The Contribution of Women in Early Pentecostalism.
Des Cartwright, Greenock, Scotland
A paper given at the Society for Pentecostal
Studies Conference, Gaithersburg, Maryland November 15th 1985.
Modern Pentecostalism arose out of several streams of thought
that were brought on tap during the last quarter of the nineteenth
century. Though its taproot goes back to the New Testament
it drew its inspiration from several different sources. The
Holiness Movement, 1 both in Britain and in the USA, helped
many to think on the deeper aspects of Christian experience.
The language that the advocates of holiness began increasingly
to use, and in particular their use of the phrase “
the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” helped to provide the
vocabulary for emerging Pentecostalism.
an increasing interest shown in miraculous healing in answer
to prayer and the laying on of hands. This was seen in the
ministry or Dr A .J. Gordon, Dr William Gentry, 2 John Alexander
Dowie, 3 and Dr A. B.Simpson.4 Many of those who were associated
with Dowie’s Zion work joined the new Pentecostal groups.
So also did many from the Christian and Missionary Alliance
work of A. B. Simpson.5
also a greatly increased interest in the subject of Revival.
This was particularly noticeable following the Welsh Revival
of 1904-05. All of these factors have been examined in recent
years and their relative importance has been assessed. In
addition, the diverse subjects and disciplines of history,
linguistics and sociology have been called upon to explain
the Pentecostal phenomena. Social deprivation and psychological
hang-ups or even racial tension have been offered as explanations
of the most remarkable and rapid increase in the growth of
the Christian Church that has taken place. There may be some
truth in some of these explanations, but for those who are
guided by Scripture, “ Suddenly from heaven” offers
a better answer.
to be one area that has escaped attention and that is the
very important and significant part that women have played
at key points in the early history of Pentecostalism. It is
to this area that I now turn.
study is not offered as an essay in Feminism, for which I
have neither the qualifications nor the space. What I want
to do is to record, in an exploratory way, the hitherto unnoticed,
but critically important part that women played in the early
history of Pentecostalism. In that history, women played formative
roles both as protagonists and antagonists. Women like Mrs
Jessie Penn-Lewis, author of War on the Saints (1912), and
Ada Habershom, author of The Strong Man Spoiled were some
of the strongest opponents of Pentecostalism.
In the past
revival movements, some women played their part (as for example
in the Salvation Army or amongst the Methodists).6/7 In this
their role was largely supportive. In Pentecostalism in the
early period it appears to me that it went much further. My
research seems to indicate that women were an integral part
of the narrative and that without them we might speculate
that the Pentecostal revival might never have taken place.
Pentecostalism might glory in the fact that it had no “
Founding Father” (a debatable point), but it did have
many nursing mothers who kept it alive in its infant years.
I am doing here is relating the sequence of events and what
amounts to an almost prophetic succession whereby the gift
of the Spirit fell upon one after another. In an almost unbroken
line it is possible to trace this story. At most of the critical
points, women played a significant part.
As far as
the Early Church was concerned, women played a more important
part in the life of the Church than have generally been supposed.
They may not have been Apostles (though some would contend
that Junia of Romans 16:7 was one such, though the evidence
is not convincing) but they were certainly used in the area
of prophecy. Phillip had three daughters who prophesied (Acts
21:9). The church at Caesarea must have been quite a lively
In the partnership
of Priscilla (or Prisca), the lady was perhaps the most important
member. She is usually placed first (Acts 18:8, Romans 16:3,
2 Timothy 4:9). The revisers of the Western Text found it
necessary to change the order and thus a number of respectable
commentators can speak of the “ anti-feminism”
tendency of the Western Text.8
at least in its earliest form, at the middle of the second
century, gave more than a little place to the prophetical
ministry of women. Two of its three “ pillars”
were women. Prisca and Maximilla were two of its most important
members in the early period. The disapprobation of the movement
because of the prominence these women were given is undeserved.
Modern studies have tended to see the movement in a more favourable
outbreak of speaking in tongues that occurred in the West
of Scotland in the nineteenth century and subsequently in
London, women were the first to experience glossolalia. Mary
Campbell (Mrs W. R. Caird) spoke in tongues near Gairloch
on the Clyde a few miles from Glasgow. On the other side of
the river at Port Glasgow, the brothers, James and George
McDonald were also convinced that the miraculous gifts had
been restored to the Church. George, however, did express
the strong conviction:
It is manifest
from Scripture that no female can possess the power of imparting
the gifts of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; it
is in the highest office of the Church, belonging exclusively to
apostles, and one of their signs. The man as the head of the
woman exclusively possesses the gift, to manifest his superiority:
the gift of prophecy is next in order, and to this the woman
He went on
I could seek no plainer proof of the devil’s work that
any female presuming to speak of imparting gifts by the laying
on of hands.10
The first appearance of these gifts in London was in a private
house during a time of prayer for the General Assembly. Again
it was a lady, Emily Cardale who was involved. At first things
were confined to house prayer meetings, but after a short
time, Edward Irving, in whose congregation they occurred,
permitted them to be brought out into the open.
manifestations had taken place in the home of John Bate Cardale
and Mrs Cardale had been the first one to speak in tongues.
She had accompanied her husband during a three-week visit
to the West of Scotland. At the time most of the party were
Anglicans. Shortly after the first manifestation, a similar
incident took place at the breakfast table in Edward Irving’s
home at 13 Judd Place (opposite the present entrance to Euston
Station). The speaker was Miss Emily Cardale, who David Brown
described as, “ a sweet, modest young lady.”11
These manifestations were confined to the early Morning Prayer
meetings or to other small gatherings for a time but at the
morning service on Sunday, October 16th 1831, Miss Hall, governess
in the family of Spencer Percival, eldest son of the late
Prime Minister, was so overcome during the service that she
hurried into one of the side rooms of the church. She could
be clearly heard in the body of the church as she burst forth
in a torrent of tongues. It caused considerable excitement
in the services that were very crowded at the time. In the
afternoon Irving stated that he could no longer forbid speaking
in tongues in the church. In the evening there were several
manifestations. Within a short time Regent Square Church was
once again the talk of the town.
to play only a very minor part in the subsequent development
of the Catholic Apostolic Church. Edward Irving’s life
might have been very different if he had taken more notice
of some of the women in his circle rather than giving so much
attention to those prominent laymen who eventually turned
that body in another direction. It is one of those “
ifs” of history. What would have happened if he had
married Jane Walsh rather than Isabella Martin? In 1834, Jane
said that if they had married there would have been no tongues.
If iron sharpens iron, then the marriage of Edward Irving
and Jane Walsh would have produced more than a few sparks;
would it not have lit a fire in Jane also?
person to speak in tongues in connection with the present
day Pentecostal outpouring was thirty-year old Agnes N. Ozman
who was a student at Charles F. Parham’s Bible School
in “ Stone’s Folly” mansion, Topeka, Kansas.
This was the first day of the new century (though there are
some problems with the various accounts).12 The newspapers
of the period expressed some interest, but they soon found
things of greater importance and the matter of speaking in
tongues was dropped from public interest for a few years until
it was revived again in the events surrounding the Azusa Street
outpouring in April 1906.
summer of 1905, Charles Parham held a series of meetings in
Houston, Texas. Amongst those who were attracted to these
meetings were two people who were to play an important part
in the spread of the Pentecostal message. The first was a
thirty-five year old black man, William Joseph Seymour. The
other was Lucy Farrow, leader of a small holiness mission.
Seymour joined the Bible School that Parham began in December
1905. During the daytime the two men went out preaching in
the streets of the city. When Parham went to Kansas on a preaching
mission he took Lucy Farrow with him and she looked after
his children. During their absence, William Joseph Seymour
took charge of her Holiness Mission.
Fall of 1905, Neely Terry, a visitor from Los Angeles was
staying in Houston. She visited Lucy Farrow’s Mission
and was favourably impressed by its temporary leader, William
Seymour. When she returned to Los Angeles, she told some of
her friends about him. Julia W. Hutchins led these friends
and they were members of the second Baptist Church. A small
group led by Mrs Hutchins was forced to leave the Baptist
Church for accepting and propagating holiness teaching. This
was early in 1905. They sought fellowship with a few others
from time to time and during the summer months they held tent
meetings. With the onset of the colder weather, they had to
move indoors and they found accommodation in the home of Richard
and Ruth Asbury at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street.
in Bonnie Brae Street became crowded and a small mission at
9th and Santa Fe was taken over. Julia Hutchins led this.
As the work showed every sign of growing they began to look
round for a regular pastor. It was at this point that Neely
Terry remembered William Seymour and they sent him money for
the train fare inviting him to preach for them. In Houston
Charles Parham also gave him money to help him on the four-day
to Los Angeles, Seymour stopped off at Denver, Colorado, at
the home that was run by Alma White, leader of the Pillar
of Fire work. Four years later, Mrs White wrote “ Demons
and Tongues,” which contained a hostile and totally
undeserved caricature of Seymour. Her husband, Kent White,
joined the Pentecostals and was baptized in the Holy Spirit
on July 7th 1910.1313 He joined the Apostolic Faith Church
in Bournemouth and spent the next few years in Canada and
the United States.
continued her opposition to Pentecostalism and there were
some interesting words exchanged in the English press when
Aimee McPherson was in Britain at the same time as Mrs White.
arrived in Los Angeles in February 1906, he began his ministry
in the Santa Fe Mission. The found that his ministry very
acceptable until he began to preach from Acts 2:4. He again
identified the experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
with speaking in tongues (as he had been taught by Charles
Parham). That was too much for Mrs Hutchins and the next time
he came along to preach he found the door had been padlocked.
Not only was the preaching place closed, but also Seymour
was without accommodation.
janitor of a bank on 7th and Spring, opened his home for William
Joseph Seymour. Lee had been seeking for the baptism of the
Holy Spirit for some time. During the period that Seymour
was staying with them, Ed Lee had a vision in which he saw
the apostles, Peter and John, and heard them speak in tongues.
When the vision was at an end, Lee was shaking all over. In
the meantime, the group who had been turned out of the mission
by Mrs Hutchins returned to the Asbery home at 214 North Bonnie
Brae Street. One evening, Seymour laid hands on Ed Lee that
he might receive the Spirit; the only response was that Lee
fell into a trance which caused his wife considerable alarm.
She calls an abrupt end to the proceedings.
It was at
this time that Seymour got in touch with Lucy Farrow and J
A Warren who were in Huston. He sent the train fare and asked
them to come and help him in the work in Los Angeles. Mrs
Farrow’s ability for inducing or encouraging ‘
glossolalia’ was well known (she had spoken in tongues
in the Parham home for the first time).14
significant date was Monday April 9th. Ed Lee was ill and
he asked Seymour to lay hands on him and pray for his recovery.
Seymour laid hands on him and he was healed. Lee asked Seymour
to lay hands on him again that he might receive the Spirit.
Seymour did as he was asked (though at the time he did not
have the experience himself).15 and Ed Lee burst forth in
tongues. It was 6 p.m. The two men walked the short distance
to the Asbury home where the regular prayer meeting was held
took charge of the meeting and after a number had prayed and
a few had given testimonies, Seymour began to speak. Once
again he took his text from Acts 2. He was now able to tell
them what had taken place a short time before. Ed Lee started
to give his testimony, when suddenly; lifting up his hands
in the air he burst forth once more in a torrent of tongues.
This drove the entire company to their knees. Seated at the
piano Jennie Evans Moore also fell to her knees. She also
found herself, together with half a dozen others, speaking
Moore had been a member of Joseph Smale’s New Testament
Church. Smale had visited Wales during the Welsh Revival and
on his return to the First Baptist Church in Los Angeles he
helped to encourage an expectation of revival. Some of the
more enthusiastic members soon left along with Smale and founded
the New Testament Church. Jennie Evans Moore lived in her
own home at 217 North Bonnie Brae Street. She was the first
woman to speak in tongues in Los Angeles. On May 13th 1908
she married William Joseph Seymour. Ed Lee performed the ceremony.
were transferred to the former African Methodist Episcopal
Church at 312 Azusa Street. During the next few days as they
were renovating the lumber store the first convert was recorded.
One of the women who were cleaning the building had one of
the workmen down on his knees and he was soundly converted
before the place was opened.
Sunday morning (April 15th) Jennie Evans Moore took the Asbery’s
to Smale’s church. After the sermon, when Smale invited
testimonies. Jennie took the floor and told the congregation
what had taken place in the Asbery home and in Azusa Street.
She then spoke in tongues and the awed congregation heard
Ruth Asbery give the interpretation.
a reporter from the Los Angeles Times visited Azusa Street.
On the following day the paper carried the report of this
visit. The same paper led with a report of the San Francisco
earthquake that resulted in the death of 10,000 people.
Frank Bartleman was in Peniel Hall where the building was
shaken by a further tremor. Within a short time Azusa Street
was crowded. Sometimes there were up to 800 inside with a
further 400-500 outside. Many of the most influential workers
who were associated with Azusa Street were women. Florence
Crawford, Clara Lum, Rachel Sizelove and others.
Azusa Street went out to all parts of the United States and
missionaries sailed to the four corners of the globe.
Apostolic Faith magazine of September 1906, and subsequent
issues, helped to carry the message far and wide. The first
issue was read in New York by the English-born Norwegian Methodist
minister, Thomas Ball Barratt, who was in America collecting
funds to support his City Mission in Christiania (Oslo). He
had been in America since November 1905. The visit was not
a financial success. After reading the paper Barratt wrote
to the leaders of the Azusa Street work and Mrs Ida May Throop
signed the first letter of reply. Subsequent letters encouraged
him to seek a deeper experience.
made up his mind to return to Europe but was persuaded to
stay in New York. He was introduced to some of those who had
been in the Azusa Street meetings and who were en route to
Africa on missionary service. One of the ladies introduced
him to her friend Miss Maud Williams (Mrs Haycroft) who had
been baptised in the Spirit in Canada.16 This lady was holding
meetings at 250, 14th Street, New York. Barratt went to her
meeting for the first time on November 15th. It was at that
meeting that he spoke in tongues for the first time. The group
were given notice to quit on the following day. They moved
on to 40th Street between 8th and 9th.
was another Methodist preacher, Robert Brown. He stayed in
New York where together with his wife Maria (nee Burgess)
they went on to establish Glad Tidings Hall. Robert died in
1948 but Marie lived on until she was 90 and she remained
active in the work of God to the end.
T. B Barratt
returned to Norway in December 1906. The Holy Spirit was outpoured
in a spectacular way in his assembly and considerable interest
and the Christian press showed not a little opposition. Amongst
those who showed a great interest was English Anglican minister,
Alexander A Boddy of Sunderland. Boddy visited Norway and
he invited Barratt to come to England and hold meetings in
in Sunderland began on the last day of August 1907. During
a period of seven weeks seventeen were baptised in the Holy
Spirit. We do not know all of their names but most of those
that have been recorded were women. These included Boddy’s
two daughters, Nary and Jane and his wife Mary.18
It is interesting
to note the smallness of the numbers. It is also worth noting
that Mrs Boddy was absent for the first ten days of Barratt’s
visit. She came into her Pentecostal experience on September
11th. Her Husband did not receive until after Barratt had
gone home. Before long Mrs Boddy was laying hands on men and
women and many of them received a Pentecostal experience as
Two of these
were to play a very important part in Pentecostal history.
of Smith Wigglesworth is described in a letter that Alexander
Boddy wrote to T B Barratt on October 29th 1907:
worker from Bradford mightily baptized today. Glory! Mrs Boddy
laid hands on him here at the vicarage19.
G R Polman
from Holland testified:
On 4th June
1908, while in Sunderland at the Pentecostal Conference, I
myself received the baptism of the Holy Spirit while dear
Pastor and Mrs Boddy laid hands on me.20
the first person to speak in tongues was Mrs Catherine S Price,
wife of a London Bank Manager.21 This was in January 1907,
many months before Barratt arrived. A number of other women
occupied important places in the early history of British
Pentecostalism. Mrs Eleanor Crisp and Mrs Lydia Walshaw were
well known workers. Mrs Margaret Cantel, daughter of Mr Fielding,
one of Dowie’s elders from Zion City, opened a home
in Highbury New Park, London in 1912. It was at this home
that many Pentecostal visitors and missionaries found a haven.22
In the group
of churches to which I belong (The Elim Pentecostal Church
founded by George Jeffreys in 1915) women were included as
full members from the beginning in the Elim Evangelistic Band.23
They included Margaret Montgomery Streight, a lady with a
very remarkable gift of the word of knowledge, and Adelaide
Henderson who later became Missionary Secretary for the Elim
Church. However, a few years later, when new Rules were introduced
and many of the ministers were ordained again, none of the
ladies were ordained though those who remained still exercised
their duties as ministers in charge of churches. They were
permitted to conduct weddings, funerals and baptismal services
if a suitable male substitute could not be found!
when other rules were introduced, the ministers wife was not
even permitted to sit on the platform unless she was taking
part in the meeting.
had gone a long way in a short time, but many of the women
were given fewer places than they deserved. In the beginning
men and women were given equal status. At the start Pentecostalism
was multi-racial, cross-cultural and both men and women were
allowed to develop their full potential through the Spirit.
The full potential of Pentecostalism (and its glory) is to
be seen not in the narrowness of its structures but in its
freedom and flexibility.
have spoken selectively of the role of a limited number of
women in early Pentecostalism, I believe that a number of
tentative conclusions may be drawn.
In the beginning
women were actors rather than reactors. They were particularly
successful in helping others into a Pentecostal experience.
In Pentecostalism women found release for natural and emotional
needs that had been suppressed in most traditional churches.
God-given gifts were allowed to develop their full potential.
As the emerging
groups developed their organisational structures, women were
given a lesser role. Behind the scenes some of them continued
to exert considerable influence but in public at least, they
assumed a more submissive position. Thus Pentecostalism lost
one of its special features: It has yet to be restored.
1 Vinson Synan, The Holiness Pentecostal Movement
in the United States, Eerdmans, 1971. Jack Ford, In the Steps
of John Wesley, Nazarene Publishing House, Kansas City, 1968.
2 The Word, Edited by Dr
William Gentry, Chicago, Vol. 1, 1899-Vol.15 No.12, December
Gentry practised as a physician until July 1896. He set up
a Healing Home. There are interesting references to meeting
places in this neglected periodical. The name “ Assemblies
of God” is used in early issues. The writer has found
no references to this periodical but some are in private hands
in the U.K.
3 Phillip Lee Cook, Zion
City, Illinois: Twentieth-Century Utopia, University of Colorado
PhD. 1965. [Syracuse University Press, 1996]. Gordon Lindsay,
John Alexander Dowie. Christ For the Nations Dallas, Texas,
2nd ed. 1980. See also, Leaves of Healing, Vol. 1-18. Chicago,
John Alexander Dowie, 1894-1902. Zion City: Zion Publishing
4 A B Simpson, The Four-Fold Gospel, Alliance Press, New York,
5 Robert Mapes Anderson,
Vision of the Disinherited, Oxford University Press, 1979,
6/7 G Elsie Harrison, Son
to Susanna, Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1937. Maldwyn Edwards,
Family Circle, Epworth Press, 1949,pp.46-86. Leslie F Church,
More About Early Methodist People, Epworth Press, “
Women Preachers,” pp.136-176.
8 C S C Williams, Alterations
to the Text of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, Blackwell, Oxford,
1951, pp.54-82. See also; New Testament Criticism; Its Significance
for Exegesis, Essays in honour of Bruce Metzger, Ed. Eldon
Jay Epp and Gordon D Fee, Oxford, 1981. Bruce M Metzger et.
el. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, UBS,
1971. Notes on Acts 17: 12; 18:26.
9 Maurice Barnett, The Living
Flame, Epworth Press, London, 1953.
10Robert Norton, Memoirs
of James and George MacDonald, London, 1840, pp.230-231.
11David Brown. “Personal
Reminiscences of Edward Irving” in The Expositor, Third
Series, Vol. vi (1888) pp.216-228; 257-273. Brown was Irving’s
assistant in London between 1830 and 1833. Later in life he
became the Principal of the Free Church College, Aberdeen.
Another little noticed account is given in John Hare’s,
Regent Square: Eighty Years of a London Congregation, Revised
Edition, James Nisbet, London, 1899.
12 Agnes Ozman, “
Where the Latter Rain Fell,” The First one to Speak
in Tongues, The Latter Rain Evangel, Chicago, Vol. 1. No.
4, p.2. January 1909. At the time that she wrote the article
Miss Ozman was working as a “Missionary” at the
Gospel Tabernacle, Lincoln, Nebraska.
13 Kent White, The Word of
God Coming Again, Winton, Bournemouth, 1919.
14 Douglas Nelson gives the
best account. For Such a Time as This: The Story of Bishop
William Joseph Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival. A Search
for Pentecostal/Charismatic Roots. Birmingham Ph. D. May 1981,
p. 363. See EPTA Bulletin lV, No.1 1985, pp.13-16. For all
its merits, Nelson sometimes fails to give credit to others
in his desire to reinstate Seymour. He ignores the interview
with Mac E Jonas in Vinson Synan’s, Aspects of Pentecostal
Charismatic Origins, Logos, 1975, p.134. If Seymour did not
speak in tongues until after April 12th, then Lucy Farrow
may well have more to do with this than in commonly supposed.
See Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street, Logos, 1980, p.62.
15 Apostolic Faith, December
1906, p.1. This says that two workers came before Seymour
received and Lucy Farrow is singled out as having received
16 T B Barratt, When the
Fire Fell; An outline of my life, Oslo, 1927, pp.135-136.
Elim Evangel, London, Vol. LX, No.1, January 1928, p.10. Apostolic
Faith, December 1906, p.3.
17 Martin Robinson, The Charismatic
Anglican: A Comparison of the Life and Work of Alexander A
Boddy (1854-1930) and Michael C Harper, Birmingham Ph. D.
18 Charles Clark Pioneers
of Revival (8). When the Fire Fell in Sunderland, Renewal
29 Oct./Nov., 1970, pp., 20-25. Apostolic Faith, No. 11, October
1907/Jan., 1908, p.1.
19 Boddy to Barratt. Original in Oslo University in Barratt’s
Journal. See Elim Evangel, 64. No.3. January 15th, 1983, p.6.
20 Gerrit Polman, Pentecost in Holland, Latter Rain Evangel,
February 1910, p.5.
21 Desmond Cartwright, Echoes
from the Past, Elim Evangel, January 8th 1983,p.6. Text of
a lecture given at the European Theological Conference in
Leuven, Belgium. “ From the Back Streets of Brixton
to the Royal Albert Hall: British Pentecostalism, 1907-1928”.
22 The Overcoming Life,
Ed. Harry E Cantel, Islington. Vol.1. No. 1. January 1909.
Vol. 2. No. 7. July 1910. Harry Eugene Cantel died on August
21st 1910 aged 44. Confidence, Sunderland, September 1910,
pp.204-207. No. 73 Highbury New Park was opened on October
2nd 1912. It was here that Donald Gee went to his first Pentecostal
meeting. He was baptised in the Spirit in the same place.
Donald Gee, The Pentecostal Movement, 1941, p.88-93. At the
home Gee wrote in the Visitors’ Book, “ Here I
received my Pentecost.”
23 Desmond Cartwright, The
Great Evangelists: The Lives of George and Stephen Jeffreys,
Marshall Pickering, Basingstoke, 1986.