As we near the end of Women’s History Month and all the tributes that have been paid to amazing women leaders in U.S. History, I wanted to make sure we didn’t forget some of the significant women of faith who were inspired by their Christian beliefs to change the world during their lifetimes.
While many recognize the name of Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) for her prominent role as women’s rights activist, she doesn’t get as much credit as she should for also being a staunch abolitionist, stemming from her deep Quaker beliefs. Her father also campaigned to end slavery and shared with his daughter a strong sense of moral and social justice. It was because she was often silenced from speaking out against slavery due to her gender that she also turned her sights to women’s rights. While some of her fellow suffragettes attacked Christianity for being used to subject women, Anthony refused to allow the movement to be led by only secularists, knowing that it would take women of faith joining together with those of no faith to accomplish their objectives.
Other important women abolitionists who were inspired by their Christian faith included Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Lucretia Mott, Abby Kelley Foster and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Elizabeth Chandler (1807-1834), despite her short lifespan, was a prolific writer against slavery and helped found Michigan’s first anti‐slavery society in 1832. Lucretia Mott (1793-1880) was a passionate speaker on behalf of both slaves’ and women’s rights and encouraged others to join her in boycotting products of slave labor; her husband even agreed to get out of the cotton trade to show his support.
Abby Kelley Foster (1811 – 1887) served as a delegate to the first national Anti‐Slavery Convention of American Women in New York City and was so firm in her belief that slavery was anti-Christian that she encouraged fellow abolitionists to leave churches which supported slavery; as such, she eventually left the Society of Friends, claiming that it violated its own professed principles, but she never abandoned her faith. And finally, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), who came from a deeply religious family, is most renowned for her authorship of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which depicted the harsh treatment of slaves and became wildly popular, succeeding in her expressed desires for it “to awaken sympathy and feeling for the African race.”
While these women were busy changing the course of U.S. history, another woman was challenging American Christians to join her in bringing their faith to the people of China. Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon (1840-1912) became an ardent believer while in college and was one of the first women in the South to receive a Master’s degree. She began serving as a missionary in China in 1873, teaching at a girls’ school and working to share her faith with women and girls who were far more oppressed in their nation than Moon’s counterparts in the U.S. It was her lifelong love for the people of China that inspired many Southern Baptists’ commitment to “foreign” missions, and the denomination’s annual fundraising campaign for international mission work is named in her honor.
Another trailblazing woman, this time in the field of itinerant evangelism, was Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), who at an early age was a great speaker and debater, then came to faith in 1907 after hearing her future husband, evangelist Robert Semple, preach.
They served a short time as missionaries in China before Robert succumbed to malaria. Aimee returned to the U.S. and soon met Harold Stuart “Mack” McPherson, marrying him in 1912. She suffered post-partum depression after the birth of her second child and stopped preaching, while still hearing the voice of God asking her to go. Her health deteriorated until she said yes to God. Soon, she was preaching again and drawing crowds all over the country. She finally settled in Los Angeles, establishing a ministry training center which eventually became known as Angelus Temple, and as such, founding the Pentecostal denomination the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
While many of us may not change laws, establish denominations or promote the growth of international missions, we can each have enormous influence where we serve, living for Christ and sharing his love with those around us. We can all be important women in history in that regard, and I invite everyone to take the opportunity this month provides to join me in celebrating the godly women role models in our lives.
Kelley Dixon serves as the chief operations officer at The Hope Center, a 501(c)(3) collaborative hub of Christian ministries making a global impact for God’s Kingdom. It serves as a center point for Christian activity and ministry in North Texas, providing professional resources, ideas, mentoring and training to empower ministries to magnify their reach.