By Tim Lambert
In every age there have been important and influential women in the Church.
The Early Church
Blandina ?-177 AD She was a famous martyr in what is now France
Perpetua and Felicitas 203 AD
These two women were famous Christian women martyrs. (There were of course many other women martyrs).
Faltonia Betitia Proba 4th Century AD
There were also women writers in the early church. She was a Christian poet.
Fabiola 4th Century AD
She was a wealthy woman who gave up everything to nurse the poor
The Middle Ages
Brigid c. 450-525
She founded the first women’s religious community in Ireland
Clotilde married Clovis, the king of the Franks who ruled northern France. She was instrumental in converting her husband to Christianity.
Berta or Bertha 539-612
In the 6th century AD England was divided into small kingdoms and the English were pagans. However, Berta was from France and she was a Christian. She was married to the king of Kent. It was partly due to her influence that Kent was converted to Christianity.
Hilda was an influential woman in the Saxon church who founded Whitby Abbey. In 664 she hosted the Synod of Whitby. (At that time there were two kinds of Christianity, Roman in most of Europe and Celtic in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. The Synod (meeting) of Whitby was held to decide which side the kingdom of Northumbria (northern England) should join. (Hilda much preferred Celtic Christianity but the Synod decided on Rome).
St Eormenhild of Ely Her name is sometimes given as Ermenilda. She was a queen in the 7th century but when her husband died she became a nun and an abbess. Little is known about her but she was remembered as a saintly woman.
Leoba or Lioba c 710-782 Leoba was an English nun who went to Germany and played a leading role in the Church there
Kassia 810-867 She was a Byzantine poet and hymn writer
Hildegard was a theologian and writer. She also wrote about medicine. She also wrote music and a play.
Heloise 1101-1164 She was a French Abbess and she was widely respected for her learning
The Waldensians were a Christian movement that began in southern France and spread across central Europe and Italy in the 13th century. Many Waldensian preachers were women.
Clare of Assisi 1194-1253
A follower of Francis of Assisi she founded an order of nuns called the Poor Clares
Despite the masculine name Julian was a woman. She was a famous mystic and writer. Julian wrote about the ‘motherhood’ of God.
Catherine of Siena 1347-1380
Catherine was a great theologian of the Middle Ages
Margery was an English mystic. The story of her life became a famous book The Book of Margery Kempe.
The Lollards c. 1380 onward
The Lollards were a Christian movement in England from the late 14th century to the early 16th century when they merged with the Protestants. Many Lollard preachers were women.
The 16th century and 17th century
Anne Askew 1521-1546 She was an English Protestant martyr
Katharine Zell 1497-1562
Katharine was an influential Protestant in Germany. She visited the sick and prisoners and sheltered Protestant refugees. She also wrote letters, which were circulated among Protestants.
Anne Hutchinson 1591-1643 Anne was a preacher in 17th century Massachusetts
Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672
Anne Bradstreet was a Christian poet of the 17th Century. She was born in Northampton but in 1630 she emigrated to North America.
She was one of the co-founders of the Quakers. One of the books she wrote was called Women’s Speaking Justified, Proved and Knowed of the Scriptures.
In the 18th century when the Methodist movement was born many Methodist leaders were women. John Wesley supported them but after his death in 1791 the Methodists began to disfavor women leaders. In the USA there was a movement called the Separate Baptists, which allowed women preachers.
The 18th Century
Anne Dutton 1692-1765 Anne was a theologian
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon 1707-1791 Selina was a key figure in the Methodist Movement of the 18th Century
Sarah Osborn 1714-1796 Sarah was a Christian leader and writer
Sarah Crosby 1729-1804 Sarah was a famous Methodist preacher
Ann Lee 1736-1784 Ann was a Quaker missionary
Hannah More 1745-1833 Hannah was a famous writer and philanthropist
Phyllis Wheatley 1753-1784 Phyllis was a poet
Hannah Adams 1755-1831 Hannah was a famous Christian writer
Elizabeth Ann Seton 1774-1821 She was a Christian writer
Ann Judson 1789-1826 Ann was a missionary to Burma
Some people think that Victorian women just stayed at home all day. In reality, women were evangelists, preachers, writers, and missionaries. They also organised charities.
The 19th Century
Mary Jones 1784-1864 She inspired the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society
Phoebe Palmer 1807-1874 Phoebe was a famous evangelist and writer
Fanny Crosby 1820-1915 Fanny (Frances) was a famous hymn writer of the 19th century
Antoinette Brown 1825-1921 In 1853 she became the first ordained Congregationalist woman minister
Catherine Booth 1829-1890
Catherine Booth was a preacher. She married William Booth in 1855. (At first, William disagreed with the idea of women preachers but he changed his mind after hearing Catherine preach!). Catherine and William founded the Salvation Army in 1865.
Hannah Whitall Smith 1832-1911 Hannah was a writer and evangelist
Lottie Moon 1840-1912 She was a missionary to China
Maria Woodworth-Etter 1844-1924 She was a famous evangelist
Mary Slessor 1848-1915 She was a missionary to Africa
The 20th Century
Evangeline Booth 1865-1950
From 1904 Evangeline was the leader of the Salvation Army in the USA. From 1934-39 she was Commander in Chief of the Salvation Army worldwide.
Ida Scudder 1870-1960 She was a medical missionary
Evely Brand 1879-1974 She was a missionary to India
Gladys Aylward 1903-1970 She was a missionary to China
Patricia St John 1919-1993 She was a Christian writer
Esther John 1929-1960 She was a Pakistani Christian nurse and martyr
Eva Burrows 1930- She was an Australian evangelist
Meanwhile a new Christian movement started at the beginning of the 20th Century – Pentecostalism. Many of the preachers in the new movement were women.
Agnes Ozman 1870-1937 She was a Pentecostal evangelist
Aimee Semple McPherson 1890-1944 She is probably the most famous women evangelist of the early 20th century