Women's Ministry

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Women’s history in the Methodist movement

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Annual Conference.
Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Annual Conference.

March is Women’s History Month, and the Methodist Church has a rich history of women’s leadership. Borrow these books to learn about this history and teach it to others. We also have some DVDs on general women’s history to add to your watch list.

Online Resources

The NC Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women offers this interactive Timeline of Women’s Suffrage.

UMC.org offers this helpful Timeline of Women in Methodism.

The General Commission on Religion and Race celebrates women of color in our Methodist lineage with a great infographic along with a litany of thanks for women of color leaders. They also offer ideas for worship, Sunday School, mission, outreach, and advocacy.


Ask the UMC highlighted the stories of groundbreaking Black women in U.S. Methodist history including Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rev. Sallie Crenshaw, and Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly.

Methodist Women’s History

Pioneer Black Clergywomen: Stories of Black Clergywomen of the United Methodist Church 1974-2016 by Josephine Whitely-Fields. Black clergywomen are pioneers of the United Methodist Church who continue to significantly contribute to making disciples and spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their stories are inspiring illustrations of the Holy Spirit at work in ordinary people who said yes to ordained ministry. Black clergywomen have endured many individual, institutional, and systemic acts of racism, sexism, and ageism while being subjected to economic discrimination. Their continuance exemplifies their commitment to being the embodiment of Christ-love to all people.


Mothers in Israel: Methodist Beginnings Through the Eyes of Women by Donna L. Fowler-Marchant. Eighteenth-century women like Susanna Annesley Wesley, Sarah Ryan, Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, Frances Mortimer Pawson, Sarah Crosby, and many more were pivotal in the growth of the Methodist movement as class leaders, visitors to the sick, devotional writers, teachers, and even preachers. Discover the richness of their legacy of faithful witness through this exploration of their own theological writings and reflections and their message for the Church today. Rev. Dr. Fowler-Marchant is an elder in the NC Conference.

Nevertheless: American Methodists and Women’s Rights by Ashley Boggan Dreff. This book tells the story of American Methodist women’s efforts fight for women’s rights, beginning with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and ending with the #MeToo movement. Each chapter documents particular Methodist women and provides the reader with a basic historic context of the time or situation at hand as it shows how Methodist women engaged and fought for women’s equality or women’s rights in American society and American Methodism. Dr. Boggan Dreff is the General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History.

Women Bishops of The United Methodist Church: Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit by Sharon Zimmerman Rader and Margaret Ann Crain. Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader and Dr. Margaret Ann Crain interviewed the women bishops of The United Methodist Church, the first denomination to elect women to the episcopacy. Through the stories they collected, they learned what enabled these women to persevere, claim authority, define leadership in their own ways, and rise to the episcopacy. NC Conference Bishop Hope Morgan Ward is included in this book.

She Offered Them Christ: The Legacy of Women Preachers in Early Methodism by Paul W. Chilcote. This book collects the stories of Methodism’s early women preachers and fosters an understanding of John Wesley’s appreciation of and support for women in early Methodism. Women preachers in John Wesley’s day had his support, encouragement, and formal approval to travel and preach.

Spirituality and Social Responsibility: Vocational Vision of Women in the United Methodist Tradition edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller. Here is a collection of essays and primary source documents that tells the stories of pioneering ministries of United Methodist women–of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds–from the eighteenth century. Each essay traces the individual faith journeys and self-understanding of its subject. The stories also reveal the sexism and racism that confronted each woman overtly or covertly in church and society, as well as their own attitudes toward it.

Biographies

Breaking Barriers: An African American Family & the Methodist Story by Angella P. Current. On July 19, 1984, Leontine Current Kelly was elected bishop of The United Methodist Church, making her the first African-American woman to become a bishop within a major American religious denomination. This book recounts the story of her journey while also illustrating the experience of African Americans within United Methodism, and the important roles that faith, the church, and family played in molding the character and work of numerous individuals throughout the denomination.

Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage by Trisha Franzen. Acknowledged by her contemporaries as the most outstanding woman suffrage orator of her time, Anna Howard Shaw was also one of the first women to be ordained in the Methodist Church. Challenging traditional gender boundaries throughout her life, she put herself through college, worked as a doctor, and built a tightly-knit family with her secretary and longtime companion Lucy E. Anthony.

Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter. Sojourner Truth was a freedom fighter for Blacks and for women. She was also, for a time, a Methodist. This biography explores her transformative life and its effect on those who encountered her, as well as the legacy that remains today.

A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle with Some Reflections by the Way by Frances E. Willard. Frances Willard, founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, fought for women’s suffrage and other social justice issues for workers and women. In 1888, she was one of five women elected as delegates to General Conference, but they were replaced by male reserves. She wrote this book after she took up bicycle-riding at the age of 53.

DVDs

Women Speak of God by Amy Oden. This eight-session course introduces us to the voices of six women who struggled with issues of identity, character, and calling, and who were able to attest to God’s living presence amidst their struggles. This course is for both women and men who want to grow in faith and see how God works in difficult times and places. It includes sessions on Perpetua, Juana Inés de la Cruz, Susanna Wesley, Georgia Harkness, and more.

Portrait of Susanna: The Story of Susanna Wesley written and performed by Lynette Bennett Danskin. The mother of John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism, is profiled in this one-act play. Amidst the hardships of an impoverished early eighteenth-century English home, Susanna trained her sons in a style of Christian discipline and spirituality that would forever leave its mark on world Christianity.

Julian of Norwich. This program looks at Julian of Norwich, recognized today as one of 14th century England’s most compelling mystics. A contemporary of Chaucer and survivor of the black plague, Julian received sixteen startling images of the crucified Christ that forever changed her life. Her descriptions of her visions in Revelations of Divine Love have given birth to enduring images of God’s nurturing and familial love that continue to inspire seekers today.

Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony by Ken Burns and Paul Barnes. Together, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought for women everywhere, and their strong willpower and sheer determination still ripple through contemporary society. Ken Burns’s Emmy® Award-winning documentary recounts the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of two pioneers striving to give birth to the women’s movement.

One Woman, One Vote. Birthed in a small Methodist Church in upstate New York, the women’s suffrage movement is documented in this PBS video. Witness the 70-year struggle for women’s suffrage. Discover why the crusaders faced entrenched opposition from men and women who feared the women’s vote would ignite a social revolution.

Request These Resources

These resources can be borrowed for free by anyone involved with a United Methodist Church in the North Carolina Conference. We will mail them to your home! All you need to do is fill out the Resource Request Form.

Originally published by the North Carolina Annual Conference. Republished with permission by ResourceUMC.org.