Archive for the ‘women in ministry’ Category


Sarepta Myendra Irish Henry

June 11, 2007

Some months ago I posted briefly on Sarepta Myendra Irish Henry. I’d just like to draw your attention to a wonderful resource that has just been added to the General Conference Archives online resources. It is a biography of Henry by her daughter Mary Henry Rossiter titled My Mother’s Life (A Memoir of S. M. I. Henry). Interestingly, the introduction–written by Bishop John H. Vincent of the Methodist Episcopal Church–has the following comment:

“Of her change of religious profession I say nothing. I do not understand it. But she did; and that is enough for me. She was, under her later confession, just what she was through all the years before,–a sweet, consistent, unselfish Christian. The Church with which she spent her latest years is to be congratulated for the service she rendered, and for the memory of goodness and serenity she bequeathes [sic] to it.” (p8)

Vincent is of course referring to Henry’s conversion to Seventh-day Adventism at the age of 57 in 1896

The book is quite long–353 pages, but it is worth reading. Henry is a fascinating woman. To be remembered for one’s “goodness and serenity” is a fine epitaph.

Just to keep you up to date with the recent auctions on Ebay:

  • God’s Memorial by James White (Battle Creek: Seventh Day Adventist Publishing Association, Not dated, circa 1870). SOLD for $52.50.
  • Why Evil was Permitted by Henry Smith Warleigh (New York: George Storrs, Circa [1847-1863]) SOLD for $146.50.

I hope both of these items have found a home where they will be preserved and made available (by digitization perhaps) to those interested.


Irene Morgan

November 6, 2006

The story of Irene Morgan has been told before—most comprehensively for an Adventist audience here. However, it is good to remind ourselves periodically of our history.

To summarize:
“Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a young woman named Irene Morgan rejected that same demand on an interstate bus headed to Maryland from Gloucester, Virginia. Recovering from surgery and already sitting far in the back, she defied the driver’s order to surrender her seat to a white couple. Like Parks, Morgan was arrested and jailed. But her action caught the attention of lawyers from the NAACP, led by Thurgood Marshall, and in two years her case reached the Supreme Court.
Though the lawyers fervently believed that Jim Crow – the curious pseudonym for racial segregation – was unjust, they recognized the practice was still the law of the land, upheld by the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. Instead of seeking a judgment on humanitarian grounds or the equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, they made the seemingly arcane argument that segregation in interstate travel violated the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause.
On June 3, 1946, that strategy paid off. In Irene Morgan v. Virginia, the court ruled that segregation in interstate travel was indeed unconstitutional as “an undue burden on commerce.” But though that the decision was now law, the southern states refused to enforce it, and Jim Crow continued as the way of life in the South. Yet there were those determined to do something about it.”

Extract taken from:

Interestingly this account—and most others—leaves out the fact that Irene Morgan was a Seventh-day Adventist.
Other accounts:
Washington Post article
A compendium of newspaper accounts
Wikipedia entry
You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow! documentary website.

Presidential Citizens Medal website

You can read a copy of the US Supreme Court’s decision here.

Listen to Bayard Rustin sing “You don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow” here. Rustin co-wrote the song with George Houser. The song refers to Irene Morgan’s win in court on June 3, 1946, as the impetus for the first Freedom Ride in April 1947.

Known as the Journey of Reconciliation, riders engaged in direct protest by intentionally violating the segregated seating patterns on Southern buses and trains. Along the way, they were beaten, arrested and fined. Further information on the Freedom Ride can be found here & here.

Irene Morgan changed the world. Let us not forget one Seventh-day Adventist woman who sat down (!) for what she believed in.

The Association of Adventist Women has chosen its Adventist Women of the Year for 2006. You can read about the awardees–women who also changed their world–here.


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.


Forgotten Heralds: Millerite Women Who Preached

September 21, 2006

More women than men participated in nineteenth-century religious life. Therefore, women began to take on important roles in that religious life: missionary, teacher, evangelist etc. Phoebe PalmerOne well-known example is Phoebe Palmer—a revivalist preacher in the Methodist tradition. She preached at over 300 camp meetings and revivals in the United States, Canada and the British Isles. For more information on Palmer, see the Wikipedia entry. Some of her works can be found online: The Way of Holiness and Faith and its Effects.

Phoebe Palmer

Adventist women began preaching during the Millerite Movement. One of the earliest known was Lucy Maria Hersey Stoddard, born in Worcester, MT in 1824. She accepted Miller’s teachings in 1842 and was impressed that God wanted her to proclaim the gospel. She quit her job as a teacher to preach full-time. Her ministry was very successful—Isaac Wellcome pointed out that:

“Elder Jonas Wendell and many other ministers now proclaiming the gospel state that their conversion to the truth was through her preaching. This should encourage others, whom the Lord calls, not to refrain because they are females.” (Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, 156.)

Stoddard was associated with Sarah J. Paine Higgins–the first female preacher in Massachusetts; unfortunately, very little is known about her life.

Olive Maria Rice was a Millerite preacher in the State of New York, of whom it was said: “This devoted sister is still laboring in this State [New York]. She lectured recently at Batavia, and Pine Hill…and Attica….The effect is good, wherever she goes.” (The Midnight Cry, October 19, 1843, 73.)

Two other Millerite women preachers were Emily C. Clemons and Corinda S. Minor. Together they also edited the Millerite periodical The Advent Message to the Daughters of Zion and wrote numerous articles for that journal as well as another Millerite periodical, the Advent Herald.

Abigail MusseyAbigail Mussey encountered Millerite teachings during the 1830s. However she did most of her preaching after 1844. She gave insight into some of the difficulties she faced in her ministry when she wrote in her autobiography:

“Preachers that oppose female laborers can shut up their houses, and refuse to give out their appointments; but they can’t shut up the private houses or school-houses, and the cannot hinder others room giving out appointments; so there is no danger of shut doors or the way being hedged up….Doors opened, and I moved on, with sword in hand and the gospel armor on, with loving all and fearing none. I knew in whom I believed, in whom trusted, and who had sent me out. My mission was from heaven, not from man. My faith stood not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (Life Sketches and Experience, 163-164.)

Mussey was known as “The Yankee woman preacher”, and spent most of her time in Massachusetts. She is known to have spent a large part of her ministry preaching to the Black community. She preached at Black churches in Clarence and Clements in 1861, and also in the Bay Shore area. She later reflected, “I felt to praise God that he called me to preach free salvation to rich and poor, bond and free, black and white, male and female, old and young, high and low, and none has any right to say, ‘Stop!’ or hedge up the way.” (Life Sketches and Experience, 1865, 63.)

In Lauretta Elysian Armstrong Fassett’s biography, her husband wrote:

“The spirit of the Lord was with her; and there came to me, though as opposed as herself to women’s taking the place as teacher or preacher in public, the scripture: ‘On my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my spirit; and they shall prophecy [sic].’ (Acts 2:18) This kept me from ever hindering, or placing the least thing in the way of hr duty, fearing I might grieve the Holy Spirit, by which she was divinely aided in reaching the hearts of her hearers with the words of life as they fell from her devoted lips. (O. R. Fassett, The Biography of Mrs L. E. Fassett, A Devoted Christian, 26-27.)


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.

Carole Rayburn, “‘Women Heralds of the Advent Near’,” Adventist Heritage 17:2 (1996), 11-21.

Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1874.