Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) was a suffragist, physician and one of the first women to be ordained in the United Methodist tradition. She was born in England but came to the U.S. with her family at the age of 4. She started teaching at age 15, then became a local preacher to support her college education, which her family would not fund because she wouldn’t abandon her plans to become a minister.
At the Boston University School of Theology, she was the only woman in her class of 43. Despite having served as local preachers for some years, both she and Anna Snowden Oliver were refused ordination in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1880. Shaw then moved to the Methodist Protestant Church and was ordained after much protest that same year. For years Shaw had been believed to be the first woman ordained in the United Methodist tradition, but in researching “Courageous Past, Bold Future, the Journey Toward Full Clergy Rights for Women in The United Methodist Church, Author Patricia J. Thompson found three others that predated her, although their stories are not nearly as well known or documented. In 1886, Shaw earned a medical degree from Boston U, although she never practiced medicine.
She had a reputation as a masterful orator and spent 11 years as president of National American Woman Suffrage Association. She died at the age of 72, only a few months before Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
Want to know more?
Shaw's biography in the National Women’s Hall of Fame
An episode of the television comedy “30 Rock” featured the main character suggesting Feb. 14 be celebrated as “Anna Howard Shaw Day”
A Women’s History Month blog post by Adrienne Trevathan honors Shaw
The Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University School of Theology
The city of Big Rapids, Mich.,erected a statue of Shaw. Information about the statue and Shaw’s life can be found at this site.
Minerva Garza Carcaño (b. 1954) was the first Latina elected bishop in the UMC.
A native of Edinburg, Texas, Carcaño grew up wanting to make a difference in the
lives of people facing poverty and discrimination. She was received into full
connection in 1980 in the Rio Grande Annual Conference. After several years in
parish ministry, she in 1986 became the first Latina to be appointed a United
Methodist district superintendent, serving in West Texas and New Mexico and
later in Portland, Ore. She also was the organizing pastor in South Albuquerque
Cooperative Ministry and director of the Mexican-American Studies Program at
Perkins School of Theology. Carcaño was elected to the episcopacy in 2004,
serving the Phoenix Episcopal Area for eight years before moving to the
Los Angeles Episcopal Area in 2012. Carcaño is president of the board of
the General Commission on Religion and Race and serves as the Council of
Bishops’ official spokesperson on immigration issues. In February, she
was arrested in front of the White House while holding a pray-in calling for the
Obama administration to stop devastating families by deporting immigrants.
Carcaño speaking as part of the United Methodist Racial Ethnic
Clergywomen's Consultation held in Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 3-5, 2008
The website for the
General Commission on Religion and Race
A Washington Post story about
support for defrocked pastor Frank Schaefer
, including Carcaño’s invitation for him to work in her conference
Susanna Wesley (1669-1742) could be considered the mother of Methodism -- and not just because she was mother to John and Charles Wesley. An intelligent woman known for her organized and disciplined lifestyle, she educated her 10 children at home and devoted an hour each week to each child for private, focused conversation. Her husband, an Anglican pastor, was frequently away from home so she started holding prayer services one evening a week for the members of her household. Soon neighbors started coming, too, and then people from the nearby town – a couple hundred at a time -- to the detriment of services at the local church, whose pastor complained. It was this example of teaching and house groups that would later encourage her sons John and Charles to begin holding similar meetings. Although John Wesley never broke from the customs of his day and did not ordain women, he nevertheless provided many leadership opportunities for women in the burgeoning Methodist movement.
Read about Susanna Wesley and the Unauthorized Meetings.
Read Charles Wesley's epitaph for his mother.
Photo from "The Wesleys and Their Times", courtesy of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.
Georgia Harkness (1891-1974) was a noted theologian, author and hymn writer and the first woman to
teach theology in a U.S. seminary. She was ordained a minister of the Methodist Church in 1926 but could not serve
a church because a woman could not become a full member of a Methodist conference until 1956. She was a
Professor of Applied Theology at what is now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary from 1939 to 1950 and then
at the Pacific School of Religion. The UMC General Board of Higher Education and Ministry offers scholarships
in her name for women over 35 preparing for a second career in ordained ministry. Garrett-Evangelical students
and faculty can often be seen wearing red shoes at special events in honor of Harkness and her struggles and
triumphs as a pioneering woman.
If you want to know more:
So why the
Get information on applying for the
Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly (1920-2012) was the first African-American women to be elected bishop
in any major Christian denomination and the second woman bishop in The United Methodist Church.
The daughter of a pastor, she counted among her early influences educator Mary McCloud Bethune,
who told her when she was a child that she “must plan to be somebody.” She did
not plan to be a minister, however; she was a school teacher and lay speaker who agreed temporarily
to pastor a church in West Virginia after the death of its former pastor, her husband James David Kelly.
Hearing her own call to ministry, she headed back to school, this time a seminary. Leontine Kelly
was ordained a deacon in 1972 and an elder in 1977. In 1984, her name was put forth for election as
bishop in all five jurisdictions and she was elected to the episcopacy in the Western jurisdiction.
She was assigned to the San Francisco Episcopal area until her retirement in 1988.
video on Kelly’s life.
Read her Los Angeles Times
A biography by her daughter, Angella Current
Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) was a poet, teacher and dedicated mission worker, but she was best known as a prolific hymn writer, composing an estimated 5,000 to 9,000 hymns under as many as 200 pseudonyms. Mistreatment of an illness left her blind at six weeks, and her father died before she was a year old. She was raised by her mother and grandmother in a Christian home where she memorized entire books of the Bible as part of her early education. Later she entered the New York Institution for the Blind. Crosby did not let her different ability prevent her ardent participation in the camp meetings and revivals of the Wesleyan Holiness movement, and she was a regular leader and participant at the Ocean Grove summer meetings for many years. Her hymns appear in more denominations’ hymnals than almost any other writer (except Charles Wesley), and seven of them remain in the current United Methodist Hymnal, including “Blessed Assurance,” “Pass me Not, O Gentle Savior,” and “Rescue the Perishing."
Read the story behind “Blessed Assurance," see the lyrics and hear the music
A selection of books about Fanny J. Crosby
More about the Ocean Grove camp meetings
Jarena Lee (b. 1783) was a traveling itinerant preacher who wrote a compelling spiritual autobiography about her
fascinating life as an African-American woman in the 19th century. A few years after joining the Bethel African
Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Lee felt the call to preach. Her pastor, Richard Allen, told her
that was not allowed, although she could hold prayer meetings or offer a testimony. Lee wrote that the “holy
energy, which burned within me, as a fire, began to be smothered.” For eight years, she did not testify
much, but married a pastor and moved to New Jersey, where she became unhappy and quite ill. In that period, Lee
lost five close family members. Left a single mother of two children, she returned to Philadelphia, where Allen
had become the first bishop in the recently organized African Methodist Episcopal Church. One night at Bethel
AME church, Lee felt the visiting preacher “losing his spirit,” so she stood up and finished the
sermon for him. Allen, who was in the congregation, recalled their earlier conversation and said he realized
her calling was as valid as any man’s. From then on, he allowed her to work as a traveling minister, and
she preached for black and white congregations in both the north and south. One year, she reported, she "travelled
two thousand three hundred and twenty-five miles, and preached one hundred and seventy-eight sermons."
own account of her call to preach
Information about the
Jarena Lee Preaching Academy
Marjorie Swank Matthews (1916-1986) was the first woman bishop for any Protestant church. Elected by The United
Methodist Church in 1980, she served the Wisconsin Annual Conference until her retirement in 1984. Ministry was
her second career; Matthews worked as a secretary for an auto parts manufacturer for 17 years while raising her
son. At 47, Matthews started working on a college degree while simultaneously serving as a lay preacher
to several small congregations. She was ordained an elder at the age of 49 and, after serving as a pastor,
was the second woman to be named a district superintendent in the UMC. She was known for her firm leadership,
her gentle sense of humor and her intellect – she earned a doctorate in Old Testament scholarship.
Bishop Judith Craig, in her book “The Leading Women,” describes the elation in the room as the diminutive
Matthews was escorted to the platform at the North Central Jurisdictional Conference upon her election to the
episcopacy. “She stood before us, so small in stature, yet so huge in presence,” Craig wrote.
“The moment was like the gushing up of a new spring that would stream out into a great river of history.”
Do you want to know more?
This video on early UMC women bishops features
footage of Matthews. (Episcopal Series, Claremont School of Theology, 2004)
1984 Milwaukee Sentinel
interview with Matthews as she prepared to retire
obituary in The New York Times
Judith Craig's book,
The Leading Women
Theressa Hoover (1926-2013) was the first African-American woman to become a top staff executive for The United Methodist
Church. She led the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the corporate
body of United Methodist Women, for 22 years. She joined the organization 20 years earlier as a field worker
for the Central Jurisdiction, traveling the United States to conduct leadership development and training events
at a time when segregation was widespread. She was elected the Women’s Divisions’ top executive
in 1968, the year the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church voted to merge to form the
UMC, and led the group steadily through the tumultuous years of its reorganization. Hoover mentored young
women of all races, developing future leaders of the church, and worked for the inclusion of women and people
of color at all levels of the church and society. Time magazine once described her as “a highly influential
Methodist bureaucrat,” to which Hoover reportedly responded, “If you’re going to be a bureaucrat,
you ought to be a good one. I was a good one.” In 1983, she published a book,
With Unveiled Face: Centennial Reflections on Women and Men in the Community of the Church. In
her honor, the Women’s Division established the Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship
fund, which provides grants for young women to travel and study, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville,
her hometown, offers a scholarship in her name.
Want to know more?
United Methodist News Service
story on her legacy
Information on the
Theressa Hoover Community Service and Global Citizenship Award
Facebook page for the Little Rock, Ark.,
church named for her
Mary Bosanquet Fletcher (1739-1815) was an early lay preacher credited with convincing John Wesley that some women
should be allowed to preach. She was from a wealthy family but rejected a lot of the trappings of wealth for
a deeper spiritual life, living modestly and using her money to help people in need. She was a close friend of
Wesley, who appointed her a class leader. In 1763, Bosanquet and Sarah Ryan turned her family’s large home
in Leytonstone, Essex, into a school, orphanage, hospital and halfway house for the poorest in London. Bosanquet
struggled with her calling to be a preacher, as did many of the early Methodist women. Wesley never ordained
women; he drew a fine line between testifying and preaching and kept women from crossing that line. In 1771,
Bosanquet wrote Wesley for guidance, a letter many historians consider the first significant defense of women’s
preaching in Methodism. She told him there were times that God seemed to call women to preach in “extraordinary
circumstances,” and Wesley agreed with her, paving the way for him to begin allowing women with “an
extraordinary call” to become lay preachers as she did. He continued to consider each woman’s request
individually, however. In 1781, Bosanquet married John Fletcher, Wesley’s designated successor, and they
worked in partnership, essentially as a clergy team. He died only four years later but Mary Bosanquet Fletcher
continued her ministry for almost 30 more years.
Some of Bosanquet's letters can be found on
The Fletcher Page, a still under development that is dedicated to the lives, theologies, ministries and context
of John and Mary Bosanquet Fletcher.
Photo courtesy of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, from "
The Wesleys and Their Times."
Clara A. Swain (1834-1910) was the first woman M.D. to serve as a missionary for any denomination, working 27 years
in Bareilly, India. She was born in New York and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church as a young
child. She was a school teacher for several years but developed an interest in medicine. Shortly after
her graduation from Philadelphia Woman’s Medical College in 1869, she answered an appeal from the director
of a girls’ orphanage of the Methodist Mission in Bairelly for a woman physician, since men were not allowed
to attend women there. So many people were without needed medical care that Dr. Swain found herself
hard at work from the moment she arrived, even though her medical supplies didn’t show up for another month.
In addition to practicing medicine and evangelizing, however, she had to train local women to help assist her
with patients. By the end of her first year there, she had treated an estimated 1,300 patients and begun
training 17 medical students in classes lasting 2-3 hours a day. Within the next four years, she helped establish
the first hospital in India for women and children, the Clara Swain Missionary Hospital. The hospital was
built on 42 acres once owned by the Nawab of Rampore, a zealous Muslim who had sworn he would never allow a Christian
missionary in his city. But after Dr. Swain and another missionary approached him, he insisted they allow him
to donate the property. Dr. Swain wrote of her adventures in letters home, which were published in 1909 in the
A Glimpse of India.
archived book on her life (by “Mrs. Robert Hoskins”)
some of her letters, also available free online
Palace of Healing: The Story of Dr. Clara Swain
is still available
Lydia Sexton (1799-1894) was the first woman licensed as a preacher by The United Brethren Church. She was born in
New Jersey but moved to the Midwest in her teens and was widowed twice before marrying Joseph Sexton in 1829.
She was converted and joined a United Brethren congregation in Ohio, shortly thereafter feeling the
call to preach. Believing it an improper vocation for a woman, she resisted the call, even turning down the first
few offers of a preaching license. She changed her mind after a son fell severely ill and she bargained
with God to save him (she already had lost two sons to death). In 1851 a congregation voted to license
her and took the decision to the quarterly meeting of the United Brethren Illinois Conference, which officially
licensed her – for a quarter of a year. For seven years she traveled to conferences every three months
to renew her license before finally asking that it be made an annual license instead. In 1857, however, the General
Conference had decided not to license women, fearing they might ask to be elders – or even bishops.
Recognizing her gifts, the General Conference instead “recommended” her as a preacher for life and
gave her credentials as an approved “pulpit speaker” and “useful helper in the work of Christ.”
For many years, she and her husband traveled throughout the Midwest as she organized congregations and
led revival meetings to such success that she didn’t have the time or energy to preach all the revivals
to which she was invited. At age 70, she was the first woman appointed a prison chaplain, working at Kansas State
Prison, a position she held only a year because of her failing health. She still ministered to people for
years, however, and was said to have preached her last sermon at age 93.
The United Brethren Historical Center
Some copies of
her autobiography can still be found
Julia Torres Fernandez (1904-1988) was the first woman of any denomination ordained in Puerto Rico and the first
Hispanic woman to be an ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church. She was born in Ponce, Puerto
Rico, and was a teacher before her 1961 ordination. Later she established and directed a school for underprivileged
children in her hometown, a school now known as the Colegio Metodista Julia Torres Fernandez. She was well
known for her work with children and youth on the island; she often worked with Sister Isolina Ferre Aguayo,
a Roman Catholic nun known as “the Mother Teresa of Puerto Rico.” In The United Methodist Church,
Torres was active in United Methodist Women’s organizations and was involved with the Women’s Division.
She taught at the School of Missions and wrote articles for El Interprete, a Spanish-language program magazine
produced by United Methodist Communications. “Her eyes danced like the stars,” wrote the Rev.
Yolanda Pupo-Ortiz in a tribute after her death. (The Iglesia Metodista de Puerto Rico – Methodist Church
of Puerto Rico – was started in 1900 by what is now The United Methodist Church and because fully autonomous
A web page for the
Colegio Metodista Julia Torres Fernandez(Spanish)
More information about
Sister Isolina Ferre
Iglesia Metodista de Puerto Rico (Spanish)
Alma Mathews (1867-1933) was a missionary and early immigration activist. Before Ellis Island was set
up to process immigrants in 1892, people coming to this country from Europe left the boat at a dock in lower
Manhattan and had to find their own way to Castle Garden, the immigrant-processing center. Kidnappings and scams
to rob the newly arrived were common, and young women were particularly vulnerable. Mathews and other missionaries
from the Women’s Home Missionary Society began meeting the more than 900 ships a year that docked in New
York harbor so they could escort young women safely to Castle Green. Once the new immigrants were processed,
the missionaries invited them to the “Immigrant Girls Home,” a safe house on State Street in Manhattan.
The immigrant home moved to West 11th Street in 1921 and was named after Matthews when she retired in 1926.
The Alma Mathews House is still open as a guest house for non-profit groups or UMW
Want to know more?
Alma Mathews House today
Castle Clinton National Monument, once the Castle Garden immigration center
Dorothy Height (1912-2010) was a civil rights and women’s rights activist who served as president of the National
Council of Negro Women for 40 years. She was a key figure in the struggles for voting rights, desegregation
and employment opportunities in the 1950s and 60s and, at the same time, was fighting gender bias, much of that
work predating the women’s rights movement of the early 1970s. She was considered one of the most
influential African-American women of the time, though she did much of her work outside the spotlight. Height
was on the platform with Martin Luther King Jr. as he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech and with Barack
Obama when he was sworn in as the first African-American president in 2009. In 1989, President Reagan awarded
her the Presidential Citizenship Medal. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 from President
Clinton and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2004, accepting it “on
behalf of millions of people – particularly women – whose work goes unnoticed.” After her death,
the U.S. Post office near Union Station in Washington, D.C., was named in her honor, the first federal building
in the district named for an African-American woman.
Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir
The Dorothy I. Height Leadership Institute
President Obama's eulogy
You can listen to her speak in
this profile created by United Methodist Communications
Her Google Doodle
Paula Mojzes (1906-1970) was Methodism’s first woman district superintendent, appointed as
an interim a year before the denomination even approved women’s ordination, and two years
before she herself was ordained. Mojzes worked as a bank secretary in Croatia before marrying
in 1934. When World War II reached Yugoslavia in 1941, the family moved to her husband’s
hometown, Novi Sad, Serbia, which was then occupied by Hungary. In the summer of 1942 her husband
died in a labor camp and her toddler daughter died of complications from measles. After the war,
Mojzes was hired as church secretary under the Rev. George Sebele, District Superintendent of
the Yugoslav Methodist provisional conference. Sebele was aided by Mojzes and other women that
came to be known as “church sisters,” as they performed almost all the duties of
an ordained minister except the sacraments. Mojzes began to preach regularly and became a train-traveling
circuit rider, then learning to ride a bike in her 40s and, even later, to drive. She reportedly
was the first woman to drive in Novi Sad, a city of more than 100,000 at the time, and she drew
a crowd as everyone wanted to see
baba koja vozi auto, the “grandma who is driving a car.” She could preach
in Serbian, Hungarian and German, but her theological education was informal. In 1955 Sebele
died, and the bishop appointed Mojzes to serve as acting superintendent – a position she
filled in addition to her duties as secretary. Two years later, the bishop appointed a man as
district superintendent and officially ordained Mojzes a deacon and made her supervising pastor
of the Northern District. “She was a feminist without wanting to be one,” her older
son wrote later in a biographical sketch of her. “Her love and dedication was for Jesus
rather than for any organization, community, government or ideology.”
Want to know more?
biography by her son, Paul Mojzes
Information and history of
Lois Dauway (1948-2014) was a community organizer, promoter of ecumenicism and a force for social justice. She was
raised in Massachusetts and was a member of the Black Community Developers program, though which she was instrumental
in supporting the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools system in the 1970s. That early experience helped to shape
her life’s work for social justice, particularly racial inclusiveness and gender equity. She had deep Methodist
roots and served several positions of leadership in The United Methodist Church. For a time she helped recruit and then
mentor missionaries for the General Board of Global Ministries, and she continued to mentor countless young people over
the years. She served as associate general secretary in the Women’s Division of the GBGM, which at that time
was the administrative body of United Methodist Women. She headed the Women’s Division’s social action
section and served as an interim CEO. She represented the UMC as a delegate to the World Council of Churches Assembly
and WCC Central Committee for more than 15 years. Dauway also worked as Associate for Inclusiveness and Justice
of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. In 2009, the NCC’s General Assembly and
Church World Service honored her with the J. Irwin Miller award, the highest honor for a lay leader in the church, for
her “life-long commitment to racial and gender inclusiveness in church and larger society.” In 2011,
she was cited by the NCC “Circles of Names” campaign honoring women who have mentored church leaders. She
was known for her powerful calmness in responding to those who disagreed with her, treating their views with dignity
and respect even as she educated them on her viewpoint. Dauway regularly participated in General Conferences and served
on the GCSRW board from 1997 to 2004.
Want to know more?
tribute written by Kelley C. Martini, former communications director for the Women’s Division
See her picture, next to President Obama’s, on a
2010 Black History Month poster honoring persons of color who made significant contributions to church and society
obituary on UMW’s website
(Photo by Paul Jeffrey, United Methodist Women)
Maud Keister Jensen (1904-1998) was the first woman to receive full clergy rights and conference membership in the
Methodist Church. Jensen began teaching Sunday school in a Methodist Church at age 12 and became interested in
missionary work while attending Bucknell University. The Methodist Church sent her to Korea after her 1926 graduation.
Jensen received a license to preach in 1929 and was ordained a deacon in the Central Pennsylvania Conference
in 1948. She became an ordained elder in 1952 and taught in the Methodist Theological Seminary in Korea. Prior
to 1956, women were allowed to preach in the United States and to be ordained, but without full conference membership
they could not vote in their annual conferences and were not guaranteed appointments. After the General Conference
decision, the order in which the first women were accepted into full connection depended on when their conferences
met. The board of missions sent her a wire in Korea to notify her that she had been the first, to which
she responded, “
I am deeply grateful for the privilege, but the honor was completely unexpected and due entirely to the early
meeting of my Annual Conference. I feel that Georgia Harkness and other active women ministers deserve first
recognition after their long struggle and able contributions to the church.” Jensen
spent 40 years as a missionary in Korea before returning to the United States and earning a PhD from Drew Theological
School at the age of 74.
Read excerpts from the United Methodist Women's Oral History Project
interview of her.
obituary by United Methodist News Service
The Susquehanna Conference offers a
scholarship for women seminarians in her name.
Lois Glory-Neal (b. 1931) was the first Native American woman ordained as an elder and the first
to serve as a district superintendent. Neal, a Cherokee, was born in Tahleguah, Okla.,
the capital of the Cherokee Nation. She worked in lay ministry in Oklahoma City for many
years, then pursued pastoral ministry after her husband’s death when she was in her late
40s. She completed her master’s in divinity degree from Saint Paul’s School of Theology
at the age of 57. She served on the reservation in Horton, Kan., while attending seminary, then
afterwards on the Kickapoo/Potowatomi reservation. In 1992, she was the first Native American
woman to serve as a district superintendent, appointed in the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
She also traveled for years as a missionary speaker and Native American ambassador for
the General Board of Global Ministries. As a lay minister and then ordained clergy, she served
nearly 60 years in the OIMC, where 92 Native American churches represent more than 37 tribes
in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Now retired, she lives near Shawnee, Okla.
biography on the General Commission on Archives and History’s website
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference
General Board of Global Ministries list of
churches in the OIMC
Frances W. Alguire, b. 1927, was the first woman and first layperson to chair the 150-member World Methodist Council.
She was born in a farmhouse in Michigan and attended the local Methodist Episcopal church from childhood. She
was a registered nurse by profession and active in both the West Michigan and Northern Illinois annual conferences.
She served on the board of trustees and as an associate in seminary relations at Garrett-Evangelical Theological
Seminary in Evanston, Ill.; served as a director for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries; and
served as chairwoman of the Commission on the General Conference. She represented Northern Illinois
when the General Conference voted to establish GCSRW. In 1996, when she took the reins of the World Methodist
Council after many years’ involvement, a woman taking note of her small stature supposedly remarked,”
You’re too little for such a big job.” Alguire reportedly responded, “I’m the same
size as John Wesley.” Alguire is now a member of University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill,
N.C., where she is the past president of the local UMW. “She certainly is among the finest of God's
servants and a trailblazing woman in our church,” said Dale Flexner, the current UMW president.
profile of her by United Methodist News Service
The United Methodist Council's
Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, b. 1956, was the first – and so far, the only -- woman elected a UMC bishop in Africa.
She was born in the Gaza Province and reared in Mozambique. Although she was baptized and confirmed a Catholic
(her father’s religion), she also attended the Methodist Church with her mother and joined it as a youth.
She and her husband were both accepted for theological studies at the 1985 Mozambique Annual Conference.
When the civil war in Liberia disrupted their studies, they moved to Ghana and she completed her diploma in theology
at Trinity College. Nhanala was ordained a deacon in 1989. She speaks five native languages, plus Portuguese
and English. In 1998, she graduated from Nairobi (Kenya) Evangelical Graduate School of Theology; she also served
as a teacher and dean of students there. She coordinated women’s projects for the Mozambique church and
in 2004 was named World Relief’s HIV/AIDS Program Director in Mozambique. She was elected to the episcopacy
in 2008, at the age of 51. Her episcopal area encompasses the Mozambique North and Mozambique South Annual Conferences
as well as the South Africa Provisional Annual Conference. In the Africa Central Conference, United Methodist
bishops are not elected for life but for a four-year term (then until retirement if reelected), so Nhanala was
reelcted in 2012. She serves as vice president of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s
A video of Bishop Nhanala speaking about children in the church
A report on her election, priorities, by United Methodist News Service
the UMC in Mozambique
Colleen Kyung Seen Chun, b.1949, was the first woman of Asian descent received in full connection. Of Korean
descent, she was born in Hawaii. She described receiving her call at age 13 but being confused because she did
not know women could be ministers. She learned otherwise as an adult and was received into full connection in
1983 in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. She spent many years as a pastor at Trinity United
Methodist Church in Pearl City, Hawaii.
biography on the General Commission on Archives and History’s website
A Los Angeles Times
feature article on her and one of her early assignments
Ella Niswonger (1865-1944) was the first woman ordained in The United Brethren Church. She graduated from Union Biblical
Seminary (now United Theological Seminary) in 1887 and received a quarterly conference license a few months later.
Shortly afterward she began working as a pastor in Streator, Ill., where she would work almost continuously until
1940. She was ordained an elder in 1889. The presiding bishop, E. B. Kephart, wrote to his
wife about the ordination. “Is this millennium dawning?” he asked. “God grant it.” Niswonger
was the first woman to serve as ministerial delegate to the General Conference held in Frederick, Md.,
biography on the General Board on Archives and History website
Fidelia’s Sisters, an online publication of the Young Clergy Women Project,
gives tribute to Niswonger and other pioneers
Lucy Rider Meyer (1849-1922), a social worker and educator, was an early leader in the deaconess movement in the
Methodist church. She earned a medical degree and was one of the first women professors in the United States
when she began teaching chemistry at McKendree College. She also taught Sunday school in her local Methodist
Episcopal Church, which led her to study the Bible closely and introduced her to the deaconess movement in Europe.
She became concerned that there was no school that trained women for Christian leadership in the United States.
After an intense public speaking and fundraising campaign, she opened the Chicago Training School for City, Home
and Foreign Mission (CTS) in 1885. Three years later the 1888 General Conference created the licensed ministry
of deaconesses for women called to service in the community. Meyer remained head of the school for 32 years;
at her retirement, it was estimated that 3,600 social workers in 24 countries had graduated from her programs.
CTS was one of the schools that later merged to create what is today Garrett-Evangelical Theological
Seminary. In addition to her groundbreaking educational work, Meyer was an accomplished public speaker,
hymn writer and author.
Home page for
ChildServ, an organization she founded in 1894
Her hymns, as listed in the cyber hymnal
A history of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary