Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy: Those Who've Gone Before Us

Those who've gone before us . . .

Photo gallery compiled by Susie C. Stanley

Methodist Episcopal Church

Phoebe Worrall Palmer (1807-1874) is often called the mother of the holiness movement because of her promotion of the doctrine of holiness or sanctification. Holiness churches adopted her understanding of holiness. She preached at over 300 camp meetings and revivals in the United States, Canada and the British Isles.
Brethren in Christ

Sarah H. Bert (1860-1948) was the co-founder of the first Brethren in Christ inner-city mission in Chicago, Illinois. In her home church in Kansas, she had a deeply moving spiritual experience where she sensed a call of God to serve in Chicago. She gave leadership to numerous ministries at the mission for more than fifty years.

Miriam A. Bowers (1912-1997) served the church through relief agencies after World War II as a teacher and librarian at Upland College, Upland, California, and as librarian at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania. She served capably in leadership positions and was an important supporter of Brethren in Christ women entering the pastoral ministry.

H. Frances Davidson (1860-1935) was one of the first five Brethren in Christ missionaries (four women and one man) who sailed to Africa in late 1897—destination unknown until mid-route discussions took place. Frances was the obvious leader of the missionary band which caused no small distress to male missionaries and the church leaders back home who had no experience or interest in working where women were successful leaders.

Rev. Anna Kraybill Engle (1878–1954) was the first and only Brethren in Christ woman to be ordained until the late 1980s. She served in leadership and preaching ministries at the Bethany Brethren in Christ Church in Thomas, OK, where she was ordained in 1921. The ordination was a congregational decision, and no formal record ever appeared in the denomination’s listing of ordained ministers.

Rhoda E. Lee (1857-1899) was the author and presenter of an important paper in the 1894 and 1895 General Conferences of the Brethren in Christ Church in which she gave a stirring appeal for the denomination to launch its own foreign mission program. As a result an offering was received and the Brethren in Christ Foreign Missions Board came into being.

Sitshokuphi Sibanda (c.1890-1971) was a young girl when the first Brethren in Christ missionaries came to Southern Rhodesia, Africa. She found Christ as her Savior in the early years of the work in Mapane. She was of significant assistance to the missionaries, a faithful supporter of the church, and served as a teacher for many years.

Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)

Rev. Dr. Pansy Melvina Major Brown, a pioneer in the field of Christian Education, dedicated herself to developing the highest quality training possible. She was the co- founder of the “In-Service Training Institute,” a ministry of the National Association of the Church of God for pastors and other church leaders.

Ruth Coolidge was a pioneer missionary in the Church of God.

Rev. Dr. Lillie McCutcheon pastored the Church of God in Newton Falls, Ohio, for forty-three years. She was an author as well and served on the Board of Trustees of Gulf Coast Bible College and Mid-America Bible College, was chairperson of the national steering committee of the Pastors’ Fellowship Movement, and on the Division of Church Service.

Rev. Sarah Smith was an ordained pioneer evangelist of the Church of God. She began her travels at the age of 61. Her husband supported her call to be an evangelist by selling a cow and giving her his blessing. In 1885, she set out traveling with D. S. Warner as part of a band of singers and evangelists who planted churches in ten states and Canada.

Annie Tafolla worked with her father Mariano Tafolla as a pioneer in the Spanish Church of God in the USA, predominantly Texas. She was an evangelist, church planter, bilingual teacher, and an editor. In the 1950s she was the editor of La Trompeta, the Spanish Church of God publication.

Church of the Nazarene

Rev. Mary Lee Cagle (1864-1955) was a dynamic evangelist, church planter, and pastor whose 1899 ordination forged the way for many holiness women called to public ministry. Despite initial strong prejudice against her preaching, Mary courageously stepped forward to hold revival meetings and establish numerous congregations throughout Texas. At 90 years of age, the blind but resolute Mary was held up by two friends to deliver her last rousing half-hour sermon.

Rev. Agnes White Diffee (1889-1970) pastored one of the largest Nazarene churches in the late 1940s. She led Little Rock Church of the Nazarene through a period of phenomenal growth and became the first female radio evangelist in America. Her daily broadcasts and community service won her the admiration of governors, mayors, and other leaders throughout the southern U.S. Perhaps her greatest contribution was influencing 26 young men and women to enter professional ministry.

Rev. Santos Elizondo (1867–1941) was a pastor and church planter whose impassioned preaching in El Paso and Juarez helped lead hundreds to Christ. Santos braved fierce gender discrimination and rejection of her holiness doctrine. Still, she single-handedly oversaw Nazarene work in Juarez for 35 years, during which she pastored a church, led a day school, a women’s society, an orphanage, and a medical clinic.

Rev. Emma Irick (1888–1984) was a renowned evangelist and effective leader who pastored the largest Nazarene church in the Houston, Texas District. In her early years of preaching, Emma traveled thousands of miles to hold revival meetings with her husband, Allie. Their marriage and flourishing ministry provided an early model of ministerial partnership.

Rev. Dr. Mildred Wynkoop (1905-1997) was a foremost academic scholar who gained worldwide recognition for her provocative book on Wesleyan Holiness theology called A Theology of Love. Wynkoop distinguished herself as an evangelist, pastor, missionary to Japan, a prolific author, and a challenging professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary. Her credible witness and an unending quest to learn inspired countless believers.

Evangelical Friends, International

Catherine Devoll Cattell was born in China as the daughter of medical doctors. After her marriage to Everett Cattell, she co-pastored several Friends churches in Ohio before leaving for India where she served as a Friends missionary for 21 years. When her husband became president of Malone College, she continued a ministry of speaking, preaching, and writing.

Emma Brown Malone, recorded as a Friends minister in 1890, served as co-pastor of First Friends Church in Cleveland, OH, for 30 years, and with her husband, J. Walter Malone, founded Cleveland Bible College in 1892. She was also secretary of the Friends Africa Industrial Mission and for a number of years was Recording Clerk of Ohio Yearly Meeting.

Lucrecia Mott, a 19th-century recorded Friends minister, fought vigorously to end slavery and also to win equality for women.

Evangeline Reams, noted for her concern for women, founded the Friends Home in Columbus, OH, in 1905 as a haven for unwed mothers and their babies.

Free Methodist Church

Rachel Bradley established the Olive Branch Mission in 1876 which is still in operation today in Chicago, Illiniois, as the oldest rescue mission in continuous operation in the city of Chicago.

Martha Hart was a charter member and the first vice president of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society. She was a strong and wise spiritual leader.

Emma Hogue served as office editor for The Free Methodist paper and later edited Sunday School material. In her later years she was the organizer and superintendent of the Young Peoples Missionary Society.

The Salvation Army

Catherine Mumford Booth (1829-1890) was the co-founder of The Salvation Army. She was a popular preacher who advocated women's rights in every realm of life. Her strong commitment to social holiness remains an emphasis of The Salvation Army to this day.

General Evangeline Booth was a daughter of Catherine and William Booth who led The Salvation Army in Canada for eight years and in the U.S. for 30 years. She was known for her sermons which took the form of dramatic presentations.

“Doughnut Girls” were Salvation Army women who staffed food huts near the front lines during World War I. Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon decided that doughnuts were easiest to serve and didn’t require reheating. Soldiers soon nicknamed the workers “doughnut girls.”

Slum Sisters worked initially in the East End of London but expanded their ministries to places such as New York. They went door to door, armed with scrub buckets, brushes and soap. They also cared for the sick and provided food for the hungry.

Lt. Col. Mary Stillwell and her husband, Henry, established corps in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon. She worked throughout the U.S. She also served as Women’s Social Service Secretary for the Western States for 17 years.

The Wesleyan Church

Mary Depew (1836-1892) served as an evangelist and was one of the major influences in the holiness revival in the Wesleyan Methodist Connection.

Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898) was an abolitionist and underground railroad conductor. Raised a Friend, she joined the Wesleyan Methodists to work against slavery, rejoining the Friends in 1872. After the Civil War, she undertook relief efforts in the South and in Kansas.

Rev. Florence Lee (1859-1958) was an ordained minister of the California District of the Pilgrim Holiness Church. She was an evangelist and the co-founder of the People’s Mission Church in Colorado which merged with the Pilgrim Holiness Church in 1925 to become the Rocky Mountain District. Her ministry involvement included the Rescue Home in Colorado, Pikes Peak Holiness Camp Meeting, the Western Holiness Bible College, and serving as editor of The Mission Advance, the official organ of the People’s Mission Church.

Rev. Clara McLeister (1882-1958) was a minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, along with her husband, I. F. McLeister. They jointly pastored the Akron Wesleyan Church in Ohio. After her husband became editor of The Wesleyan Methodist magazine, Mrs. McLeister pastored the Canadaigua Wesleyan Methodist Church and helped lay groundwork for a new church, the Gates Wesleyan Methodist. She also planted a church in Lyncourt, NY. From 1923-1943, she served as president of the Women’s Missionary Society of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America

Rev. Edna Mae Neff (1898-1958) was ordained in 1926. Rev. Neff pastored with her husband, William H. Neff, in Virginia, California, and Michigan. She served as associate editor of the Pilgrim Holiness Advocate, office editor of Oriental Missionary Standard, and staff writer for Pilgrim Youth News.

Rev. Stella Wood was among the first missionaries to India from the Wesleyan Methodist Church, serving there from 1910–1923. She also pastored in Minnesota. She served as editor of The Wesleyan Missionary from 1937-1951.

'a community of support
and encouragement for
women in ministry'


About us








Photo gallery