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Brothers and sisters, God wants me.
Other Women Ministers from the Past:
The individuals presented in the first seven chapters by no means exhaust the list of women ministers in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In this chapter several additional examples are treated briefly.
This chapter is arranged alphabeticallty rather than chronologically. To provide some perspective as to time, note that among the first women ministers to be licensed were Sarah Lindsey (1872), Ellen Lane (1878), and Julia Owen (1878). In 1878 the General Conference adopted a resolution to issue a ministerial license to those competent and sound in doctrine; however, two of these women had received their licenses even sooner, from local conferences.1 They were at the forefront.
Still other women ministers who have enriched the past of their church appear in this book only by mention of their names in Appendix B. There is ample room for further research.
The life sketch of Mrs. S. N. Haskell, written by Elder J. N. Loughborough at the time of her death, occupies nearly three columns in the Review and Herald,2 indicating how highly Mrs. Haskell was esteemed by leaders of the denomination. For a number of years both she and Ellen White were listed in the Yearbook as ministers credentialed by the General Conference, Ellen White as ordained3 and Mrs. Haskell as licensed. Hetty Hurd Haskell's labors in the gospel spanned 34 years.
Before she became an Adventist, Hetty Hurd was a successful district school teacher in California for the unusually high salary of 75 dollars a month. Evidently a capable and independent woman, she purchased her own horse and carriage to convey her to work. The school constituents were so pleased with her effectiveness that they offered her a contract for life.
In 1884 she agreed to visit the Oakland, California, Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting with her sister and brother-in-law's family, the Grays, but only because she enjoyed camping out; there was an understanding that she would not attend any meetings.
To her surprise, the music attracted Hetty. She stood outside the pavilion to listen. She heard not only beautiful music but also sermons on prophecy and Bible truths. Finally, when a minister spoke on the future inheritance of the saved, Hetty determined to herself, "I will be there." Miss Hurd enrolled in Bible studies, accepted the truths she heard, and joined the Adventist church in her home town, Lemoore, California.
After camp meeting, ministers Loughborough and Ings held a meeting at Lemoore inviting members to send out Signs of the Times accompanied by personal correspondence. Hetty Hurd ordered a club of ten subscriptions to mail out herself. Elder Loughborough could see that Miss Hurd was deeply moved. Her face flushed and then turned pale; she grasped the seat in front of her. Finally rising to her feet, she said in a voice so earnest that her words brought tears to the eyes of her listeners, "Brothers and sisters, God wants me." She did not explain further.
After the meeting the guest preachers came to have dinner with the Grays and Miss Hurd. Before the meal, Hetty walked up to Brother Ings and slipped into his hands her gold watch chains, some rings, and other jewelry. He thanked her and asked whether that was to pay for the papers she had ordered. She replied no, that she could pay for them otherwise; this was a contribution to the conference missionary society.
A training program to teach young women how to give Bible readings was about to commence in San Francisco. Miss Hurd decided to join the group. At the end of the spring term she gave up her teaching position and began her 34 years of service, much of which centered in giving Bible readings and teaching others how to carry out this ministry effectively. In addition, she built a reputation as a powerful preacher. She was called to train workers in England, Africa, and Australia.
While working in Australia, she met Elder Stephen N. Haskell. They were married in 1897. Thereafter they ministered together, first working at the Avondale school. After returning to the United States, they published the Bible Training School magazine to assist them in their work of educating workers for God.
Hetty Hurd Haskell as a licensed minister brought many people to her Lord; she also prepared countless others to do a similar work.
Emma Florence Songer, a native of Iowa, in 1893 married G. R. Hawkins. Together they engaged in evangelistic ministry in Iowa, where they established a number of churches.
The fact that she was licensed as a minister for over a decade by the Iowa Conference indicates that Mrs. Hawkins made an active contribution to the work of the denomination in her own right. Emma Hawkins and Minnie Sype (chapter 2) both served as licensed ministers for several years at the same time in the Iowa Conference.
Brother Hawkins wrote to the Iowa Workers' Bulletin, "The other night as Mrs. Hawkins spoke, he [a "well-to-do farmer"] was so moved that tears rolled down his cheek. He arose at the close of the meeting and declared his intention of keeping the Sabbath." 4
Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins held successful evangelistic meetings together. The Keokuk Church doubled in membership while they ministered there.5 Mr. Hawkins was soon ordained.
After ministering in Iowa, the Hawkinses evangelized in Nebraska, Colorado, and Illinois. They raised up a large church in Danville, Illinois. Later they moved to Georgia.
As Mrs. Hawkins was busily preparing for the junior division at camp meeting as well as for a series to instruct mothers, she was struck by a truck while crossing the street; she died instantly. This sudden closing of her ministry came as a shock to her friends, family, and associates. They mourned Emma Hawkins personally and also deplored the loss to the denomination.6
As a child Sarepta Irish traveled through the frontier Illinois Territory with her loving and wise father, a pioneer Methodist minister. He taught her as she rode beside him in the wagon, using the Bible as the textbook whether the topic was religion, reading, or mathematics. In her late teens Sarepta attended Rock River Seminary. She was a committed Christian from childhood.
At the age of 22 she became Mrs. James Henry. When her husband died eight years later, Sarepta was left with three children between the ages of two and seven to raise. She managed this responsibility admirably, relying on God's promises as she worked diligently to support herself and her family.
Believing she was called to temperance work, Mrs. Henry advanced from a humble beginning to become national evangelist for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Then illness gradually reduced this active woman to a complete invalid by 1895. The next year she recuperated at the Adventist-operated Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. While there she accepted the Seventh-day Adventist teachings and, late in 1896, joined the church. During earnest prayer not long thereafter, she experienced healing. This enabled Mrs. Henry to resume her WCTU work.
Sarepta Henry instituted a Women's Ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. It was the first organized effort in the church to train parents and to aid them in meeting their particular problems. To assist her in her preaching and organizational work, Mrs. Henry was issued a ministerial license by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination during the years 1898 and 1899.
Mrs. Henry frequently wrote for the Review and Herald. Titles of some of the books and pamphlets she authored will indicate the diversity of her topics: The Abiding Spirit, Good Form and Christian Etiquette, The Marble Cross and Other Poems, Studies in Home and Child Life, and The Unanswered Prayer.
The death of this gifted, active minister in the year 1900 brought sorrow to countless people whom she had served in various ways. Mourners filled the Battle Creek Tabernacle for her funeral service.
Afterward her influence lived on as other women were appointed to continue the work which she had established for mothers.7
We have a limited amount of information concerning a licensed minister by the name of Mrs. A. M. Johnson, through the Archives' list of women ministers and this letter from her granddaughter:
My grandmother was a licensed minister in the Minnesota Conference in 1881. I am enclosing a copy of her license. She held evangelistic meetings. My grandfather helped by leading the music and offering prayer, but Grandma did the preaching. She was still preaching now and then in her local church when I was a young woman, and I have heard her preach.
Sincerely your sister in Christ,
Queda B. Bahnsen8
While attending the State Normal School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Ellen S. Edmonds and E. B. Lane became acquainted and were afterward married. This Seventh-day Adventist couple settled on a farm in Bedford Township, expecting to reside there for life. However, in the Review and Herald they read repeated urgent appeals for committed Adventists to enter the ministry to prepare people to meet their Lord. Praying earnestly for guidance from God, the Lanes put their little farm up for sale; within a week, they had a buyer. Still they would not decide until they had sought counsel from church leanders, particularly James and Ellen White. The Whites advised them to follow their convictions. The Lanes sold their home and entered the ministry. Mr. Lane immediately received a license to preach.
After two years, the Lanes moved to the Indiana Mission. Their lives were not without pain. Their infant child died, and Mrs. Lane contracted a serious case of typhoid fever. Nevertheless, they continued in the ministry. They worked in several states and then returned to Michigan.
When the Michigan Conference issued a ministerial license to Mrs. Lane in 1878, she became one of the earliest Seventh-day Adventist women to receive such a license. Later that same year, on October 7, her preaching license was renewed during the Michigan Conference meetings. Since the General Conference Session was being held on the same grounds simultaneously, it cannot be said that this licensing of a woman to preach was carried out in a hidden corner of the young denomination. The wife of an ordained minister, Ellen Lane had given proof of her own distinctive calling to the ministry.
Sometimes Mrs. Lane held meetings on her own. At other times she assisted her husband. Just before Elder Lane was scheduled to start an evangelistic campaign in Bowling Green, Ohio, he suffered a severe attack of diphtheria and sent for his wife. Mrs. Lane opened the meetings; as her husband recovered, he spoke when he was able, and she preached at the other services.
The Lanes were each conducting an evangelistic series in different parts of Ohio when Mr. Lane became seriously ill. He was hesitant to let his wife know about his condition because he did not want to interrupt her meetings. Finally he did consent for the message to be sent. Unfortunately, he was more sick than he realized; he died almost immediately.
After Mrs. Lane had mourned the passing of her companion, she took up her ministerial duties alone.9
A convert to Adventism, young Sarah Hallock wrote thoughtful theological questions to the Review. During the Civil War or immediately afterward she married a young Adventist lay minister, John Lindsey. The understanding that time was short brought urgent requests from denominational leaders for wider participation in the work by lay ministers. With this encouragement, Sarah Lindsey began preaching in 1867. Six people were baptized as a result of her first meetings. Early in 1869 Sarah and John began holding efforts together.
The Advent cause was beset with apostasy and moral problems during the late 1860s. However, new strength in the form of the dynamic husband and wife preaching team of Sarah and John Lindsey brought courage to church leadership.
Brian Strayer provides arresting detail in his article on Sarah Lindsey's ministry:
In January they teamed up with Nathan Fuller for a series of meetings in Wellsville, N.Y., for three Sabbaths "preaching the word" in the pulpit. Then they trudged on foot through 16-inch snowdrifts to Pleasant Valley, where Sarah preached 23 times on the signs of the times, Christ's second coming, and various prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. This spectacular public speaking itinerary was unrivaled by any other Adventist woman except Ellen White. In May Sarah spoke six times at West Union. Her husband John, who reported these meetings to the Review, neglected to mention whether he preached or not!10
Traveling throughout western New York and Pennsylvania with her husband, Sarah preached, conducted funerals, gave Bible studies, and taught.
Ministers were scarce; therefore the Lindseys relentlessly pushed on through drifted snow during the winter of 1870-71 to carry the news of salvation and Jesus' expected return to settlements along the border between New York and Pennsylvania. The next summer Sarah and John preached in Hornby, Catlin, and Beaver Dam, New York, as well as Knoxville, Alva, Armenian Mountain, and Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.
Letters of appreciation for the Lindseys' preaching were written to the Review by the postmaster at Beaver Dams, New York, and many other people. It is not surprising that the Lindseys' work was recognized by their both being licensed as ministers in August 1872. They continued their work in the area known as "The Southern Tier," and church leaders testified to a spirit of revival that they found when visiting there.11
Later during the same year that Ellen Lane was credentialed by the Michigan Conference, Julia Owen in 1878 received a similar preaching license from the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference. Thus in the first year that the licensing of ministers was practiced by the denomination with General Conference action, two women ministers were licensed.
Julia Owen was married to an ordained minister, Elder G. K. Owen. However, the church leadership recognized her as being called as an individual to ministry. She labored as a minister of the gospel for more than twenty years and was licensed from 1878 to 1895. She died in 1898.12
Flora Plummer was a young married woman teaching high school in Nevada, Iowa, when she attended evangelistic meetings conducted by A. G. Daniells in the year 1885. The next year, after a spiritual struggle, she made her surrender to Christ and became a Seventh-day Adventist. As befit her dynamic nature, she immediately became an ardent worker for the church, mailing out literature and conducting Bible studies.
An active member of the Iowa Sabbath School Association, Flora Plummer became its president in 1891. Four years later she was chosen to read a paper before the General Sabbath School Council as it met in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Sabbath school work was gaining momentum; with her enthusiasm for this ministry, Flora Plummer was on the cutting edge.
Mrs. Plummer was elected secretary of the Iowa Conference in 1897. During part of the year 1900 she served as acting president of the Iowa Conference when the president left for California. This was a woman of no mean administrative ability. Later that year she became Sabbath school secretary for the Minnesota Conference.
As a delegate at large, Flora Plummer attended the 1901 General Conference. There the Sabbath school department of the General Conference was first organized, and Flora Plummer became its correspondence secretary.
When her office moved in 1905 to Washington, D.C., Mrs. Plummer's husband obligingly moved his business to that area. Although Frank Plummer was not a Seventh-day Adventist until the last few days of his life, this considerate man moved with his wife, following her career.
In 1905 the Plummers adopted two children. Now Flora enjoyed her own family in addition to her large Sabbath school family.
Mrs. Plummer became editor of the Sabbath School Worker in 1904 and carried that responsibility, except for a few months, through all the years until her retirement in 1936.
As a result of her outstanding work as the correspondence secretary, in 1913 Mrs. Plummer was elected secretary of the General Conference Sabbath school department, equivalent to the modern post of departmental director. She held this position for 23 years.
Elder H. D. Singleton said concerning Flora Plummer, "She was powerful in her day." He recalled her use of cards, banners, and ribbons to achieve goals such as getting people to Sabbath school on time. "During her reign," Elder Singleton recalled, "the Sabbath school was alive." 13
Mrs. Plummer conceived the Sabbath school as a soul winning agency. Herself a teacher, she promoted the training of Sabbath school instructors.
Sabbath school giving for missions rose from nearly $22,000 a year in the first year of her association with the General Conference Sabbath school department, 1901, to $2,000,000 a year before the end of her directorship.
Mrs. Plummer wrote extensively. In addition to thirty years of editorials for the Worker, she penned articles frequently for the Review and Herald and authored books including The Soul-Winning Teacher, The Spirit of the Teacher, The Soul-Winning Sabbath School, and a history of the Sabbath school from 1904 to 1936.
Even after health problems caused her retirement in 1936, she continued to be active. In spite of her weakness, she wrote camp meeting lessons for children and authored two sets of adult Sabbath school lessons, covering the book of Acts and the life of Christ.
For most of her 36 years of labor, Mrs. Plummer's credentialing was the missionary license. She was issued a ministerial license in 1893 from the Iowa Conference. Her pay as departmental director was that of an ordained minister.
Flora Plummer died on April 8, 1945. At her funeral, conducted by four General Conference leaders, high tribute was paid to her splendid work of directing and advancing the Sabbath school department over many years, leaving an influence that will last until the end of time. The work that she accomplished in the Sabbath schools profoundly affected the growth of the denomination during the first third of the twentieth century.14
Ura Joy Spring, born in Indiana during 1873, married a young minister and with him served in the West Indies. This young wife and mother built up churches alongside her husband. After returning to the United States, Mrs. Spring developed a specialty of holding meetings particularly for children. She integrated ministry to her own family with ministry to the church community. Her work took her to Colorado, Arkansas, and Nebraska.
Mrs. Spring is listed in the Yearbook for 1910 as a licensed minister in the Nebraska Conference. She died March 1, 1971, as the result of injuries sustained in the California Sylmar earthquake.15
Mabel Alice Vreeland was born in Massachusetts in 1895. After graduating from high school, she worked for a Unitarian minister, Miss Margaret Varnard, in Bernardston, Massachusetts. Among other responsibilities, she drove Miss Varnard to many appointments. Perhaps this early experience with a woman minister caused Mabel Vreeland to think of the ministry as an acceptable career for a woman. Herself a Seventh-day Adventist, Mabel for a time taught at the Baptist Sunday school in Bernardston.
She studied at Lancaster Junior College, today Atlantic Union College, in Massachusetts, graduating in 1920. While she was a student, Mabel and other committed young women from the college contributed volunteer work, sometimes around the clock, for victims of the dreadful flu epidemic that swept Clinton and Lancaster during World War I.
After graduation, Mabel began her lifelong work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church by serving as a Bible instructor in churches in Boston, Pittsfield, and Springfield.
In 1924 she moved to upstate New York and worked for the New York Conference until her retirement in 1960. As a Bible worker she prepared converts for church membership in Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, Elmira, Cortland, Syracuse, and Watertown.
While she was working in Watertown, Mabel Vreeland was asked by the conference administration to pastor that district. "Mabel's courage, stamina, and faith have always been strong," David Knott wrote, "but I believe those qualities were put to the test in this snow belt district of New York." Since there were no other women pastors in the conference, "Mabel was a pioneer in more than one sense."16
During 1951, because no male pastor appeared interested in pastoring the cold North Adirondack District around Saranac Lake, conference leaders asked Mabel whether she would take that assignment. She was willing to go. Her ingenuity and dedication were challenged by the many needs to be filled and the hazards and climate to be braved.
The district consisted of three churches 66 miles apart. Although Mabel was not mechanically inclined, with her used car and tire chains she risked deep snow drifts on isolated roads in winter weather that saw temperatures dip to 40 degrees below zero. She had adventures to relate from her journeys on those lonely, snow-packed roads, sometimes miles from any human habitation or help. Angels must have been her traveling companions.
Pastoring three congregations involved preaching and much more: holding bake sales to meet expenses, painting and doing repair work, while constantly visiting and ministering to the needs of the members.
Miss Vreeland continued this demanding pace until health problems with cancer led to her retirement in 1960. Then she worked actively to regain her health. She carefully built up soil and from it grew healthy plants for food. Her cheerful spirit and healthful diet resulted in a dramatic improvement in her physical condition. She enjoyed a quarter of a century of life after her health crisis, living on her farm.
After retirement Mabel Vreeland still participated in the work of the church. Until the age of 81 she cheerfully took charge of housing at the annual ten-day camp meeting held by the New York Conference in Union Springs, New York, where she could see many of her friends and converts.
An intensely active woman who exemplified love, faith, and joy in her life, this pioneer minister has left deeply etched memories in the minds of her former parishioners and friends.17
1 Bert Haloviak, "Route to the Ordination of Women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church: Two Paths," unpublished paper, March 18, 1985.
2 J. N. Loughborough, "Life Sketch of Mrs. S. N. Haskell," Review and Herald (November 20, 1919), the source for the material in this chapter, together with information provided by Bert Haloviak at the General Conference Archives.
4 G. R. Hawkins, "Wapello," Iowa Workers' Bulletin (July 30, 1907).
5 "Keokuk," Iowa Workers' Bulletin (April 16, 1907): 163.
6 Obituary, Mrs. Emma Florence Hawkins, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (September 16, 1926): 22.
7 Talk by Dr. E. D. Dick at Union College reunion held at the General Conference, June 30,1985; "Sister S. M. I. Henry," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (Jan. 30, 1900): 64-69.
8 Queda B. Bahnsen, Gresham, Oregon, letter to the author, August 1, 1984.
9 "NoticesEld. E.B. Lane," Review and Herald (August 23, 1881); Bert Haloviak, "Route to the Ordination of Women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church: Two Paths," March 18, 1985, unpublished paper, p. 8.
10 Brian E. Strayer, "Sarah A. H. Lindsey: Advent Preacher on the Southern Tier," Adventist Heritage (Fall 1986): 16-25.
11 Bert Haloviak, "Route to the Ordination of Women"; Review and Herald (Nov. 14, 1878), 158; Review and Herald (Jan. 3, 1899).
12 Haloviak, 5.
13 Elder H. D. Singleton, Wheaton, Maryland, telephone conversation with the author, Dec. 6, 1988.
14 Review and Herald (May 24, 1945); R. A. Anderson, Columbia Union Visitor (August 9, 1945): 5; telephone conversation with H. D. Singleton (see above).
15 Review and Herald (May 6, 1971): 46; Pacific Union Recorder (May 13, 1971): 7.
16 "At Rest: Mabel Alice Vreeland," David W. Knott, AUC Accent (Summer, 1985): 26.
17 Dr. Ottilie Stafford, South Lancaster, Massachusetts, interview by the author; David W. Knott, South Lancaster, Massachusetts, and Betty Cooney, Manhasset, New York, letters to the author; David W. Knott, "At Rest."
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