March is Women’s History Month in the United States, a time in which Americans focus on the many contributions women have made in the past.
The observance has its federal roots in a February 1980 proclamation by President Jimmy Carter meant to celebrate “National Women’s History Week” during the week of March 8, which is International Women’s Day. It became an official annual month celebration by an act of Congress in 1987.
Through the centuries, women have made substantial and various contributions to church history, from evangelism to leadership. Indeed, there are too many to list in a single piece.
With that noted, here are eight notable women from Christian history. They include a French warrior, a prolific hymnist, a famed abolitionist and a Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian.
Joan of Arc
Born in 1412, St. Joan of Arc was the famous young French woman known for her military exploits against English invaders during the Hundred Years’ War.
Joan claimed that while a child, she heard the voices of saints from the past telling her to take up arms on the side of France against the English.
“At first the messages were personal and general, but when she was 13 years old, she was in her father’s garden and had visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, each of whom told her to drive the English from French territory,” noted Catholic.org.
From 1429-1430, she amassed a series of victories against the English and their allies, before being captured by the Burgundians and then sold to the English, who executed her at age 19.
Susanna Wesley was the wife of an Anglican minister and mother to the two brothers who founded the influential eighteenth-century Methodist movement, John and Charles Wesley.
She is noted as the “Mother of Methodism” because, while she was never officially part of a ministry, Susanna had a strong influence on the spiritual habits of the Wesley brothers.
The Rev. Alfred T. Day III, General Commission on Archives and History for the United Methodist Church, noted in a 2016 video that Susanna was “a major difference maker.”
“John and Charles are their mother’s sons. She is the person who is responsible for their education and spiritual formation,” explained Day.
“… the differences that she made have lived on from the history of 17th and 18th century well into the present moment because of the sons that she raised.”
Frances Jane Crosby, born in 1820 and more commonly known as Fanny Crosby, lost her sight as a child because of an infection and subsequent poor medical treatments.
However, Crosby did not let this disability stop her from being a very prolific hymn writer, having authored a reported 8,000 songs, generally set to popular tunes of the time.
Crosby was the mind behind many hymns that are still in use, including “Blessed Assurance,” “To God be the Glory,” “Near the Cross,” and “Pass me not, O Gentle Savior.”
In addition to being a hymnist, she was also an author of poetry, with her first published work, titled “A Blind Girl and Other Poems,” being released in 1844.
Nicknamed “Moses” for her efforts to lead slaves to freedom, abolitionist Harriet Tubman fought against slavery both before and during the American Civil War.
Tubman was a practicing member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and claimed to have seen visions from God that aided her anti-slavery efforts.
“She kind of attributed her safety and sense of safety to the sense that she had these supernatural powers,” Dr. Arthur Jones of the Colorado Women’s college at the University of Denver told 9 News in an interview in 2015.
Along with her husband William, Catherine Booth helped found the Salvation Army in 1865 in London, England. Originally called the Christian Mission, the Army was known to launch charitable efforts in the most downtrodden neighborhoods of the city.
Catherine was active in the temperance movement from an early age, led a Sunday School class, and had a reputation as a passionate preacher.
“Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that,” she declared in one of her oratories.
“When the Church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord, and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski