1960s she involved herself in the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King.  Mahalia distinguished herself by sticking only to sacred music; she would not sing or record secular music, no matter how spectacular the sums of money offered to her.  Shirley Caesar (1938- ), an “evangelist” and singer for the Mt. Calvary Holy Church, a Holiness sect, became the first black female gospel singer ever to win a Grammy award for musical excellence.  In 1983 she and her husband Harold Ivoy Williams became the co-pastors of the Mt. Calvary Baptist Holy Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.     


Dodson and Gilkes have identified some of the many black women in the field of education, a crucial service mission within the black community. All these women were “active churchwomen and nationally visible to their own and other denominations,” and a few of them—such as Lucy Craft Laney (1854-1933)—were explicitly recognized by their denominations as ministers.  Thus we hear of Anna Julia Cooper (1858-1964), Juliette Derricotte (1897-1931), Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954), Hallie Q. Brown (1845?-1949), Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1882-1961), Nannie Helen Burroughs (1883-1961), Ida B. Wells (1864-1931), and the aforementioned Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) (Frances Ellen Watkins Harper should also be mentioned in this context).


Most blacks who express a religious preference are Baptist (60%).  Unfortunately, women’s position in the National Baptist Convention (the main body of black Baptist believers) was undermined under the leadership of Booker T. Washington and his male supremacist views in the early part of this century, and to this day the N.B.C. is against women preachers.  Baptist women, however, formed in 1900 the Woman’s Auxiliary of the N.B.C., and elected as their first president Mrs. S. Willie Layten (d. 1950), daughter of a leading Baptist minister, Rev. W.H. Phillips.  Mrs. Layten had graduated from LeMoyne College, and done post-graduate work in California and Pennsylvania, later receiving an honory master’s degree from State University in Louisville.  A quite humble woman and ardent lover of the Bible, Mrs. Layten helped organize the West Baptist Association of California, the first woman’s club in California, and the Association for the Protection of Colored Women.  She worked with her daughter, Mrs. Madeline Tillman, in child-welfare associations, was one of the first women to enlist in the Volunteer Civilian Service Corps, and, as mentioned, she led the Women’s Auxiliary of the N.B.C. from its inception until 1948.  Mrs. Layten passed on in January, 1950, one of the most honored of black Baptist women. 


The aforementioned Nannie Helen Burroughs was another major female figure among black Baptists.  Growing up in a most happy, loving extended family, first in Virginia and then Washington D.C., she became at a young age the first secretary of the Baptist Woman’s Auxiliary in 1900 at Louisville.  This post led her to travel widely, engaged in fund-raising on behalf of missions in Africa.  A candid, staunch advocate of feminism, racial uplift, and opponent of jim crow policies, Nannie became one of the most forceful women speakers of her day, also writing many pieces for newspapers and magazines, for which she was awarded honorary master’s and doctor’s degrees.  Utilizing that “theology of risk,” Miss Burroughs founded the National Training School for Women and Girls at Washington, and for over 30 years empowered females to go forth serving “their God, their church, their country and the world.”  In 1948 she was elected President of the National Baptist Woman’s Convention, carrying on for Mrs. Layten until shortly before her own passing in 1961.  Miss Burroughs also helped draw attention to black women by getting the National Baptist Convention to institute in 1907 a Woman’s Day for the fourth Sunday of July, a day that would soon be celebrated in nearly every predominantly black denomination and among blacks in other denominations—”the single most important source of role models for black girls and women in the areas of the professions, political activism, Christian ministry, and overall Christian service.”  In passing, I would mention a few other notable black women:  Coretta Scott King (1927-2006), wife of towering black leader Martin Luther King, was herself an ardent worker for civil rights from the 1950s onward, and, for feminist causes during the 1960s and later, and, finally, preserving her illustrious husband’s legacy for those who would neglect it or distort it. Charlotte L. Tshabalala (fl. early 20th century), founder of the Daughters of Africa Movement in S. Africa, has authored a beautiful, deeply spiritual litany written for African women who were being served by the NBC’s Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society (WHFMS).  The names of evangelists L.B. Ross (d. 1943; active first in Birmingham and then Cincinnati) and Elizabeth Jean Tyree Cooper (active from the late 1930s to the 1960s in various midwestern locales, from Dayton to Tulsa) stand out as influential preachers of the Church of the Living God, Christian Workers for Fellowship (CWFF), founded by Baptist preacher William Christian in Wrightsville, Arkansas, 1889, which spread through the midwest and southern U.S. [39]


Methodism is the other major Protestant denomination to which blacks have gravitated.  Blacks were members of the earliest Methodist societies and a major part of Methodism in the late 18th century in America.  In response to certain racial tendences prevalent throughout America, blacks in some regions became interested in founding their own Methodist bodies, and three prominent ones have emerged:  the African Methodist Episcopal Church (headquartered in Nashville, with over 2 million members), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (Charlotte, NC, over 1 million members), and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (Memphis, over 700,000 members).  Whereas central leadership in these churches has been male, notable women have emerged as preachers and, more recently, as deacons and elders.  Just to speak of the largest of these groups, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Jarena Lee (1783-?) of New Jersey had a powerful conversion experience while young, and felt the call to “preach the gospel,” but was rebuffed by male leader Rev. Richard Allen.  Tragedy later struck when Jarena lost her husband, Methodist preacher Joseph Lee, and some of her children.  Raising two remaining infants, she felt inspired to ask Allen again for license to preach, which was this time granted, and throughout the 1830s and 1840s in the Middle Atlantic region and beyond “Jarena Lee had become as familiar a figure in evangelism as any of her male counterparts.”  Fanny Muriel Jackson Coppin (1837-1913) was born into slavery in Washington, D.C., got some education in Rhode Island, and taught for a Quaker school in Philadelphia, where she began to train teachers and start a trade school.  She married AMEC Bishop Levi Jenkins Coppin, and took up church work in addition to her endeavors in the educational field.  They worked in South Africa for some years, and, back in this country, Fanny was elected president of the AMEC’s Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society in the 1880s and 1890s.  It is said that her accomplishments equaled those of her husband, a rare acknowledgement in the 19th century.  The earlier mentioned Amanda Smith may be considered an African Methodist Episcopal preacher as well, and Sarah Hughes of North Carolina joined the AME Church in 1880 and not only became a preacher and a pastor of several congregations in her native state, but was also ordained the first female deacon of the AME by Bishop Turner, though this appointment was summarily cancelled by Turner’s successor because “her ordination was contrary to all law in our Church”!  Into the early 20th century, many black women such as Martha Jayne Keys, Mary Watson Stewart, Anna Payton‚ and Lena Robinson‚ were evangelizing (Stewart doing so on a wide geographical scale) and not only pastoring but resurrecting certain AME churches which males had abandoned.  During the 1950s and 1960s women finally were allowed to enter the ranks of local deacons and local elders; and in 1971 Rev. Martha Reed was ordained as the first itinerant elder, the highest ministerial order in the AME.  The AME’s Commission on Women in Ministry (WIM), claimed as the first such organization in any Protestant denomination to be an official arm of the church, is currently led by its female president, Rev. Lillian Frier Webb, who is the pastor of the Mt. Olive AME Church in Port Washington, N.Y. as well as being a family woman, psychotherapist, and first female itinerant elder in the First Episcopal District.  A late 1990 directory from the WIM Commission indicates that in the seventeen episcopal districts of the AME, there are two Presiding Elders, Rev. Cornelia Wright, of Beckley, West Virginia, and Rev. Helen Patrick of Suriname, as well as 169 ordained Itinerant Elders, 55 Itinerant Deacons, and many local elders, deacons, and pastors. [40]


As mentioned, black women have been a conspicuous, leading element within the “Sanctified Church” of Holiness and Pentecostal churches, which: “…maintained the ecstatic Afro-Christian worship tradition and its linkages to slave religion at a time when the Baptists and the Methodists were attempting to eliminate those traditions from their churches.  The Sanctified Church, whose denominations disagreed vigorously over the proper role of women in the churches, attracted large numbers of ‘talented, Spirit-filled women’ [especially from Baptist and Methodist circles] who felt called to labor in the gospel ministry. Strong women’s departments [such as that started in the Church of God in Christ by Mother Lizzie Woods Roberson] came to be a typical feature in the overall organization of the Sanctified Church; as long as women were subordinate and cooperative to their bishops, the organizations functioned with near autonomy.  In some cases, subordination was not an issue, since the church also ordained women to preaching and pastoral office. ... A number of Baptist and Methodist women came over into these churches in order to exercise their gifts.  It was the women who were migrating to the cities who carried the movement to urban areas, preaching revivals, ‘digging out’ new works, and then writing ‘home’ for a pastor.  Although the black churches are heavily female—by some estimates 75 percent female—the Sanctified Church is the most female of these churches, with some congregations having 90 percent female memberships. ... These churches provided extraordinary leadership opportunities for women.  In some areas, these churches account for the majority of women clergy. ... Within the black religious experience, the Sanctified Church went farther than other churches in separating women’s leadership roles from their marital relationships.” [41]

We may note that it was a black woman, Sister Lucy Farrow, an original member of Charles Parham’s Topeka Bible School where Agnes Ozman had experienced tongue-speaking, who herself underwent the baptism into the Holy Spirit, began to also speak in tongues, and took Pentecostalism to Houston. There she facilitated Parham’s new Bible school which attracted a black minister, William J. Seymour, who became one of the founding fathers of the Pentecostal movement by starting up a powerful revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906.  This group eventually attracted a number of whites, many of whom would split off a decade or two later to start their own white pentecostal groups, leaving the blacks to have their own pentecostal movement.  (Melton: “There is little doubt that the early splintering among Pentecostals throughout the country was because the black leadership at Azusa was unacceptable to whites... Pentecostalism swept the black community and created some large, if hidden, denominations.  They compiled impressive figures for foreign mission work in Africa and the West Indies, where Pentecostalism has become the major faith in places.”) [42]


The aforementioned Lizzie Woods Roberson (1860-1945) was born a slave, experienced the death of her father when but a little girl, and later the death of her first and second husbands.  In 1911 she was a matron of the Baptist Academy in Dermont, Arkansas (where she had gone through the help and inspiration of Joanna Patterson Moore [q.v.], an American Baptist stateside missionary) when she met Bishop Charles Harrison Mason (who had learned of and experienced the power of baptism in the Holy Spirit which was spreading through the West after the 1906 Pentecostal revival in Los Angeles).  From Bishop Mason Lizzie received a powerful baptism into the Holy Spirit, and subsequently Mason appointed her and some other women to co-run with him his new Church of God in Christ (COGIC), in the development of the Pentecostal movement in the southern U.S.  She was given the designation, “General Mother of Women.”  In 1926, having married a minister by name of Elder Roberson, Lizzie and he traveled through the western U.S., experiencing great hardship while evangelizing, healing, organizing women into Home and Foreign Mission bands, and preaching against the secret, hermetic Lodges (Freemasonry, etc.), for which she was persecuted and temporarily imprisoned (!).  Mother Roberson was a highly virtuous, talented evangelist.  Later in life she and Rev. Roberson moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where they established a COGIC church.  While he settled down as pastor, she continued to travel on behalf of the women’s work.  When her health began to fail, the work was carried on by her spiritual daughters, the various “State Mothers” of the movement—such as Anne Penny Lee Bailey, Fannie Jackson, Lucinda Bostick, M. Payton, Mother Buchanan, Mother Hale, Jessie Strickland, Nancy Gamble, and Eliza Hollins, by her own biological daughter, Ida Baker, a gifted singer, and by Lillian Brooks Coffey, Assistant General for the movement.  When the greatly beloved Mother Roberson died after attending the annual COGIC Convocation at the new national headquarters building in Memphis in 1943 (which she had helped build), she was succeeded by Mother Coffey, who went on to lead the women’s movement in COGIC with distinction, greatly multiplying its services and activities.  Anne Penny Lee Bailey (1894-1975) at age 12 got the conversion experience in a Baptist church where her father was the minister.  In 1915 she became a Pentecostalist, joining COGIC.  An accomplished musician, she spread the message among blacks in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, and then later, after World War I, in New York and New Jersey.  Anne held various state supervisor positions for her chrch, then in 1964 was made international supervisor for COGIC, a post she held until her passing eleven years later.  COGIC has become a very large church, claiming in 1987 some three million members and almost 32,000 ministers in the U.S., and an additional 700,000 members outside the country, primarily in Africa. [43]


Mother Mozella Cook was converted in a service led by her mother, a woman who evidently often went into trances and communed with God; this woman was once “hauled into court to be examined for lunacy because of her mystical states” (—which may, of course, say more about people’s ignorance of mystical states than about her own “insanity”).  In any case, Mozella moved to Pittsburgh, joined the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) but left to found her own small Pentecostal church (presently some 60 members), The Sought Out Church of God in Christ, in Brunswick, Georgia, in 1947, after feeling the “divine call” to which many in the Holiness movement felt attuned.


In an earlier day, Mrs. Ethel Christian succeeded her husband, the Rev. William Christian (1856-1928, a former associate of Bishop Mason), as “chief” of the holiness/pentecostal Church of the Living God (Christian Workers for Fellowship) which he had founded in 1889.  She claimed that the original Pentecostal revelation inspiring the founding of the church had come to both her husband and herself.  It emphasizes xenoglossia (miraculous speaking of foreign languages, not “gibberish”), footwashing of members’ feet by one another (in imitation of Christ, a practice which some other Pentecostal groups utilize), and certain elements from Freemasonry.  The church numbered some 42,000 in 1985. 


In 1903 one Mary L. Tate (1871-1930) began to preach at Steel Springs, Tennessee, and Paducah, Kentucky, and then throughout the South, spawning a number of holiness bands formed by people converted by her.  Taken ill at one point, she was healed, given the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and spoke in tongues.  Subsequently she called an assembly in Greenville, Alabama, in the midst of which her pentecostal Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth was formed, with Mary, also known as Mother or Saint Mary Magdalena, as the chief overseer.  The church rapidly spread to Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee (it is now headquartered in Nashville).  By the end of the next decade, it had congregations across the eastern U.S.  In 1919, a large schismatic group in Philadelphia left, calling themselves the House of God, Which Is the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth.  After Mary’s passing, in 1931 three persons were ordained to serve as chief overseer—each would come to lead their own distinct church:  Mary’s son, F.E. Lewis ran the one which carries the original name (after his passing in 1968, Bishop Helen M. Lewis‚ succeeded him); Mrs. M.F.L. Keith‚ (widow of Bishop W.C. Lewis, Mary’s other son) ran another, called the House of God Which Is the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth Without Controversy, headquartered in Montgomery; and B.L. McLeod headed up the last one, known as the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth, Inc.  The movement has several thousand members, all practicing the “three ordinances” utilized by many Holiness/Pentecostal groups: not only baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but also foot washing.


Bishop Ida Robinson (d. 1946) grew up in Georgia, converted at 17 to the Holiness movement, and moved to Philadelphia, becoming pastor of the Mount Olive Holy Church.  Some time later, after receiving a command from the Holy Spirit, she founded the Mt. Sinai Holy Church in 1924, a Pentecostal church, episcopal in polity, wherein spiritual healing and a purified lifestyle are stressed and women have a prominent leadership role, many of them serving as bishops.  After Bishop Robinson’s passing, the original vice-president, Bishop Elmira Jeffries, succeeded, followed in 1964 by Bishop Mary Jackson.  By 1968 there were 92 churches and some 2,000 members of the Mount Sinai Holy Church.  Rev. Magdalene Mabe Phillips (n.d.) withdrew from the United Holy Church of America and, with others’ help, established in Baltimore in 1945 the Alpha and Omega Church of God Tabernacles (soon changed to Alpha and Omega Pentecostal Church of God of America), which in 1970 claimed 400 members and six missions.  Reverends Diana Stewart‚ and Barbara Martin‚ in 1976 became the first female bishops in the Shrines of the Black Madonna, Black Christian Nationalist Church, begun in 1970 and headquartered in Detroit. [44]


Black women have in the mid-1970s become empowered in the Presbyterian churches in the U.S., part of the more “mainstream” Protestant world:  Rev. Joan Martin‚ became the first black woman student at Princeton Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) and the first black woman to be ordained to the United Presbyterian Church ministry, in 1976.  That same year, Thelma Davidson Adair, a schoolteacher, theologian, and consultant to African relief work, became the first black woman ever elected moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., one of the two major Presbyterian bodies in the U.S. (it has since merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. to form the Presbyterian Church [U.S.A.]).  Clarie Collins Harvey, a past president of Church Women United (CWU—see below), graduated from the Union Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian school), in 1950 and became active in the early civil rights movement, founding Womanpower Unlimited. [45]


We have seen how black women have been illustrious missionaries to blacks both in this country and abroad, that is, in their African homeland. Similarly, it tends to be white Protestant women, not men, who have been the leaders in the missionary fields, at home and in such foreign countries as India and China.  At first, of course, the licensed British and American missionaries were all men—it was not considered “proper” for women to be in the field.  If women went at all, it was with their husbands, and the wives were not officially appointed by the missionary boards.  Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826) and Sarah Hall Judson (1803-45) were the two most “saintly” of the four wives of missionary hero, Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), who spent 38 years in Burma, sent out in 1812 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), a Congregationalist-Presbyterian group (though he converted to the Baptists on board ship).  The biography on Ann Judson was, like the book on her husband, a huge success, reprinted almost yearly from 1830 to 1856.  Before the 1850s, unmarried women in the missions were almost unknown, but after this time their number steadily increased, until, as was also the case with the sisters in the Roman Catholic missionary work, the unmarried women outnumbered the men and married women together.  Their circumstances often demanding tremendous fortitude, many of these women, along with the Catholic missionary women (especially nuns), can be regarded as deeply “saintly” souls.  And missionary work as a whole has provided single women with a unique career choice very different from that of traditional homemaker or cloistered nun—the two traditional roles for women of the previous 1,200 or more years of Christian history.  It must be pointed out here, on the downside, that whereas unmarried missionary women have attained some notice for their work, too often married women missionaries have had to take a “backseat” in relation to their husbands—following that old pseudo-Pauline notion of the husband being the “head” of the wife and family.  In many cases it was the wife who had received the missionary call much earlier and much more strongly than the husband, yet she would be seen by most people on the missionary boards and people in the field as inferior to her husband, the “supportive woman behind the man,” a mere “assistant.” 


Any discussion of missionaries should begin with the missionaries in America itself.  Narcissa Prentiss Whitman (1808-47) and Eliza Harmon Spalding‚ were ordained missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (Congregational and Presbyterian), and were the first white women to cross the Rockies via the Overland Route in 1836.  Narcissa, a deeply religious child, had attended the now-famous “Female Seminary” in Troy, strongly sponsored by one Emma Willard (q.v.); she and Eliza and their husbands and another man set up two stations, one at Walla Wall River in Oregon, the other near Lewiston, Idaho.  Narcissa and husband and eleven others would in time be kiled by the frustrated Indians, who were being decimated by measles which later groups of white men brought with them.  Rev. Culver has discussed the numerous women’s home missionary societies which sprang up in the 19th century, such as the Boston Female Society for Missionary Purposes, the Women’s Baptist Home Missionary Societies (1877), the Women’s Executive Committee of Home Missions (1878; Presbyterian), the Congregational Women’s Home Missionary Association (1880), the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Church (1880), the Reformed Church Board of Domestic Missions (1882), and so on.  Ann Eliza Worcester Robertson‚ (1826-1905), daughter of parents who served as missionaries to the American Indians, was a famous, tireless missionary to the Creek Indian Nation in Oklahoma, involved in school building, teaching, and translation projects. 


A number of names of American Baptist home missionary women have come down to us, including Mildred Cummings (worked extensively with Native American Indian and home Chinese missions), Belle Crawford (the deaf founder of a missionary society amongst the Kiowa Indians, whose lifestyle she shared), Edna Martin (1900-64, a tireless “Mother Teresa” kind of figure as a home missionary in the slums of Indianapolis among black children), Rev. Augusta Jackley (1908-76, pastored several churches, and directed an educational center for Navajo Indians), Doris Hastings (did much missionary/educational work with Crow Indians), Mary Setzekorn (“mother” to about a hundred destitute Alaskan Aleut Indian children), and Mrs. Koshi Okazaki‚ and Bernice Cofer (missionaries to the Japanese-American communities).  There are certainly women home missionaries of other denominations who also deserve to be profiled, but the telling of their tales depends on further research. [46]


The Freewill Baptists, whose “Freewill Baptist Female Missionary Society” founded in 1847, with Mrs. E. Place‚ serving as first president, was “the first national woman’s society in the country, preceding the noted Seneca Falls organization by some five weeks,” were one of the very first denominations to send abroad any licensed female foreign missionaries, since the founding of their Freewill Baptist Foreign Mission Society in 1833.  Sarah Merrill, a Freewill Baptist from New Hampshire, was in 1846 the first single woman missionary to leave the country, going to India.  Lavinia Crawford‚ was another early missionary, actually the first to be sent out by the women’s missionary society (and not the general Mission Society); along with Mrs. Dorcas Smith‚ she ministered especially to the children of India, in supervising orphanages and teaching in Christian girls’ schools, from 1850-82.  Dr. Mary Bacheler, another single woman, was the first medical missionary sent out by Free Baptists, and she served in India from 1877-1921, also opening a home for Moslems. [47]


In other denominations, the most notable names of women missionaries we encounter include:  Charlotte Maria Tucker (1821-93) of Barnet, England, who in 1869 studied Hindustani and set off for Amritsar, India; she wrote numerous tracts of pious allegories and parables, also works on natural history.  Mary Mitchell Slessor (1848-1915), another fearless, independent woman of unshakeable faith, was born in Aberdeen and grew up in Dundee, where she began home missionary work; she then traveled to West Africa in 1875, befriending the natives and becoming fluent in Efik.  She moved to Ekenge in 1888 to work with the Okoyong, stayed on for 15 years fighting ritual human sacrifice, running schools and dispensaries, and adopting abandoned children; appointed Vice Consul in 1892, Mary dispensed justice with a great sympathy for native traditions.  In 1902, after a migration by the Okoyong, Mary began a mission to the Ibibios, spending the rest of her life traveling and setting up stations in Enyong and Ibibio.  Anna Kugler‚ began the first organized medical work for women in the India Mission of the United Lutheran Church in the 1880s, among the Telugu-speaking people of what is now Andhra Pradesh.  She opened the excellent Guntur Hospital in 1898, which admitted all castes and even outcastes, with equal treatment for all; it benefitted at least 100,000 women, as testified in 1927 to by the Hindu rāja.  Kugler’s institute emphasized prayer groups for all employees, preaching services, and Sunday school for women and children.  (The evangelistic work of Kugler and others of her era, unlike the missionary work from the mid-20th century on, was highly evangelistic, and did not honor the “plurality-of-authentic-faiths” notion which has since prevailed among most missionaries.)  Ida Scudder (1870-1960) came from a Reformed Church missionary family which contributed four generations and 1,100 years of service to the missions of India.  Born in India, she became disillusioned with the hardships of missionary life as a young girl, especially after a taste of life in the States; however, a return visit at the age of 20 kindled that flame of compassion, and she went on to receive a medical degree in the U.S. and, from 1900 on, worked tirelessly to found the small Mary Taber Schell Hospital in 1902, the Union Mission Medical School for Women in 1918, and later the influential Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore, S. India; in addition, she conducted many itinerant roadside clinics over the years.  Ida, like many of these missionary women, renounced marriage proposals so as to better carry out this work; she was assisted in her noble enterprise by her mother, Sophia (Weld) Scudder, and friends Annie Hancock‚ and Gertrude Dodd.  She was “idolized and idealized” by her students—mostly young Indian women—who treated her as a veritable guru and surrogate mother.


Mildred Alice Cable‚  (1878-1952) was an English missionary and explorer.  After the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in China, she traveled to that distant land, joining famous missionary Evangeline French (1869-1960) (later her daughter Francesca French‚ joined them), and running a rapidly expanding school for girls.  In 1923 these women obtained permission to preach in the Gobi Desert to the nomadic tribes, who became quite devoted to this holy trio.  On leave from time to time, they lectured to scientific societies in England on their findings and wrote many books.  After the Chinese Revolution in 1939, they returned to England for good, working for the British and Foreign Bible Society.  Gladys Aylward (1903-70) was another Englishwoman who went to China in 1930 as a missionary, joining old Miss Dawson‚ at Yangzheng in southern Shanxi provice.  They ran the “Inn of 6th Happiness,” teaching the Gospel to the Chinese, and actually becoming Chinese citizens.  During the war with Japan, Gladys fled from village to village caring for the wounded.  She returned to England to preach in 1948, afterwards re-locating to Taiwan to work with refugees and orphans.  (Her story has become famous in the West due to a film made about her, starring Ingrid Bergman.)  Matilda Smyrell Calder Thurston (1875-1958) was the Presbyterian founder and president of Ginling College for Women in Nanking, China, in 1915.  Illinois-born Katharine C. Bushnell (1879-1946) led a quite multi-faceted life:  graduating in 1879 with the first medical class of Northwestern Univeristy, she became a medical missionary, establishing a children’s hospital in China and later did reform work in India.  In the U.S. she worked with Frances Willard and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and exposed the white slave trade in the midwest.  Moreover, Katharine was a linguistic scholar (speaking seven languages fluently) and wrote, among other things, the highly influential work, God’s Word to Women, mentioned earlier in these pages, arguing for a bible-based total equality between the sexes.  Abbie Gertrude Sanderson (1893-1970) was an American Baptist missionary who taught for 25 years in China until she was imprisoned for 21 months as a “spy,” after which she went to Japan as a teaching missionary for another 15 years.  Clara Chase Leach (1887-1981) got her M.D. degree in 1915 from Temple University, and went on to spend 22 years serving in China, notwithstanding a bout of malaria; after imprisonment by the Japanese, she went on to work in Nellore, India for a number of years before retiring to Vermont, where she continued her medical practice and exemplary Christian values in the American Baptist church.  Dr. Dorothy Joy (Kinney) Chambers (b. 1901) got her M.D. from the University of Colorado in 1926, and went on to direct work in hospitals in Assam, India, and serve in medical work in the Philippines, shortly afterwards interned with her family in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, during which she was director of the children’s hospital there.  Since 1945, her health having suffered, she served her Baptist church at home in various capacities, receiving many honors. [48]


Regarding women as missionaries, Rev. Culver has observed:

“Nowhere has the woman missionary’s ability, and the value of the work she has been able to accomplish, been more evident than in the field of women’s education. ... Some of these women have been powerful Christian leaders, not only in their own countries but on the world scene.  One thinks immediately of Sarah Chakko, the brilliant president of Isabella Thoburn College in India, who became the first lay president of the World Council of Churches.  (They elected a presidium of six at the Constituting Assembly in Amsterdam, 1948; the other five were all prominent church men—clerical.)  One thinks of Helen Kim, for forty-four years associated with Ewah University, Seoul, and involved in every sort of Christian work and movement in Korea, as well as many world movements.  There was Wu I-fang, president of the famous Ginling College in China and prominent in the work of the International Missionary Council; and Ivy Chou, president of the Methodist Theological Seminary in Sarawak. Many Western women were outstanding teachers in the colleges they served.  There was Isabel MacCausland, who taught sociology at Kobe College, Japan; E. Lolita Wood, professor of Old Testament at Poona, India; and Alma Locke Cook, who, when she was forced to leave China, went at her own expense to Southern Rhodesia, where, at one time, she was financially responsible for the medical education of ten African students.  There was Charlotte B. DeForest, who served many years as president of Kobe College and was called back after her retirement to receive a medal of honor and appreciation from the emperor.  And these are just a few—part of a much longer list—mentioned casually by one authority on missions, Dr. Hugh Vernon White, when asked for the names of some of the missionary women who had distinguished themselves for educational work in his denomination.  He admitted that there is almost nothing in print that gives anything like adequate recognition to the service women have rendered in the mission field; his only explanation was that there is just so much to say that no one would know where to begin. The missionary women, especially in the earliest days, undoubtedly underwent impossible hardships.  They grew very lonesome for someone of their own land to talk to. ... Many died—or saw their children die—of strange maladies.  Not a few were martyred by the people they were trying to help.  Along with love and respect they knew ridicule and hatred.  There was always more work than one pair of hands could do. Yet probably never did women have such an opportunity to work creatively for the cause of religion—and they made the most of it.” [49]

In the mid-1980s some 250,000 Christian missionaries from all denominations were serving worldwide, and more than half of these were women. 


In the previous chapter we discussed the leading Catholic female theologians.  Here we would try to do the same regarding Protestant women, beginning with a brief mention of Louise Seymour Houghton, who was given a sound training by her father, a minister, in theology, Bible studies, and linguistics, allowing her to become, way back in the early 1800s when no theological seminaries were open to women, “one of the few competent authorities on the over-all history of women in the Church” (Culver).  Emma Hart Willard‚ diligently braved all opposition to open, in 1821, the Troy Female Seminary in New York, attended by a number of women who would become leaders in the women’s rights movement.  Oberlin College, Congregational-oriented, in 1833 ceased to refuse any admissions based on race, color or sex, and among its early female students were Lucy Stone (who would become famous as an abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights) and Antoinette Brown-Blackwell.  Ms. Brown-Blackwell eventually became a preacher and minister of that church, and in 1908 Oberlin College, in recognition of her many years of service to her church, conferred upon her a B.D. degree.  (Note: she had also become Lucy’s sister-in-law by marrying the brother of Lucy’s husband.)  Anna Oliver (née Anna Snowden—she changed her last name so as not to embarrass her distinguished family) attended Oberlin College but transferred to Boston University’s School of Theology (founded by Methodists) due to lingering prejudice against women in the theology department at Oberlin.  Anna graduated in 1876, the “first female theologian in America.”  She eventually came to pastor a church in Passaic, New Jersey, calling in Amanda Smith, the great black evangelist, as an assistant.  Needless to say, the presence of the two women in the pulpit created quite a stir.  Anna preached up until her last days in 1893.  Actually, Boston University likes to call Miss Betsy Dow, daughter of a Methodist pastor, as their first teacher of theology, given that she taught the course in “Mental Philosophy” at Newbury Seminary in Vermont (later associated with Boston University School of Theology) starting in 1837.


Among Protestant women theologians of this century, Dr. Georgia Elma Harkness (1891-1974) stands out as the first woman to teach bonafide theology at the seminary level, receiving in 1939 an appointment at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary) in Evanston, Illinois, founded by the Methodists (here a Georgia Harkness Professorship of Applied Theology has since been created, now held by Dr. Radford-Ruether, perhaps to compensate for a snubbing of Dr. Harkness in the 1940s regarding an academic promotion, over which she decided to accept an invitation to teach at the Pacific School of Religion in 1949).  A life-long Methodist, ardent pacifist, and staunch adversary against social evils, Dr. Harkness authored a great number of articles and books arguing for the importance of the laity, the need for integrating spiritual doctrine with experience, and women’s right to ordination within the Methodist ministry (over 30 years before such rights were finally granted).  Mary Reddington Ely Lyman (1887-1975) outgrew a sickly childhood to become a leading Bible teacher; she was the first woman to hold a faculty chair at the interdenominational Union Theological Seminary in N.Y. (where she had received a degree many years earlier—she also earned a doctorate—magna cum laude—from the University of Chicago).  Dr. Lyman, who was ordained a minister in the Congregational Church in 1949, received many honors for her theological work. 


In a very useful essay about women’s contributions to the field of religious education which emerged in the 20th century as a special field within and across the Protestant denominations, which included the important—though little appreciated—post of Director of Religious Education (DRE), held by thousands of women across the land, Dorothy Jean Furnish has discussed those women who came to special prominence as religious/theological educators: 


Adelaide Teague Case (1887-1948) became an instructor in the religious education department of Columbia University’s Teachers College, became a professor in 1935, and then head of the department; later she taught at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts until her death.  Edna Baxter (1890-1985) was consecrated as a deaconess of the Methodist Episcopal church, taking a vow of celibacy; she went on to have a long career teaching at the Hartford Theological Seminary Foundation, the first female professor there and the first woman to head its department of church education.  In 1927 Sophia Fahs‚ and one other woman became the first two women on the faculty at Union Theological Seminary—we shall have occasion to further discuss Sophia, a Unitarian, in the next chapter.  Henrietta Mears (1890-1963) trained many young men who were preparing for ordination in her 33 years as director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California; a staunch conservative from the “old school” of Biblical interpretation (not following the new line of historical-hermeneutic school spreading from the University of Chicago), Henrietta believed in the inerrancy of the scriptures and the need for personal salvation; she was sought by Fuller Theological Seminary to teach for them, but refused, preferring to remain with her work in the local church.  She also published a body of curriculum resources which has become the Gospel Light Curriculum.  Olivia Pearl Stokes (1916- ) was the first black woman to receive a doctor’s degree in religious education from the joint graduate program at Union Theological Seminary and Teacher’s College, Columbia, in 1952; she became the direcotr of the department of religious education for the Massachusetts Council of Churches, later joining the staff of the National Council of Churches, also becoming an adjunct professor of religious education at New York University, with a strong ecumenical slant.  Emily V. Gibbes (1915- ) became the first black woman to serve as a field director of religious education for the Presbyterian Church, beginning this work in New York in 1949, later becoming an associate general secretary for the National Council of Churches.  Since her retirement, she has taught at the New York Theological Seminary.  Mary Alice Jones (1898-1980) was a leading editor of children’s religious curriculum for the ecumenical International Council of Religious Education, and her inexpensive series of “Tell Me...” books for Rand McNally sold well over twenty million copies. [50]


Additional women theologians will be mentioned below among those women who have been ordained to ministries in some of the mainstream Protestant denominations.  Here I would briefly note two important recent works by Protestant women theologians: Wisdom’s Feast: Sophia in Study and Celebration, is a thorough handbook of Christian liturgies, prayers and meditations and reflections on women and on the Sophia (Divine Wisdom) archetype in Christianity by Susan Cady (a Methodist minister), Marian Roman, and Hal Taussig; Blessings: A Womanchrist Reflection on the Beatitudes, by Christin Lore Weber also deserves attention. [51]

The important organization, Church Women United (originally called United Church Women), was formed in 1941 as a national ecumenical movement “to unite churchwomen in allegiance to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through a program looking to their integration in the total life and work of the church and the building of the Christian community.”  This “uniting” work included getting white and black women of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and various “marginal” Christian denominations to sit down together and discover each other’s needs; CWU women also serve as volunteers in prisons, schools, hospitals, halfway houses, job training programs, and so forth.  The CWU involves over half a million women active in some 1,700 local units around the country, and main offices in N.Y., Washington D.C., and the United Nations; the CWU addresses social issues such as education, employment, environment, family stability, and human rights through Citizen Action and legislative task forces, and sponsors United Nations seminars on global issues.  Early leadership of the CWU included Amy Ogden Welcher‚ (first president of the CWU), Georgiana Sibley, and Ruth Worrell.  In 1950 CWU became part of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA or NCC), the major ecumenical organization in this country, and, under Dorothy McLeod’s executive directorship, it became, as Rev. Culver tells us, “one of the National Council’s strongest departments, and often a spark of inspiration for various council programs such as those dealing with world affairs, race, refugees, migrant workers, the laity, missions, the ecumenical movement, peace.” [52]  Dr. Margaret Shannon, who succeeded Mrs. McLeod in 1966 as executive director of the CWU, and served for well over a decade, has told the tale of the many hardworking, illustrious women of the CWU in her history of the movement.  CWU’s current general (executive) director is Patricia Rumer; its president is Dr. Claire Randall, a Presbyterian woman who oversaw CWU’s 50th anniversary at the Jubilee Assembly in November of 1991.  Currently the CWU has an “imperative assignment”:  “a five-year commitment to utilize all of Church Women United’s strength and resources to work to eliminate the root causes of the pverty of women and children”—in addition to its other stated goals of ecumenism, growing in Christian faith as women, and working “for a just, caring, and peaceful society.” [53]


Speaking a moment ago of the major ecumenical organization, the National Council of the Churches of Christ, it was formed in 1950 by the merging of the Home Missions Council, the Federal Council of Churches, and several other ecumenical church groups.  It performs much social action work as well as endeavoring to improve relations with Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths.  A leading female executive with the NCCCUSA’s Home Missions Board was Edith Elizabeth Lowry, who from the 1920s through the 1960s did much work, directly and by organizing a large professional staff, to serve destitute migrant workers.  She also was a pioneer in establishing day-care centers for the children of working adults.  And in 1939 she became the first woman invited to speak on the National Radio Pulpit.  In 1969 the NCCCUSA elected Cynthia Clark Wedel (1908-86), an Episcopalian lay leader, former CWU president, and former NCCCUSA vice-president (1957) as its first woman president.  Cynthia had received degrees from Northwestern University in 1929 and 1930, and became a leading writer and spokewoman for women’s issues.  During the 1960s she worked for President John F. Kennedy on his National Commission on the Status of Women, and then the Citizen’s Advisory Council on the Status of Women.  In 1975 Cynthia became the first woman to be elected as one of the multiple presidents of the the World Council of Churches, based in Switzerland, the international version of the NCCC.  A small number of other women have served as presidents for the NCCCUSA.  Joan Salmon Campbell‚ is currently the general secretary for the NCCCUSA.  And the World Council of Churches currently has several female presidents among its team of leaders:  Dame R. Nita Barrow‚ of Barbados, Dr. Marga Buhrig‚ of Switzerland, and Rev. Dr. Lois M. Wilson‚ of Toronto.  (Notice that it is precisely the openness to women’s ordination and extensive participation on the part of the NCCCUSA and the WCC which have tended to alienate the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches, the most “disenchanted” member churches of these two ecumenical organizations.)  Speaking of women leaders in pan-denominational Christian organizations, Mme. C. Gilson-Rome‚ has served as Secretary of the Fédération des Eglises Protestantes in Belgium, Miss Inga-Brita Castren, a Lutheran woman, was Gen. Secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Finland, and Ms. Ruth Lichtenberger‚ was for some years the General Director of Nurses Christian Fellowship International.


Regarding the important subjects of women and the Protestant ministry and women’s leadership roles within the mainstream Protestant churches, it is difficult to get worldwide statistics and profiles of notable women, so we must content ourselves with a look primarily at the situation in the United States.  Here we find that women have been ordained as ministers in a few major Protestant denominations since way back in the mid- and late-1800’s, beginning with the ordination of Rev. Antoinette Brown-Blackwell‚ to a Congregational ministry on Sept. 15, 1853, in South Butler, N.Y., evidently the first Christian woman to ever be ordained in any major denomination anywhere (excluding Quakers); Antoinette, who bore six children, would later in life switch over to preach for the Unitarian Church for some 15 years, until she was 90 years of age.  She was granted a B.D. degree by Oberlin in 1908.  (It would also be a Congregational church in England to ordain the first woman minister in that country, Mary Constance Coltman‚ [1889-1969], in 1917; she and her minister-husband presided over several churches from 1917 to 1953, at Oxford, Buckinghamshire, and Suffolk).  (The Congregational Church, which descends from the Puritans and the English “Reformed” tradition of Protestantism, in 1957 merged with some other church bodies to form the United Church of Christ, which we will mention below.)


The Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, an important U.S. Protestant denomination, can be seen to have commenced on the American frontier with the missionizing of Barton Stone (his huge, 7-day-long camp-meeting at Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801 was called by some “the greatest outpouring of the Spirit since Pentecost”).  The Christian Church, Disciples of Christ was a unification movement stemming off from the Presbyterians, having no bishops or hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority; these Disciples of Christ started ordaining women in the late 1880s.  Unfortunately, we have no record of the first Disciples of Christ clergywoman.  A recent figure (April 1990) indicates 1,090 women among the 7,065 ministers overall in this denomination, or 15.4% of the total—a much higher figure than in any of the other mainstream Protestant denominations (where the average is 8.9% female; note that the Disciples’ average of women ministers is even higher —17%—when retired ministers are not included in the total).  Nevertheless, as in most churches, the number of women serving as senior pastors is a lower figure—about 8%.  But “with a fourth of the Disciples’ ministers retiring before the end of the decade and women making up nearly half of the replacement pool, the beginning of the new century will see some signficant gender differences in the church’s pulpits.” [54]  (This same trend holds true for many other Protestant denominations.) 

Some of the other notable women of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in modern times are Jessie Trout, a former missionary and Bible teacher in Japan, and a vice-president of the United Christian Missionary Society; in 1949 she founded the Christian Women’s Fellowship, a powerful uniting of the three prior women’s organizations of this denomination.  The CWF involves itself with prayer, study, ecumenical work (such as supporting and helping staff the CWU of the National Council of Churches), empowering women of the church, outreaching to women of other countries and races, being a “social conscience” for the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and so forth.  An International CWF (ICWF) was created in 1953, whose president was Freda Putnam (most recently it is Martha Faw).  Presently in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, there are 36 regions, two of which are headed by women, Margaret Own Clark‚ of the Pacific Southwest, and Margaret Harrison, “the bishop in boots,” of the Southwest region, the largest region of the Disciples’ church.  A number of women also serve as regional moderators.  (Dr. Jean Woolfolk‚ of Little Rock, Arkansas, was the first to serve as a moderator of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, from 1973-5, also the first woman to head a general unit of her church, the Church Finance Council from 1974-82).  It is believed that in the near future Claudia Grant‚ or Joan Campbell‚ may wind up serving as general minister and president of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.  Eunice Sanata, another Disciples’ member, was most recently elected to serve as one of the presidents of the World Council of Churches. [55]


In the wonderful spirit of widespread ecumenism which has been operative in the 20th century, inspired, to a large extent, by Disciples of Christ leaders, the United Church of Christ (UCC) was formed in 1957 by a merger of the Evangelical, Reformed and Congregational Christian churches (the first union in the U.S. of denominations with different ethnic backgrounds [German, Swiss, English] and different forms of church government).  As of 1989, women clergy numbered 1,491 in the UCC, or 14.6% of the total clergy, the second highest percentage of women clergy in any major Protestant denomination, though of course still a relatively imbalanced, unequal state of affairs which will undoubtedly be remedied in the years ahead given the increasing numbers of women in the seminaries and ministries.


Women have also been ordained to the ministry in two of the larger, “mainstream” Protestant bodies—that is, Methodists and Presbyterians—since the 1950s, one hundred years after their Congregational sisters (“better late than never”?).  The number of ordained women in these two mainstream Protestant churches has increased markedly since the early 1970s.  The entire process has involved a progression from the licensing of women as preachers in the 1800s to the “unofficial ordaining” and then “official ordaining” of women to sacramental authority as full ministers.  Barbara Brown Zikmund, in looking at the overall picture, has observed, “It is no accident that the periods of greatest advancement for women clergy in mainstream Protestantism always came when there was an undersupply of trained clergymen [such as in the 1950s in the aftermath of World War II].” [56]  (Perhaps this phenomenon will carry over in the not-so-distant future to women within the Catholic Church, at least in the United States.)


With regard to the licensing of women to preach, Margaret Newton Van Cott (1830-1914) shines as the first American woman to be licensed to preach by the Methodist Episcopal Church; she had experienced conversion during the great national revival in 1857-8, and in the 1860s she began to lead prayer meetings at the slum mission founded by Phoebe Palmer.  As word spread about her success in gaining large numbers of conversions, she was invited to lead revival services at the Methodist church in Durham, New York, in 1868 and was given a local preacher’s license by the Methodist Episcopal Church in Ellenville, New York.  (One other woman, Emma Richardson, had been licensed by the Canadian Methodists in 1864.)  Margaret began to preach at the church in Springfield, Massachusetts, when its minister fell ill.  Though supported for ministerial ordination by several male church leaders, the bishops would not consider the issue; nevertheless, she continued her preaching into her 70s before retiring, living off contributions given by her audiences.


In the U.S., a small branch of German Methodists had ordained women as far back as 1889, but the main English-speaking denominations of Methodism continued to refuse minister-ordinations to women such as Anna Howard Shaw‚ and Anna Oliver‚ around 1880, though, like Mrs. Van Cott, they were also given licenses to preach (remember that in the 1830s and 1840s Jarena Lee‚ was a famous licensed preacher for the black Arican Methodist Episcopal Church in the U.S.).  Lee Anna Starr‚ was an ordained minister of the Methodist Protestant Church (which had split from the main Methodist body in the 1920s over the episcopal issue), pastoring two churches in Adrian, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois; this esteemed lecturer strongly advocated temperance reform, and authored the important work, The Bible Status of Women (1926). 


In the 1950s, after the 1939 merger of several Methodist bodies to form the Methodist Church, women finally began to be ordained as deacons and elders, though without guaranteed appointment.  The granting of full clergy rights by the Methodist Church would come in 1956, and Rev. Maud Keister Jensen‚ was the first ordained women to be accorded this honor.  In 1968 a further merger happened and the Methodist Church became the United Methodist Church (UMC).  Whereas in 1977 the UMC had only 319 women clergy, as of 1989 they had 2,348 women clergy; still, this represented only 7% of the UMC’s total clergy, while women represented around 70% of the overall congregations (Methodists in the U.S., incidentally, now total about 14 million). 


A major event for women in Protestantism occurred in 1984 when Rev. Marjorie Swank Matthews (1916-86) became the first woman to be elected to the episcopacy of any major denomination:  she was made a bishop for the Wisconsin area in the United Methodist Church.  Earlier in life this Michigan-raised woman had married, raised a son, divorced, been ordained a deacon in 1963, an elder the next year, and then went back to college in the 1960s, obtaining a Ph.D. in 1976.  She also survived a major bout with cancer.  Rev. Matthews’s appointment to the episcopacy in 1984 was soon followed in the same year with the “victory” of Bishop Leontyne Kelly, the second woman and first black woman to be ordained to the episcopacy of the UMC (in San Francisco).  An important Methodist woman who should be also mentioned here is Dorothy Eugenia Rogers Tilly (1883-1970), a courageous, white Methodist civil rights reformer, who served on Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights, was director of the Southern Regional Council and founder of the interfaith organization, Fellowship of the Concerned. [57]     


Regarding women ministers in the Presbyterian tradition, which flourished in this country with the Scotch-Irish immigrations, we find that the northern Presbyterians of the U.S. in the late 1920s began to ordain women as “ruling elders,” or local lay leaders, but not as “teaching elders” (clergy responsible for the ministry of word and sacrament).  This would come only after a decision in 1955.  Southern Presbyterians approved women as deacons, elders, and ministers all at once in 1964, after years of resistance.  Rev. Rachel Henderlite (1905-?) was evidently the first woman ordained to the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (later merged as the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.), also having been the first woman professor at a seminary when she joined the staff at Austin Theological Seminary in Texas.  The Rev. Letty Mandeville Russell has been a most distinguished woman of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (which also merged to form the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.), having taught at Yale Divinity School and the New York Theological Seminary, and authored a number of books and articles. 


Still another remarkable woman of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. was Edith Elizabeth Lowry (1897-1970), who, though never becoming an ordained minister, in 1939 became the first woman to occupy the National Radio Pulpit, in addition to doing significant work for agricultural migrants, a forgotten group in America.  Emily Gibbes was a missionary for 19 years in many countries of Africa and Asia, and went on to become the associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches, also working on behalf of blacks in the U.S.  Patricia Young, a longtime ruling elder in the United Presbyterian Church, has for many years worked to help end world hunger for church organizations and the U.S. government.  Other notable women in the Presbyterian tradition in the U.S. include Rev. Margarethe B.J. Brown‚ who in May, 1977 became the first woman ever to serve as an executive presbyter for the United Presbyterian Church.  In 1989 a woman was finally elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA—Joan Salmon Campbell (who is now the general secretary of the National Council of Churches).  Dorothy Barnard, Harriet Nelson, and Isabel Rogers‚ are other women who were moderators of the Presbyterian Church USA or its two forerunner bodies. 


Regarding the participation of women among the clergy in the Presbyterian Church USA, in 1986 they numbered 1,519, or 7.8% of the total clergy (women overall comprised 61% of the congregation that year; Presbyterians now number about 5 million in the U.S.). [58]


Let us look at the many denominations of Baptists, who together number around 34 million adherents, thus comprising the second largest religious family in America (next to the Roman Catholics who have about 46 million).We should first know that, though Baptists are usually considered part of “mainstream” Protestantism, they are actually part of the “free churches” (like the Mennonites, the Amish, the Brethren, and the Quakers):  they are anti-authoritarian, lay-oriented, non-liturgical, non-sacramental (though Baptists do have two “ordinances”—baptism and the Lord’s Supper), they de-emphasize creeds, and baptize only adult believers, not children.  Like the other “free churches,” there is an eschewing of central or hierarchical organization (bishops, archbishops, etc.), and each Baptist church is independent, “a law unto itself,” not constrained to relate in any certain manner with its fellow churches (thus Baptists have traditionally also been against ecumenical organization).  But the Baptists (like the Quakers) are related more to English Puritanism than to the European continental free churches (which descend in spirit from the Anabaptists).  Baptists have a complex origin which can probably best be dated to the early 17th century in England with the work of John Smyth, who had been influenced by the Separatist movement in Holland before founding the first Baptist church in England in 1611.  The first English Baptists were “General Baptists,” holding the softer, Arminian view of free will and the possibility of salvation for all.  Soon a “Particular Baptist” group would emerge, with strong Calvinist “predestination-of-the-elite” views.  Over the next several centuries, mainly in America, where the first Baptist congregation was founded by Roger Williams, various Baptist churches would emerge:  the Northern Baptist Convention (now the American Baptist Convention), the Southern Baptist Convention, the Freewill Baptists (General Baptists), the black National Baptist Convention, the Conservative Baptist Fellowship, the Primitive Baptists, the Seventh-Day or Sabbatarian Baptists, and so on. 


Though it has been said that women have never been denied ordination in the Baptist churches of the U.S., as is the case with the Congregational (now UCC) churches, only in New England are there many women serving in parishes; and only a few illustrious women have emerged as real leaders among Baptists.  Going back in time to look at some of these Baptist women, let us begin with the Freewill Baptists, who were one of the first churches in America to empower women as preachers, Mary Savage being the first in 1791, and Sally Parsons in 1797 being another one of whom we have record.  Clarissa Danforth was the “sensation” of her decade when in 1818 she preached at a yearly meeting at Tunbridge, Vermont.  Mrs. Ann Winsor‚ formed the first local Freewill Baptist Woman’s Missionary Society in 1841 (reorganized in 1873), which, as we have seen, sent out in 1847 the earliest women’s missionaries to India, some of whose names have been mentioned in a prior section herein. 


Helen Barrett Montgomery (1861-1934), housewife, civic reformer, author, lecturer, philanthropist, and foreign missions supporter and worker, though never ordained, was the first woman to head a national Protestant denomination when she was elected president of the Northern Baptist Convention in the U.S. for 1921-2.  A radiant, highly intelligent, and humorous woman, she was the organizer and teacher of a large and influential women’s Bible class in her father’s church in Rochester for 44 years, the leader of the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Rochester, which did much charity and educational work, and the president of the Woman’s American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (from 1914 to 1924), writing two of the definitive works on women and foreign missions (among other things, she also translated the Greek New Testament into contemporary English).  Lucy Waterbury Peabody‚ was another lay member of the Northern Baptist churches, who returned to the U.S. after her first husband died five years into their missionary work in India to become closely involved with Helen Barrett Montgomery in powerfully promoting women’s foreign mission work; moreover, “these two women were ecumenical pioneers.  They were involved in the founding or in the early nurture of almost every major interdenominational achievement of Protestant women in America.  These include the World Day of Prayer, summer schools of missions, united missionary study, union schools of higher education for women overseas, and Christian literature of women and children.”  Like Mrs. Montgomery, Lucy was an outstanding speaker and able administrator, and not afraid to take risks to catalyze the founding of new projects.


The American Baptist Churches in the USA (ABC-USA, formerly the Northern Baptist Convention), one of the largest Baptist groups, theologically more modern, ecumenically more open, and socially more liberal than the other Baptist denominations, reported in May 1990 some 452 women ministers active in local churches as pastors, associate or assistant pastors, and so on, or 8% of the total number of such persons in the ministry.  There are many women esteemed in the ABC-USA, not just ministers, who deserve mention here.  Sophia Packard (1824-91) graduated from Charleston Female Seminary in Massachusetts in 1850 and became a teacher at New Salem Academy where she’d been a student.  She began a women’s prayer meeting, taught Sunday school, visited the sick, and organized several hundred women to start the Woman’s American Baptist Home Missionary Society in 1877, an auxiliary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society.  In 1880, Sophia, who was a staunch abolitionist, established a school for black women in Georgia, which in the following year became the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary—today known as Spelman College, a major educational institution for southern blacks.


Joanna P. Moore‚ of Illinois was the first woman commissioned as a missionary by the Women’s Baptist Home Mission Society in the mid-19th century, and, despite hatred from many fellow whites, she did much charitable, educational, and evangelical work among impoverished black communities in the post-bellum South, especially empowering the women to carry on and further the kind of work she was doing for the homeless, the sick, and the children; one of her main projects was the promotion of Bible-reading, and her correspondence-course Fireside Schools became widespread in the South, a clever way to sidestep the white hatred which prevented her from starting any fixed schools.  She died at age 83 in the midst of a still-busy work schedule.


Rachel Crane Mather, another American Baptist home missionary, founded the Mather School in Beaufort, South Carolina, the only school owned and run solely by black women.  Blanche Hodge (1901-90), a biblical scholar who had been playing “preacher” since she organized her friends together in childhood into an informal “church,” wound up serving the Baptist movement more in an organizational capacity in a number of “firsts”:  she became the first woman president of the Oregon Baptist Convention in 1948, first president of the National Council of American Baptist Women (now American Baptist Women’s Ministries) in 1951, and in 1958 was elected president of the ABC-USA.  Cora Sparrowk‚ was elected head of the ABC-USA in 1977, evidently the second woman to ever occupy this position.  Elizabeth Bonney Burns, another dedicated, joyous, humble woman—like so many of the women in these pages—got her M.A. from Hartford Seminary Foundation School and, among other things, became “probably the first woman campus minister,” at the University of New Hampshire, also serving as National President of American Baptist Women from 1971-5.  Mary Mild, director of the ABC-USA’s Women and the Church, has sent me profiles of a number of other women who were honored by various states in a recent program, and she says “Do not think it is comprehenseive.  There are hundreds, probably thousands, of American Baptist women who have made their ‘mark’ both within ABC and the community at large.”  Some of the more prominent and/or beloved of these women in the 19th-20th centuries include several home and foreign missionaries we mentioned in an earlier section, as well as Mary Gates Atkinson (a home supporter of the missions), Julia Brand (1909-86, a pioneer among ABC-USA women pastors, and frequent speaker for the American Baptist Conference),  Erma Pickering (founder of the Million for Love Gift program), Violet Rudd‚ (executive director of the American Baptist Women from 1951-76), Rose Butler Browne (1897-1986, supporter of civil rights and education), and others such as Frieda Roach (1896-1977), Mattie Rumery, Marie Maack (1906-79), Verda Hayden Armacost (d. 1986), Audrey Robinson, and Leota Campbell. [59]


Unfortunately, women have not fared as well in leadership roles within the other large Baptist denominations:  The Southern Baptists, who comprise the second largest single denomination in the U.S. (15 million) next to the Roman Catholics, for long were split into fundamentalist and moderate wings: whereas some of the moderate churches allow women to preach and pastor, the fundamentalists, who have been more widespread and now dominate the highest leadership circles of the Southern Baptist Convention, take every word of the Bible literally; thus, they uphold the pseudo-Pauline view of women’s subordination to men, and, while viewing the sexes as “spiritually equal,” do not support women’s call to be ministers or pastors of their churches.  In fact, fundamentalist leaders have used, according to one reporter, “heavy-handed pressure” to lobby for their own handpicked, male, conservative pastor-candidates, and, most recently, the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board ruled that mission churches may not choose women or divorced people as pastors without forfeiting salary supplements previously provided by the convention.  The Southern Baptist moderates in May, 1991 finally split from the SBC to form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and hope to bring many of the 38,000 SBC congregations in the U.S. along with them.  Despite this preventing of Southern Baptist women from gaining responsible roles in their denomination’s overall leadership, a number of women have shone as leaders within the Southern Baptist women’s organization, the WMU.  Martha McIntosh (Bell) (1848-1922), raised in Charleston, became quite interested in foreign missions and joined a local women’s missionary society in 1874; in 1887 she and Annie Walker Armstrong (1850-1938), who came from a very wealthy, tobacco-growing Baltimore family, emerged as leaders among the women of the SBC and co-founded its Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU); Martha was elected president and Annie the corresponding secretary, with the former concentrating more on foreign missions, the latter on the homefront, especially the American Indians.  Annie was a major networking agent who helped unite the SBC’s missionary labors, both at home and abroad.  Her mother Mary Walker Armstrong‚ had been an original member of the SBC’s Woman’s Mission to Woman founded in the 1870s.  Martha, at age 70 in 1918 joined her daughter, a missionary, in China for three years to help in the work which she had been supporting from afar in the U.S.  Kathleen Moore Mallory (1879-1954) of Selma, Alabama, was executive secretary of the WMU from 1912-48, a stay longer than any executive in the history within the SBC.  After her fiancé died in 1907, she became grew quite austere (even by Baptist standards), and completely devoted herself to the WMU, working in the Baltimore office for many years, editing the WMU Yearbook, writing her manual of WMU Methods in 1917, moving the WMU headquarters to Birmingham, and making the WMU a powerhouse which actually supported through its funds the entire SBC during the years of the Great Depression.


The National Baptist Convention, as already mentioned, has, like the SBC, also been influenced by the pseudo-Pauline view of women; thus, the NBC has likewise suppressed its black women’s leadership functions, yet there have been a fair number of remarkable black Baptist women, as we have already seen, who have shone within the Women’s Auxiliary of the NBC, and there do exist a relatively small number of churches affiliated with the NBC which have ordained women pastors.  Many other large, conservative Baptist denominations flourish today with over 500,000 members, but none of the ones solicited have responded to my queries about the number of women ministers, or notable women in their denominations, perhaps indicating a lack of interest in women’s issues.


Happily, the two oldest, most conservative Protestant groups—closest in doctrine and ritual to the Roman Catholic Church—that is, the Lutherans and the Episcopalians, have been ordaining women and promoting women’s leadership rights, and in most recent years have seen several women appointed to the rank of bishop.  The Lutheran Church of Netherlands had given women full ordination rights since 1929, and Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden were granting clergy rights to women in the late 1950s and early 1960s; Lutheran churches of other countries (e.g., Germany) would follow later.  The Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church—two of the three largest Lutheran groups in this country at that time—finally approved ordination of women to the ministry in 1970.  Elizabeth Platz‚ was the first ordained clergywoman for the LCA in Nov. 1970; and Barbara Andrews (d. 1978) became the first ordained female minister for the ALC in Dec., 1970 (followed by three more in 1974).  The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), which broke away from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1976, ordained its first woman, Jan Otte, later that year (the same year, incidentally, that Canada ordained its first woman Lutheran pastor).  (Jan is no longer on the roster of ordained persons, but serves as a pastoral counselor in California.)  A major ecumenical triumph occurred in 1988 when the LCA, ALC, and AELC merged to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which now has 5.2 million members (there are over 85 million Lutherans worldwide).  As of the last quarter of 1990, there were 1,285 ELCA women clergy, representing 6.9% of the total ELCA clergy.  And whereas the first bishop and president of the new ELCA is a man (the Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom), as with all positions in the ELCA, a male or female may be elected to this office, and so the not-so-distant future may see a woman as head of the largest Lutheran body in America; such an event, of course, would be a tremendous milestone for women in this, the oldest Protestant tradition of the Reformation.  In June 1992, Rev. April Ulring Larson, 42, who had been ordained a priest in 1978 and designated a co-pastor with her husband (Rev. Judd Larson) of Calvary and Grand Lutheran churches in Crystal Lake, Iowa, and then did a stint as assistant to the bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, became the first woman ever to be a named a Lutheran bishop in the U.S.  Bishop Larson now presides over the LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Area Synod. 


Speaking of the Lutherans, whereas, unlike the Catholic and some Anglican circles, they do not work with the notion of “spiritual directors,” there have been important Lutheran women who have been influential in shaping the destiny and theology of the Lutheran female:  These include Rachel Conrad Wahlberg, author and editor of “The Women’s Network News”; Elizabeth Bettenhausen, formerly a teacher at the Boston Univ. of Theology, now teaching at the Women’s Theological Coalition; Faith Burgess, dean at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; and Gracia Grindal, poet, author of hymns, and teacher of homiletics at Luther Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Jean Bozeman, Bonnie Jenson, and LaVonne Althouse‚ are American Lutheran women who have worked extensively to network and empower Lutheran women worldwide.  Annikki Sipil and Birte Andersen are two Scandinavian Lutheran women who have functioned as General Secretary of the Finnish Missionary Council and Danish Missionary Council, respectively. [60] 


In 1971, the Anglican Church, the Protestant denomination closest in theology and ritual to the Roman Catholic Church (and numbering some seventy million members worldwide), at its World Anglican Conference in England narrowly decided that “it will be acceptable” for bishops to ordain women priests with the approval of their provinces, though there would still be wrangling over the issue for years to come, just as had occurred in previous years.  November 1971 saw the ordaining of Rev. Jane Hwang Hsien Yuen‚ and Rev. Joyce Bennett‚ by Rev. Gilbert Baker, Bishop of Hong Kong.  It was only fitting that Hong Kong be the site for this first ordination of Anglican women.  Back in 1950 a major controversy had arisen when an Anglican deaconess working in Hong Kong, Miss Li Tim Oi (1908-92), had been ordained—but she was never officially accepted by the worldwide Communion.  While ministering to refugees fleeing Hong Kong, her bishop gave permission for her to celebrate the Eucharist.  Bishop R.O. Hall of Hong Kong invited her to Xing Xing, behind Japanese lines, and then ordained her to the priesthood after much reflection and prayer.  He was censured and Li was told by the hierarchy not to function as a priest.  During the horrific period in China euphemistically known as the “Cultural Revolution,” Reverend Li worked on a farm and helped in the renewal of the Church.  Later she ministered to a congregation of about 1,000 in Guangzhou.  She was not recognized by the Archbishops of Canterbury, William Temple or Geoffrey Fisher, but in 1988, at a special service at Westminster Abbey, she was hailed by Archbishop Robert Runcie for her “selfless ministry as an example to us all. ... History will judge that her ministry, her humility, and her courage played a major part in the acceptance of the ordination of women to the priesthood as part of the Anglican tradition.”  In July, 1974 four maverick bishops of the Episcopal Church (the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion) took the step to ordain eleven women as priests at Philadelphia (beginning with 79-year-old Rev. Dr. Jeannette Piccard), and four more the following year, thereby creating in the ranks of the Episcopal Church a serious breach between traditionalists and progressives.  In Canada in Nov., 1976, six women were ordained into the Anglican Communion.  Then on January 1 and 2, 1977, with “official approval” now granted, Rev. Jacqueline Means‚ and Rev. Pat Park‚ became the first women to be ordained with the official sanction of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.—the earlier, “unofficially” ordained Episcopal women would soon after also be given this status (one of these women, Rev. Alison Palmer in 1975 became the first woman to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion in Britain, at a Unitarian church).  Rev. Beverly Messenger-Harris, another of the 1974 ordainees, became in June 1977 the Episcopalian (USA) Church’s first rector, at Gethsemane Episcopal in Oneida, N.Y.  Canon Mary Michael Simpson was the first Episcopal nun to be ordained a priest (in 1977), and the next year became the first woman ever to preach in England’s Westminster Abbey.  Revs. Michael and Ann Struthers Coburn in Dec. 1977 became the first married couple in the U.S. to be ordained together to the priesthood (Episcopalian).  By Spring of 1990, about 1,200 women priests had been ordained by U.S. Episcopalians and by Anglicans in Canada and New Zealand, but the Church of England and of Australia and other countries in the Anglican Communion still forbade the practice.  In 1988-9 the Episcopalian Diocese of Massachusetts added to the “mayhem” by electing and consecrating as a bishop a black, non-college-educated divorcée with a multi-faceted earlier career, the Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris (b. 1930; ordained as a priest in 1980, a year after having been made a deacon).  Actually, she is a suffragan, or assisting bishop, and serves in the Boston-area diocese of Massachusetts.  Nevertheless, this is the first female bishop in 450 years of Anglican history.  In the first days of her new office Bishop Harris “polarized” the situation even further by substituting the nonsexist terms “Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer” for the traditional Trinitarian formula “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” in a celebration of the Eucharist.  In December, 1989, New Zealand’s diocese of Dunedin elected Rev. Penelope Ann Bansall Jamieson‚ as the second Anglican bishop and the first to lead a diocese completely on her own.  And in mid-June, 1992, Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, 54, was appointed as suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. 


All told, of the 29 autonomous regional branches of the Anglican Communion worldwide, ten now ordain women priests.  The tenth church to do so was the Australian Anglican Church, when Archbishop Peter Carnley of Perth ordained ten women on March 7, 1992, despite the usual strong opposition from Church traditionalists at St. George’s Cathedral.  At least ten of Australia’s 24 dioceses are considering ordaining women—perhaps as many as one hundred women could be ordained in Australia by the end of the year.  This is significant, because Australia, with 3.7 million Anglicans, is one of the largest Anglican bodies in the world (almost twice the size of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.).  The Church of England has up until now resisted ordaining any women.  However, with the enthroning in Spring 1991 of the liberal-minded George Carey to the seat of Archbishop of Cantebury in England, a man who strongly approves of women priests and a more charismatic form of Christianity, women priests may finally be approved within England as well.  Already since 1987, the Church of England has ordained some 1,200 female deacons, and now Carey is calling any opposition to the ordination of women “a fundamental error” (previously he had termed it “a serious heresy”).  He puts the matter simply:  “I find the case for the ordination of women more compelling than the case against it.”  Carey’s words constitute a clear sign that the Anglican Church may soon begin to ordain women to the priesthood in most or all of its countries.  If this were to happen, then hopefully the Roman Catholic church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod might begin to consider rather more seriously the issue of women’s ordination. [61] 


A recent statistic, in the context of an Associated Press article reporting on the problem of sexual harassment for women ministers (male clergy being the majority of perpetrators!), declares that “more than 20,000 women now serve among the nation’s 250,000 Protestant clergy,” representing 8% of the total number of clergy.  While this is a small percentage—and note that roughly 50% of these women clergy are ministers within Holiness and Pentecostal churches (the Assemblies of God and Salvation Army churches alone have over 7,000 of these women in their ranks)—the future promises to bring a great increase in the ratio of women to men, because women’s ranks in seminaries have swelled dramatically.  Whereas extremely few women studied in seminaries 20 years ago (10% of the total), a recently published study reveals that women today represent almost one-third of the seminarians enrolled at the 208 accredited seminaries in the U.S. and Canada.  17,501 of the 59,033 seminarians (29.7%) are women.  At Harvard Divinity School, one of the nation’s most prestigious seminaries, women comprised 48% of the 1984-5 enrollment.  As another example, women in seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) constituted 41.9% of the total in 1989 (up almost 7% from 1987).  Nevertheless, “women still are entering the ranks of the clergy at a much slower rate than they have entered such other fields as law and medicine.” [62]  Yet figures on women seminarians are definitely good news, indicating that women will have a much larger role in the world of the mainstream Protestant ministry in the future, although, as mentioned in our section on women’s right to priestly ordination within Catholicism, the very notion of an elite body of the ordained ranked over against a less powerful laity is currently being revised by theologians in various Christian denominations (especially those wherein the clergy-laity gulf is wide).  The greater influx of women as ministers within the churches also appears to be engendering more of a heart-centered approach to spiritual ministry; the majority of these women seem not so much interested in cerebral theologizing as in compassionate counseling and ministering to the needy.  This, surely, represents a return to the spirit of the earliest movement around Jesus.


As we have seen, there are numerous ordained women ministers and deacons (deaconesses) in the Protestant tradition.  Over 200 organizations for Protestant deaconesses and women ministers also flourish, to be found in countries all over the world, both pan-denominational and especially for Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, et al.  (Contact addresses for many of these are to be found in the endnotes.)


In light of the anti-clerical legacy of Luther and the other Protestant founders, it is curious to see that, believe it or not, there actually exist some Prostestant nuns.  Though Cardinal Wolsey and then King Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, dissolved and/or suppressed all the Catholic monastic institutions between 1525-40, these English Catholic male and female monastic groups would make their return on a fledgling basis in the late 18th century and early 19th century.  Soon they would be followed by much stronger communities and orders for Anglican nuns and monks—a strong indication that certain human beings have an intrinsic need to live the contemplative, monastic life as has been practiced in so many traditions around the world for so many centuries.  As Rev. Arthur MacDonald Allchin, Peter Anson, and Geoffrey Moorhouse have observed, incipient attempts to create a “Protestant nunnery” were made at various points in the 17th and 18th centuries.  But it was the 19th century Oxford Movement (a reform of Anglicanism which sought to restore to the Church of England its High Catholic traditions), begun in 1833 by John Keble, Edward Pusey, and John Henry Newman (—later a convert to Catholicism) that brought in its wake actual foundations of monastic communities.  Significantly, women and their communities dominated the movement in numbers. [63]


Marian Rebecca Hughes, the daughter of Gloucestershire clergyman, had in 1841 at Oxford taken a vow of celibacy and thus become the first professed Anglican religious, though having to care for her parents at home she was prevented from joining the first Anglican sisterhood at Park Village, London (she would later become the superior of another community).  26-year old Jane Ellacombe and 32-year-old Mary Bruce‚ together received initiation into the religious life as Anglican “Sisters of Mercy” by Rev. Pusey and Rev. Dodsworth in March, 1845, and took up residence at Park Village in Regent’s Park, under the direction of a “lady of great refinement and goodness,” Emma Langston, henceforth known as Mother Emma.  By September there were seven sisters in the community, wearing black wool habits, living under an Augustinian-type monastic rule, combining six hours of service (chiefly in the form of teaching poor children), with many hours in prayer/contemplation.  These sisters later became joined with Mother Lydia Sellon’s Devonport religious community to form the Society of the Most Holy Trinity.  Priscilla Lydia Sellon (1821-76) was the first real foundress of Anglican women’s communities—in 1848 she formally established three sisterhoods at Devonport, Plymouth, and Stonehouse (in Exeter) to serve the poor and sick.  Under Mother Lydia’s direction these sisters led contemplative, austere lives, taking strict vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—which incurred the heavy criticism of Anglicans who decried such “Romish” tendencies.  She set up more convents in London, Bristol, and Berkshire (the Ascot Priory here is the sole remnant of her original communities), and her service missions extended to include one as far away as Honolulu. 


Other early foundations of Anglican women’s religious included the Community of St. John the Baptist (at Clewer near Windsor, 1851), the Community of All Saints (London Colney, Hertfordshire, 1851), the Society of St. Margaret (East Grinstead, Sussex, 1855), the Community of the Holy Name (1865), the Sisters of Bethany (1866), the Sisters of the Church (1870), and the Community of the Epiphany (1883).  Over in America, Ann Ayres‚ was consecrated as “Sister Ann” by Rev. W.A. Muhlenberg on Long Island in 1845 and by 1852 other women had joined to form the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion, which established an infirmary that became St. Luke’s Hospital, and a Christian industrial community, St. Johnland.


All the aforementioned communities of Anglican/Episcopalian women, which usually combined both the active and contemplative lives, during the 19th century were much more numerous than communities of men, perhaps related to the fact that the women’s emancipation movement was happening at that time.  By the end of the nineteenth century there were some 30 orders of Anglican women religious in the wake of the Anglo-Catholic revival in the Church of England.  Many of the English sisterhoods opened branch houses abroad, such as in the U.S., where the oldest surviving Anglican sisterhood is the Community of St. Mary at Peekskill, N.Y. (1865).  (At Willowdale, Ontario, Canada in 1884, and at Melbourne, Australia two years later, Anglican women’s houses would be started.)  Given the longstanding aversion to anything smacking of Roman Catholicism, the Anglican sisterhoods had to endure for some years severe suspicion and misunderstanding, even occasional hostile acts, from other Anglicans.  By the turn of the century, however, these sisterhoods were officially acknowledged by bishops and in 1935 an advisory council was established in the provinces of Canterbury and York.  (Here in America, the Conference on the Religious Life is the official U.S.-Canadian organization for Anglican/Episcopalian female and male religious.) 


In contrast to Catholic religious, the numbers of Anglican religious (female and male) never assumed large numbers—indeed, many today in the Anglican Communion are even unaware of the fact that there are monastics within their own tradition!  A 1967 figure reveals there to have been 1,883 women and 328 men in Anglican religious communities, whereas there were 1,072,934 women and 332,997 men in Catholic formal religious life. 


Sometime around the middle of this century, the number of Anglican nuns began to decline, especially in the U.S., though the number of monks has remained about the same.  Yet contemplative houses of women religious seem to have maintained their strength in England, though admittedly on a small scale in comparison to Catholic nuns elsewhere.  There are about a dozen houses in England.  Some 60 nuns are to be found in four houses of the contemplative-oriented Sisters of the Love of God (S.L.G.), the largest of the Anglican women’s orders.  In England the women religious are more progressive than their Episcopalian sisters in America, where, for instance, the nuns all still wear the old-style habits, at least much of the time. (It might be pointed out that some Anglican/Episcopal sisters have been allowed to join several of the progressive communities of Catholic nuns.) 


In recent decades, concerns within the worldwide Anglican Communion over social action, the new prayerbook, women priests (still a huge controversy in England) have all kept attention away from Anglican/Episcopalian nuns’ issues, and so they have not geen given the attention or encouragement to “renew” themselves, as their Catholic sisters have done.


A few Anglican nuns have emerged as fine spiritual directors and authors:  the late Mother Mary Clare, S.L.G. (Sisters of the Love of God) resided at the Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres, Oxford, where she wrote quite a bit of material on the inner life.  Sr. Benedicta Ward, S.L.G. is an eminent medieval scholar who has, among other things, compiled some important books on the Desert Fathers. [64]    


On the topic of spiritual directors within the Anglican/Episcopalian tradition, I am told that the best female spiritual direction today seems to be done more by Anglican/Episcopal women priests or laywomen rather than by nuns, especially in the United States (where there are about 3 million Episcopalians).  Rev. Emily Hall, an Episcopalian priest living in Santa Paula, California, is an esteemed spiritual director and former president of the Center for Christian Spirituality West (founded by Fr. Allan Jones), a group sponsoring retreats.  Rev. Elizabeth Canham‚ is an oblate of the OHC (Order of the Holy Cross) who has established a contemplative mixed community of female and male religious in Charleston, South Carolina.  She has authored several books and many articles, and led many workshops and retreats.  Rev. Margaret Guenther‚ is a longtime spiritual director and professor at the General Theological Seminary in N.Y.  Mrs. Avery Brooke, of Noroton, Connecticut, is another longtime spiritual director, author, and former publisher of the Seabury Press. [65] 


Returning to our topic of Protestant female religious, we learn that women’s religious communities observing vows of celibacy, obedience, and poverty or community of goods have arisen within the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant traditions, though on an even smaller scale than the Anglicans. The most important of these include: 1) the contemplative Retreat of Pomeyrol community, founded in seed-form in 1929 by Mlle. Antoinette Butte‚ at St. Germain-en-Laye, outside Paris, with elements borrowed from many religious groups; 2) the ecumenical Communauté de Grandchamp near Neuchatel, Switzerland, founded in 1936 by Mère Geneviève Micheli  (formerly Sister Margaret), after she and some other women had done a private contemplative retreat, the first time anyone in the Swiss Reformed Church had done so; the sisterhood at Grandchamp, formally constituted in 1952, a year later closely allied itself with that influential Protestant ecumenical male religious community of Taizé near Cluny, France (founded by Roger Schutz in the 1940s and peopled by Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox lay-brothers, monks, friars, and priests); Grandchamp adopted the Taizé Rule, and in 1954 began a daughter-house at Gelterkinden, Switzerland, and a branch in an industrial suburb of Paris; 3) the Oekumenische Marienschwestern—”Ecumenical Sisterhood of Mary”—which came into being at Darmstadt, Germany after Dr. Klara Schlink‚ and Erika Madauss‚ and their 150 female Lutheran Bible students had been meeting semi-secretly for regular classes, and had seen the need for repentance and increase of piety after the devastating Allied bombings of Darmstadt September 11-12, 1944.  In 1947, Dr. Schlink became Mutter Basilea, and Frl. Madauss became Mutter Martyria and, with seven other women, they began to live a communal religious life in the attic of the Schlink residence under the spiritual direction of a Methodist pastor.  Within seven years there were over 60 Darmstadt Sisters, living deeply contemplative lives at a convent on the road to Heidelberg, filled with an ecumenical spirit of prayer and missionary work on behalf of all the Christian denominations and the Jews of Israel and elsewhere (for whom they make special reparations for the evils perpetrated by the Nazis).  Other smaller communities of Protestant women are to be found in France, Germany, and Scandinavia.  And the Christus Brüderschaft at Selbitz, Germany is a significant Protestant religious community of both men and women. [66]


Moorhouse, who has described the above-mentioned communities, also relates how Protestantism in the 19th century in Continental Europe saw the revival of the ancient function of deaconess.  In 1836 at Kaiserswerth, Pastor Fliedner started a community of unmarried or widowed deaconesses to look after the sick and poor, or teach, and thus constitute a kind of Protestant equivalent of the many Catholic sisterhoods of charity.  Similar groups of charitable deaconesses were found at Echallens, Switzerland, in 1841, by Pastor Germond, and at Reuilly, in France, in 1842.  (Remember here that Belle Harris Bennett started in 1887 the Scarritt Bible and Training School in the U.S. to train deaconesses.)  These would prefigure the rise in the latter half of the 20th century (especially in the U.S.) of female deacons, elders, and priests in the mainstream Protestant churches. [67]


In thinking of important women authors within the Protestant traditions, we have already learned of the Anglican sisters, Mother Mary Clare, S.L.G., Sr. Benedicta Ward, S.L.G.., and other Anglican/Episcopalian spiritual directors.  Here we must also mention a few more Anglicans/Episcopalians: Evelyn Underhill-Moore (1875-1941) was esteemed for her beautiful works on mysticism; after a period of writing on this topic in a more non-denominational manner, based on Plotinus, Blake, et al, she became very Christ-centered through the influence of the Catholic thinker, Baron von Hügel, though she never converted from her original Anglican tradition.  Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-94), sister of the Italian artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was herself an esteemed poetess and an extremely religious Anglican with Catholic devotional tendencies.  Christina refused two marriages because neither men shared her deep and passionate Christian faith.  Though an invalid for many years, she worked at a Home for Fallen Women for 10 years; and she wrote devotional manuals and a book of prayers, in addition to her poetry.  Vida Scudder (1861-1954) grew up in New England and Europe, became an Episcopalian, and went on to found the College Settlements Association for poor students, and the Episcopal Church Socialist League to improve industrial and social relations; an ardent pacifist, she became a leading Franciscan scholar, and authored some sixteen books, including a two-volume autobiography, which revealed an intense inner spiritual life.  Anne Fremantle’s anthology, The Protestant Mystics (1964), features a few women other authors of the last 100 years, the most profound being Margaret Prescott Montague (1878-1955), an Episcopalian from West Virginia; the Anglican mystic, Katharine Trevelyan (b. 1909); and the impressive early 20th century anonymous Episcopalian author of The Prodigal Returns, The Golden Fountain, and The Romance of the Soul, whose writings are of an exceptionally sublime, contemplative nature.


Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-late 1970s), Presbyterian daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, married Charles Lindbergh (at one point experiencing the traumatic kidnap and murder of her son) and went on to write a number of essays, poetry and books.  One book stands out:  the very wise, non-sectarian, and highly popular Gift from the Sea, published in 1955, a work which especially empowers women to become more simple, unattached, and contemplative in the midst of their busy lives.  Catherine Marshall (1914-83) also comes to mind as the wife of a Presbyterian minister who wrote a longrunning bestseller about him after his passing, A Man Called Peter, later made into a film, and a number of other works, such as Beyond Ourselves, Meeting God at Every Turn and The Helper. [68]


In recent decades a few women have arisen as popular preachers and authors within the domain of Evangelical (“born-again”) Christianity, witnessing to the power of Christ and prayer in their lives... (this movement has some affinity with the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, and has accepted a number of elements from these, especially the belief in God’s power to heal).  Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) lived for her first fifty years with her father and her sister Betsie above their watch shop at Haarlem, Holland (Corrie was Holland’s first licensed female watchmaker).  They worked with the Dutch Underground and sheltered persecuted Jews when World War II broke out.  (Her family saved an estimated 700 Jews from the Nazis.)  Captured by the Nazis, Corrie spent months in solitary confinement and then in concentration camps, all the while maintaining the spirit of God’s love through her faith in Jesus’ presence.  Her father and Betsie died in the Nazi confinement.  Corrie herself was spared by a “clerical error” the week before her scheduled execution in late December, 1944.  After her release, Corrie evangelized among the Germans and Dutch for a while; she began to work with Youth for Christ and to travel.  On one visit to the U.S. she met various influential Christians, such as Abraham Vereide of the International Christian Leadership, Dr. Edwin Orr, head of Renewal Fellowship Team, and Marion Johnson, Pres. Roosevelt’s niece, and leaders of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, all of whom helped promote her work here as an independent evangelist.  For the next few decades Corrie was constantly on the move—she would eventually travel to more than sixty countries (California was her base in her last years).  She was well known and much beloved for her evangelical preaching, her masterful story-telling, her “down-home” humor, and her wise counsel, especially concerning the Lord’s goodness and power, and the need to forgive one’s enemies.  (She herself wrote a letter of forgiveness to the man who had exposed her family’s work, resulting in their imprisonment.)  Corrie published the bimonthly The Hiding Place magazine, and authored a number of autobiographical and devotional books for her many followers.  Her 1971 autobiographical volume, also named The Hiding Place, brought her much recognition, and with the royalties from this work she founded Christians, Incorporated, a missionary enterprise. [69]      


Madeleine L’Engle (1918- ) is a popular author of numerous works which have been compared to those of C.S. Lewis for their treatment of themes such as good and evil, light and dark, and a mixture of theology, science, and fantasy.  Rosalind Rinker‚ and the prolific Eugenia Price (1916- ) are other women authors prominent in the field of evangelical Christianity. [70]


Here we can also mention some female “Christian celebrities” who, in this modern age of easy access via the audio-visual media, have had a “Christianizing” effect on so many Americans and people throughout the world... Thus, actress Dale Evans Rogers, wife of Roy Rogers, Anita Bryant, the former beauty pageant winner and singer, singer Debby Boone, daughter of Pat Boone (another Christian “celebrity”), singer and co-host of the “700 Club,” Sheila Walsh, and singer Amy Grant, dubbed “the Michael Jackson of Christian Music” by the New York Times—all these women have served for their many fans as popular inspirations for “good, clean Christian living” and love for Jesus as one’s personal savior. [71]    


In sum, however, it must be declared that women do not have much of a role in the huge, ever-growing, fundamentalist Evangelical “born-again” movement (which dates back to the ex-Anglican priest, John Nelson Darby [1800-82] and his “dispensationalism” ideas, which gave rise to the Plymouth Brethren).  The “born-again” movement, comprised of many Southern Baptists, is extremely androcentric and conservative, emphasizing “order” (read: “keeping women in their place,” as urged by the pseudo-Pauline New Testament texts), opposing the Equal Rights Amendment, and featuring no women as major organizational leaders.  Because fundamentalist Christianity believes in the complete inerrancy of the Bible (managing to rationalize the many contradictions therein), it upholds the traditional, male “party-line” that the woman/wife is subservient to the man/husband, and she must not try to lead or hold any decision-making power.  Moreover, preaching by women has been severely frowned upon, this being considered a duty/privilege only for males.  With a few exceptions, the born-again women in fundamentalist circles who have become public preachers and Bible teachers usually engage in these functions only for groups of women and children.  (That humble group known simply as “the [Local] Church,” founded by Ni Shutsu, “Watchman Nee” [1903-72], in China and the U.S., has been for some years the only fundamentalist church I know to show any strong, long-standing encouragement of women to speak in meetings—and for this policy, Watchman Nee’s meetings were attacked by the Plymouth Brethren fundamentalists back in the 1930s.)       


Despite these strictures, the obviously gifted ministries of women such as Kathryn Kuhlman and Corrie ten Boom have led them and certain other women to be acknowledged by fundamentalist males as God-inspired evangelists, and so now a few women are occasionally being allowed to speak at conferences in the midst of predominantly male preachers (a number of women have for some time been gathering together for their own conferences, which was a significant step).  A few women are also visible on the televangelism programs, such as found on Paul and Jan Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), usually as a kind of “team member,” or along with a husband in a “co-ministry” in which the husband dominates (Jan Crouch occasionally hosts a “for-the-ladies” meeting with her daughter-in-law and a female guest or two).  Thus women (of varying “sanctity”) who have accepted Jesus as their redeemer can now be found, albeit usually in “subordinate” positions, within fundamentalist, evangelist, born-again Christianity.  They include:  Freda Lindsay (cofounder of The Voice of Healing ministry and Christ for the Nations, an organization headquartered in Dallas, which builds churches and conducts a Bible-school), Janis Smith (founder of LIFE Ministries—Ladies Involved in Fellowship and Evangelism), Marilyn Hickey (International Charismatic Bible Ministries), Maryann Sitton (Shiloh ministries), Mary Anne Voelkel, Bea Basansky‚ (president of the Christian Women in Leadership), Cindy Jacobs (Generals of Intercession), Lindsay Roberts (daughter-in-law of Oral Roberts), Tammy Faye Bakker (wife of Jim Bakker and involved with his PTL ministry, also pastor of New Covenant Church in Orlando), Debra Paget (hostess of a TBN women’s program), Gloria Copeland (wife of Kenneth Copeland, and a TBN personality herself), Rexella Van Impe (wife of Jack Van Impe, the “walking Bible” and independent fundamentalist Baptist preacher), Theresa Cerullo (with husband Morris Cerullo Evangelistic Assoc.), Nancy Pankratz (and husband Kirk, founders of Youth America), and Evelyn Hamon (and husband Bill Hamon, who is founder of the Christian International Network of Prophetic Ministries). [72]



In concluding this chapter, we must know that, despite the presence of many female Protestant evangelists, authors, missionaries, healers, ordained ministers, bishops, theologians, educators, and organizational officials who have in the past and are today flourishing, when we look at the Protestant traditions as a whole, including both the major, traditional Protestant churches and the Holiness, Pentecostal, neo-Pentecostal, and Evangelical movements, males still clearly predominate in administrative power. 


Hopefully this imbalance of power will shift back in the years ahead to a level of greater equality.  If or when it does, Christianity will undoubtedly be deeply affected, allowing into its heart even more of the nurturing, nonhierarchical spirit.


Any shifts toward greater egalitarian policies, however, are not at all a “sure thing.”  Dr. Ruether points out that the felt-need of liberal Protestants to pursue ecumenical alliance with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches may lead to ...

“the gains of feminism in the Church [being] ... sold out by a male-defined ecumenism based on historical patriarchal patterns of ministry.  Thus the Christian Church stands today at the crossroads between a tradition of hierarchical order that has traditionally subordinated women and excluded them from the ministry and the full and systematic renewal of the Christian message and mission based on a theology of equivalence [between male and female].” [73]


We earnestly hope and pray that the egalitarian vision of Jesus be maintained and promoted at all costs, and that male Christians be completely freed from the millennia of sexist conditioning and false views (the “demon of sexism”) so as to allow their 600 million sisters an equal status alongside them.  Let St. Paul remind us of the simple, profound truth:  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)