Building The Old Time Religion: Giving Progressive Era Women Evangelists Due Credit

Priscilla Pope-Levison’s new book Building The Old Time Religion: Women Evangelists in the Progressive Era is the most significant contribution to the collective memory of women evangelists in the United States since Janette Hassey’s 1986 book No Time for Silence. … Continue reading Building The Old Time Religion: Giving Progressive Era Women Evangelists Due Credit

Expressing Faith Through Fashion: Choice, Legalism or Both?

In many Christian traditions such as the Mennonites,  Quakers, Amish and various holiness movements dress was an outward expression of faith. However, there was and continues to be a fine line between an individual embracing dress as a form of religious expression and being forced to dress a certain way as a form of legalism. Playing with the Free Methodist history of dress in the late nineteenth and early 2oth century, I’ll explore some of these tensions in a multi-part series. Free Methodist women, especially those who chose to preach and teach publicly  faced numerous barriers to acceptance- not least among them their attire, … Continue reading Expressing Faith Through Fashion: Choice, Legalism or Both?

Ellen Stowe Roberts: Co-Founder of Free Methodism

Benjamin Titus (B.T.) Roberts is known as the founder of Free Methodism. Yet, standing quietly beside him was his wife Ellen Stowe Roberts. While B.T. Roberts was traveling, preaching, dedicating new churches and attending annual conferences his wife Ellen was back at home at Chili Seminary. While she traveled with him sometimes, her impact on Free Methodism rests in her gentle spirit and quiet witness. I firmly believe that when we note who founded Free Methodism both B.T. and Ellen should be given credit in the same breath. Ellen helped shape B.T. Roberts theology through her connections to Phoebe Palmer … Continue reading Ellen Stowe Roberts: Co-Founder of Free Methodism

The Continued Hunt to Discover Who Ida Gage Really Was…

I have been obsessed with Ida Gage for two weeks now. My husband is telling me I have to stop digging. I am never going to uncover every fact about this woman’s life, and what is more important is to construct her rhetorical history through her sermons and speeches at conferences. Yet, these early Free Methodist women keep pulling me back into their history, their lives. They have become my friends and my heroes, who I really wish I could meet. Archival research is very complex, especially when you are trying to piece together the lives of women who have … Continue reading The Continued Hunt to Discover Who Ida Gage Really Was…

Who is Ida Gage?

Ida Gage is one of many forgotten Free Methodist women evangelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, while Ida might have been overlooked in the larger denominational histories, her legacy lives on through her speech at the 1890 General Conference and the debate on ordaining women. In 1890 Ida wasn’t a licensed evangelist. She was just a member of the denomination who had previous experience preaching in Michigan, and was responding to a call to serve within the Free Methodist denomination. By 1892 she was “on supply,” meaning she was traveling and preaching for the Ohio Free … Continue reading Who is Ida Gage?

Clara Wetherald Part Three: Wife, Mother, Pastor

Clara Wetherald was born Clarissa L. Miller around 1849. While Clarissa Miller was a very popular name during this time period, Her husband John Wetherald was born in New York in 1842 to William Wetherald and Hannah Ferris. John’s father was born in England and immigrated to the U.S. It appears at some point in his family’s history they changed the spelling of their name from “Wetherell” or “Witherall” to “Wetherald.” Sometime between John’s birth in 1842 and 1860 his family moved to Vienna, Genesee County, Michigan.  On Apr. 5 1866, John F. and Clara Miller married in Genesee County, … Continue reading Clara Wetherald Part Three: Wife, Mother, Pastor

Finding Clara Wetherald Part Two

In 1888 Clara Wetherald, a licensed evangelist and circuit riding preacher in Michigan, wrote a ministerial update published in the October 10, 1888, The Free Methodist. Wetherald had been sent to dedicate a new church in Royalton, Michigan, only to find on arrival that the congregation still needed to raise $369, and the building for the church was not completed. “It was a great cross to me to go to dedicate a church, as I consider myself a poor hand to raise money,” (5) Wetherald wrote. Yet, she led the congregation into a time of prayer on Saturday September 29, … Continue reading Finding Clara Wetherald Part Two

Finding Clara Wetherald Part One

19th century Free Methodist women lay leaders and pastors have become more than a rhetorical history project for me. They have become my friends. I want to sit down with Eliza Suggs and Emma Ray and over a cup of tea discuss temperance issues and entire sanctification. I want to talk to Ellen Roberts and Emma Sellew Roberts about what it was like to edit religious periodicals in the 19th century, and I want to talk to Clara Wetherald about what it was like to be a wife, mother, and circuit riding preacher in the mid 1800s. Out of all … Continue reading Finding Clara Wetherald Part One