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More Forgotten Heralds: Early Adventist Women Ministers

October 1, 2006

Ellen Lane (?-1889). According to Michael Bernoi, Lane is thought to be the first woman to have received a ministerial license–being licensed to preach by the Michigan Conference in 1868. In 1878, she was granted a license by the General Conference (GC). She was known as an excellent preacher (said to have been more popular than her husband!) and evangelist, and was skilled in pastoral work. However, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim in his article “Early Adventist History and the Ministry of Women: A Closer Look at Recent Reinterpretations of Adventist History, Part 1” published in the conservative journal, Adventists Affirm states that “The Michigan Conference did not license Ellen Lane in 1868, as claimed. The minutes show that the licentiates that year were ‘Wm. C. Gage, James G. Sterling, and Uriah Smith’. Though she was indeed licensed in 1878, as the chapter [in Bernoi] states, she was actually first licensed in 1875. Further, she was not the first woman licentiate among Seventh-day Adventists, a distinction that apparently belongs to Sarah A. H. Lindsey.”

Sarah A. Lindsey (1843-1912). Sarah worked in western NY & Pennsylvania as an evangelist with her husband John. She received a ministerial license in 1871.

Margaret CaroMargaret Caro (1848-1938) was an Australian dentist and bible-worker. She held ministerial credentials and worked in Australia and New Zealand. Ellen White met her in Australia and in 1893 wrote in a letter to Jennie Inggs:
“I am greatly attached to her. She holds her diploma as dentist and her credentials as a minister. She speaks to the church when there is no minister, so you see she is a very capable woman.” (Letter 33, 1893.)

Sarepta Myendra Irish HenrySarepta Myendra Irish Henry (1839-1900). Intensely interested in temperance, she became the national evangelist for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Following a severe illness, she recovered at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. While there she accepted SDA teachings and, late in 1896, joined the church.
Henry was the founder of Women’s Ministry in the SDA Church. In 1898, the question of ministerial license was discussed at the GC: “Several remarked that it was their judgment that she should receive a ministerial license, which would be more in keeping with her line of work. A motion prevailed to grant her such recognition form the General Conference.” (General Conference Committee Minutes, March 30, 1898.)

Hetty and Stephen HaskellHetty Hurd Haskell (1857-1919). In 1884, Hetty Hurd attended an SDA camp-meeting in California and was converted. That year she gave up her teaching position and began 34 years of service as a teacher, bible-worker, and missionary for the SDA Church. Holding a ministerial license, she was known as a powerful preacher. Hurd was called to train workers in England (1887-1892), South Africa (1892-1897), and Australia. While working in Australia, she met Stephen N. Haskell. They were married in 1897. After returning to the US, they published the Bible Training School magazine to assist them in their work of educating workers for God.

Helen Stanton Williams (1868-1940). Stanton studied at Battle Creek College and took employment in 1887 as a Bible worker for the Michigan Conference. For two years Stanton taught worked in Grand Rapids and Saginaw, before moving to Indianapolis. She married Eugene Williams in 1890. She was a popular preacher and evangelist and was issued a ministerial license in 1897. In 1908 she travelled with her husband and two sons to South Africa. Her husband was elected president of the Cape Colony Conference and Helen was active in evangelism. In 1910 Eugene died. Helen continued to work in South Africa as a minister for four years—pastoring a church and working as an evangelist.

Lulu Russell Wightman (dates unknown). Lulu Russell Wightman was the most successful minister in New York state for more than a decade. Her ministry began when she was licensed as a minister in 1897 and continued even after she left New York State to engage in religious liberty work in Kansas and Missouri in 1908. The results from Wightman’s ministry rank her not only as the most outstanding evangelist in New York during her time, but among the most successful within the Adventist Church for any time period. SDA churches in Hornellsville, Gas Springs, Wallace, Silver Creek, Geneva, Angola, Gorham, Fredonia, Avoca, Rushville, Canandaigua, and Penn Yan in New York state were all established by Lulu Wightman.
In 1897, Pastor S. M. Cobb, wrote to the New York Conference president in reference to Lulu Wightman:
“She has accomplished more the last two years than any minister in this state…I am…in favor of giving license to Sr. Lulu Wightman to preach, and if Bro. W is a man of ability and works with his wife and promises to make a successful laborer, I am in favor of giving him license also.”
In 1901 the New York Conference president sent this note to John Wightman, Lulu’s husband: “Enclosed find a small token of appreciation from the Conference Committee for your work in assisting your wife.” Lulu Wightman was the licensed minister, and the conference sent money to her husband in appreciation for his assistance to her!
Her husband John Wightman was ordained in 1905, two years after he had been licensed. Lulu Wightman had been New York’s most effective minister for nine years, but was never ordained.
In 1910 the president of the Central Union Conference, B. T. Russell, circulated a 16-page pamphlet against his sister and brother-in-law, the Wightmans, stating that they opposed the church structure. As a result the Wightmans were dropped from church employment.

Lorena Florence (Flora) PlummerLorena Florence (Flora) Plummer (1862-1945). In 1897 Plummer was elected Secretary of the Iowa Conference. For a time in 1900, she was acting Conference President. In 1913 she was called to head the SS Department at the GC, a position she held until her retirement in 1936.

Anna Knight

Anna Knight (1874-1972). Knight attended Battle Creek College, graduating as a nurse. In 1898 she went to Jasper County, Mississippi where she worked in temperance and established a school for blacks. In 1901 she travelled to India as a missionary, serving for six years. She returned home to the US, and in 1913 became the Home Missionary Secretary for the Southeastern Union Conference. Six years later she was placed in charge of the Home Missionary Department. She held this position until her retirement in 1945.

Josephine Benton, Called by God, Smithsburg: Blackberry Hill, 1990.

Michael Bernoi, “Nineteenth century Women in Adventist Ministry Against the Backdrop of the Times,” in Women in Ministry, Nancy Vhymeister (ed.), Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1998, 211-233.

Bert Haloviak, “A Place at the Table: Women and the Early Years,” in The Welcome Table, Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart (eds.), Langley Park: TEAMPress, 1995.

Bert Haloviak, Route to the Ordination of Women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church: Two Paths, 1985.

Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, “Early Adventist History and the Ministry of Women: A Closer Look at Recent Reinterpretations of Adventist History, Part 1Adventists Affirm

Kit Watts, “Ellen White’s Contemporaries: Significant Women in the Early Church,” in A Woman’s Place: Seventh-day Adventist Women in Church and Society, Rosa Taylor Banks (ed.), Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 1992, 41-74.

14 comments

  1. […] For a look back, check out this great Adventist History blog posting on the Forgotten Heralds: Millerite Women Who Preached and More Forgotten Heralds: Early Adventist Women Ministers. […]


  2. […] Sarepta Myendra Irish Henry June 11th, 2007 Some months ago I posted briefly on Sarepta Myendra Irish Henry. I’d just like to draw your attention to a wonderful […]


  3. I appreciate the sharing of this information. I have a question though. When did the church take this detour in refusing to give commission women? This information needs to be shared with the church to enlighten those who have no access to the internet.
    The work of God is slowing down because of gender prejudice in the church. This ignorant attitude is also impacting the return of Jesus. It is time that someone say: enough is enough! The Lord ordains whoever He chooses. Who are we to say otherwise?

    I pray that we allow the Holy Spirit to do His job.


  4. I think there is a misunderstanding in terms. I in no way disagree with the fact that these women had ministerial licenses given by the church, and acknowledge the great work they did for God. But to say that giving a ministerial license and ordaining is the same thing is a mistake. I do believe that the church hasn’t utilised the gifts given to women as they should. Women should definately be given opportunities to preach, teach and use their God given talents. BUT that doesn’t mean they should be ordained as full-time pastors and do all the duties that involves. It seems that these two issues are being mixed up leading to wrong conclusions. Being a Christiang that follows the “narrow way” is the hardest thing. We are so prone to going way into the left or way into the left. Neither extreme is pleasing to God or will help us accomplish His purposes.


  5. Correction:
    We are so prone to either going way into the left of way into the RIGHT.


  6. @CYW…I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who is unaware of any Scripture requiring either a pastor, teacher, or elder to be ordained. Nor is there a passage of Scripture to say only ordained men (or women) can perform marriages, baptise, or serve communion. Of course, this is church practice, but such practice evolved over time out of a need for doctrinal unity and as a way of recognizing God’s calling.

    There are two examples of a laying on of hands in the back of Acts to set aside deacons and commissioning Paul and Silas as workers, but there is no command or other explicit passage saying this must be done. Nor is it mentioned in Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus regarding work of overseers (elders / pastors).

    Both ordination and licensing are means of recognizing spiritual gifts and conferring church authority to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is true, we make a distinction, allowing those who are ordained a wider field of ministry, but the duties and privileges of either the licensed pastor or the ordained pastor are the same on the local level.

    As this is so, I do not understand your position of making such distinctions between those granted a ministerial license and those ordained.


  7. http://imssdarm.wordpress.com/2009/09/15/women-preachers/

    “AS IN ALL CONGREGATIONS OF GOD’S PEOPLE, WOMEN SHOULD NOT ADDRESS THE MEETING; THEY HAVE NO LICENCE TO SPEAK; BUT SHOULD KEEP THEIR PLACE AS THE LAW DIRECTS. IF THERE IS SOMETHING THEY WANT TO KNOW, THEY CAN ASK THEIR OWN HUSBANDS AT HOME. IT IS A SHOCKING THING THAT A WOMAN SHOULD ADDRESS THE CONGREGATION.” 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 – New English Translation

    “As is the rule IN ALL THE CHURCHES OF THE SAINTS, women must keep quiet at the gatherings of the church. They are not allowed to speak; they must take a subordinate place, as the law enjoins….IT IS DISGRACEFUL FOR A WOMAN TO SPEAK IN CHURCH. YOU CHALLENGE THIS RULE? PRAY, DID GOD’S WORD START WITH YOU? ARE YOU THE ONLY PEOPLE IT HAS REACHED?” 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 – Moffatt’s Translation

    You will hear many things put forward by Church members, by ministers, by the wives of ministers, that Paul was only speaking about the women in the early Church at Corinth – that these women were particularly wicked. This is hard to believe when this was one of the many first-established New Testament Churches that grew up under Paul’s inspired ministry. This was at a time when to accept and profess the new Christian teachings was to oftentimes be subjected to ridicule, punishment, and death.


  8. Please note;

    “I am greatly attached to her. She holds her diploma as dentist and her credentials as a minister. She speaks to the church when there is no minister, so you see she is a very capable woman.” (Letter 33, 1893.)

    WHEN THERE IS NO MINISTER, MAN.


  9. in the church history women have done wounderfull job.they should also be given chance to minister


  10. Gods Church marching on


  11. Explain to me, did these women like Ellen G White tell as to create a ministry for women in the Adventist church. What is the churchs veiw on women ministries in the sunday churchs and other worldly organisations. Are we becoming birds of the same feather frok together? Can i also make a mans ministry that will fight for the abuse of men and boys? Boys being trafficed and raped. Has the issue of Equal right cripped in the church? I was thinking the ministry was ment to preach the gospel and bring the abusers of women, girls, men and boys to christ. Im shocked to learn on http://www.adventistwomenministries.org the staff that is on there.



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