Extraordinary Women in Church History, Part 3

Michelle Rabon

iBelieve Contributor
Updated May 16, 2023
Extraordinary Women in Church History, Part 3

The women of church history have long played an influential role, and to deny their work would be a discredit to God, who gifted them so greatly... From the Garden Tomb to the Chinese shores, women have and continue to proclaim the gospel in beautiful ways. 

"Many women have received power through the grace of God and have performed many deeds of manly valor.” - Clement of Alexandria. 

In researching this article, I stumbled across a “gem.” Another voice that is a dime a dozen, pointing out how the church has long been destroying women. While I don’t fully disagree that the church throughout history has not been without its flaws when it comes to women, the fact remains that women are vital to the universal Church.

The voice of one does not drown out the voice of God. 

Negative voices will always have their place. What we do with them and what light we hold them to matters. God’s Word makes clear that women are made in the image of God. They have great value and are called to be on mission for the gospel. 

As we have seen in our previous articles, women have impacted the church through missions, raising children, and written works (just to name a few). 

In Genesis, when God created man, He saw His need for a helper. A helper implies that there is one who is lacking in some way and needs help. A man needs a woman just as much as a woman needs a man. 

A woman is a helper, made to fit what he lacks, a perfect complement to him. 

Men and women are both made in the image of God, both hold the same value, and both are vice-regents of God’s creation. Both man and woman are to care for the creation of God and rule over it. How they live that out is distinct but of no less value. 

The four women to follow in this article are inspiring for many reasons. They are women who crossed oceans, buried children, wrote endless words, and started movements:

Ann Judson 

Ann Judson came to know Christ during the Great Awakening in the early 1800s. She married Adoniram Judson, one of the first American Missionaries. In 1812, they were appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to travel to India to serve.

While traveling to India, Ann and her husband studied the Scriptures together. In that time of study, they came to believe in believers' baptism. This disqualified them from serving under the ABCFM and derailed their journey to India. The Judsons continued and sailed to Burma. 

Ann is the first person to translate any part of the Bible into Siamese. She translated the Gospel of Matthew in 1819, and she went on to also translate Daniel and Jonah into Burmese. Ann wrote other works as well, including one of the earliest histories of missions in 1823. 

Ann’s writings make her the most influential missionary woman in American history. 

Margaret Fell Fox 

Margaret Fell Fox is known as the mother of Quakerism. Interestingly, she earned this title because of her aid in the growth of this movement, mostly because of her administrative skills. 

Margaret came to know Christ in 1652 under the ministry of her future husband, George Fox. Margaret said of that faithful day, “This opened me so, that it cut me to the heart, and then I saw clearly we were all wrong. So I sat down in my pew again and cried bitterly: and I cried in my spirit to the Lord.” 

The Fell family became a gathering and friendly place for the Quaker movement. Margaret was a prolific letter writer and helped obtain financial support for the leaders of the movement, even during their times of imprisonment. 

In 1644, Margaret even went to prison for allowing the movement to meet within her home. She spent six months in prison and wrote her most famous work, Women’s Speaking is Justified. This work gave a Scripture-based argument for women’s ministry. 

Susanna Wesley 

Susanna was the mother to John and Charles Wesley, the two men who were instrumental in the Methodist movement. Her prayer life was what she is known for, and it is said that those prayers were the seeds of the Methodist ministry her sons would help found. 

Susanna’s early life was very uncommon for a young woman. She was the youngest of a minister who gave such great details to her education. Susanna learned subjects like Latin, Greek, French, and logic. She was even very interested in the discussions around religion that were prominent in London at the time. 

Susanna went on to marry Samuel Wesley, a curate, and had nineteen children. Her influence on the life of her children through her prayers and obedience is what has made her long remembered. She did not resent the joys and pains of motherhood; she cared for her home and poured out to the congregation her husband ministered to. 

After her death, she was hailed as the Mother of Methodism because of her incredible influence on the sons in her home. 

Mary Ann Aldersey 

Mary Ann Aldersey was born in June 1797 in Hackney, England. In a time when women were not allowed to serve overseas on missions, Mary Ann had a desire to serve the people of China. Despite not being allowed in learning circles at institutes, Robert Morrison, a missionary to China, home on leave, taught women Chinese. 

There were many circumstances in her life that kept her from the mission field, but her desire to serve the Chinese people never diminished. Finally, in 1837 she was able to travel to China. Mary’s heart was to serve the people, and she did so by starting a school for Chinese girls. 

Mary broke boundaries as a single woman serving overseas. 

Most female missionaries have gone unmentioned from missions reports, leaving them hidden to the world. Aldersy served China until 1861, when she handed her school over to the Church Missionary Society and retired in Australia until her death. 

The women of church history have long played an influential role, and to deny their work would be a discredit to God, who gifted them so greatly. Women have long been willing to do what it takes for the gospel of Christ. From the Garden Tomb to the Chinese shores, women have and continue to proclaim the gospel in beautiful ways. 

For more, check out parts 12, and 4.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/scorpp

Michelle Rabon is helping women be disciples who make disciples.  Michelle has her MDiv in Ministry to Women from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is currently serving as Women’s Ministry Director in her local church. She is also the author of Holy Mess. When she is not writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, being close to the ocean, and drinking a lot of coffee. You can connect with Michelle at www.michellerabon.com