It’s not often in our history books that women are highlighted. Christian women, even less so. But, there are many Christian women in our past who shaped their communities, their countries, and even the world for the better. For each of them, their faith played a major role in their outlook on the world. And their impact can still be felt today.
Florence Nightingale was a member of the Church of England and often prayed for God to give her a task that would define her life. During the Crimean War, she trained and organized nurses to care for wounded soldiers and became known as the founder of modern nursing.
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work in “bringing help to suffering humanity.” Known to minister to those that others wouldn’t even consider, she became one of the most famous missionaries of all time. Six years after her death, in 2003, she was beatified by the Catholic Church.
Born into a family with a long history of activism, Susan B. Anthony developed an early sense of fairness and justice. She dedicated her life to women’s suffrage after joining the women’s rights movements in 1852. She campaigned for the abolition of slavery, the right for women to own their own property, to keep their earnings, as well as their right to attend higher learning institutions.
Known as the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks was a seamstress and civil rights activist who became famous for her refusal to obey a bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white male. Her arrest for civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched one of its organizers, Martin Luther King, Jr, to the forefront of history.
After her parent’s jointly founded the Christian Mission, which later became the Salvation Army, Evangeline Cory Booth dedicated her life to the same missional mindset and led the Salvation Army for 30 years before becoming the first female General in the International Salvation Army.
Charlotte “Lottie” Moon was a Southern Baptist missionary who spent nearly 40 years working and living in China as a teacher and evangelist with the Foreign Mission Board. She helped to lay the groundwork for today’s solid support of missions among Baptists in America.
As a young peasant girl, Joan of Arc believed that God had chosen her to lead France to victory over England. With no military training or background, she convinced the crown prince to allow her to lead a French army to take the city of Orleans, and was victorious over the English. She was eventually captured, and tried for heresy and witchcraft at the age of 19.
Fanny Crosby, though totally blind, wrote more than 9,000 hymns, many of which are among the most popular in today’s church denominations. Concerned that her name would be too prevalent in the hymnals, she was forced to use multiple pen names instead.
Born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, Sojourner Truth escaped with her infant daughter and went on to become an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She is best known for her speech on racial inequalities entitled, “Ain’t I a Woman?” which she gave at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.
Determined to fit into the local culture of India, Amy Carmichael dressed as the Indian women she served and would even dye her skin with coffee. She founded the Dohhnavur Mission in India where she helped to save hundreds, and possibly thousands, of children out of prostitution.
When the Nazis invaded Holland, Corrie ten Boom and her family began hiding Jewish people in their home in hopes of saving them from death camps. When what they were doing was discovered, she was sent to a women’s labor camp where she suffered horrific experiences at the hands of the very people she tried to protect others from. Later in life, these experiences led to a worldwide ministry through more than 60 countries where she preached about forgiveness and Christ’s love.
Harriet Beecher Stowe brought light to the world about the harsh conditions African Americans suffered under slavery in her book, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Not only did her book change America’s outlook on slavery, it is said to have stirred the Civil War, with even President Abraham Lincoln greeting her once by saying, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”
Defying all taboos and restrictions that deterred European women from entering and ministering to others in the Middle East, Lilias Trotter gave up the wealthy lifestyle she was born into to minister to Muslims in Algeria.
Believing that alcohol and tobacco were the root cause of much of American society’s problems, Carrie Nation became an activist to fight against them. When her words were not enough, she turned to violence and became legendary for smashing saloons with an axe. Her efforts contributed to the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment.
Lucy Jane Rider Meyer believed that women needed a formal education in order to best serve as Christians and strove to have women recognized as leaders in the church. She is known as a trailblazer in the “deaconess” movement, which pushed to have women in leadership positions within the Methodist church.
Frustrated when she was passed over for a promotion that went to a man she had trained, Mary Kay Ash retired from the company she was working with an intended to write a book for women in business. That book eventually turned into a business plan for what is now known as Mary Kay Cosmetics. With the Golden Rule as a founding principle of her company, Mary taught other women to advance by helping others succeed and opened up new opportunities for women to be in business for themselves worldwide.
Aimee Semple McPherson established an evangelic ministry during a time when women were not even allowed to vote. She preached the gospel around the world using theatrical church services and radio broadcasts, drawing in thousands, and rivaling the male evangelists of her time. She preached upon a concept called the “Foursquare” and founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Jennifer Wiseman was a senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope and became the director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association of the Advancement of Science. This organization encourages communication between scientists and religious communities throughout the world.
While taking care of her brother, David, during a long suffering illness, Clara Barton found a new love for nursing. While visiting Europe, she worked with the International Red Cross, and upon her return to America lobbied for an American version of the same. The American Red Cross was founded in 1881, with Clara becoming the first president.
Flannery O’Connor is one of the most loved fiction writers of the 20th century. Her short stories have been described as shocking and perverse while at the same time, brilliant and deeply Christian. Now considered American classics, her writing challenged the world to rethink the way that faith and fiction collide.
Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living through The Christian Single Momon Facebook. Follow her journey through her blogor get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.
*Images courtesty of Google and Wikimedia Commons.