By Jacqueline J. Holness
As March is National Women’s History Month, I’m devoting this column to outstanding Christian women who have impacted history and culture. For those unfamiliar, National Women’s History Month, began when President Jimmy Carter named the week of March 2-8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week, following a grassroots campaign to recognize the achievements of women. Six years later, 14 states elected to honor women for the entire month, which then led to Congress naming each March as National Women’s History Month.
Here are seven Christian women who have caught my attention and have impacted history and culture:
Catharine Brown (1800?–1823): As Brainerd Mission School’s first Cherokee convert to Christianity, Brown became a mission teacher and a writer. Following her untimely death from tuberculosis at age 23, the mission commissioned a posthumous biography, Memoir of Catharine Brown. Her writing is featured in Cherokee Sister published by University of Nebraska Press, who stated that Brown “is a figure of enduring Cherokee revitalization, survival, adaptability, and leadership.”
Evangeline Booth (1865–1950): It seems Booth was destined to serve others—she was born in London, England the same year that her parents founded The Christian Mission, which was later renamed The Salvation Army. As her father recognized her organizational skills, Booth became a field commissioner at 26 years old. She rose through the ranks, eventually being named the first female General for the International Salvation Army. Through her leadership she convinced the U.S. government to allow Salvation Army’s female members to serve overseas during World War I; she also helped create services for unwed mothers and people who were homeless, unemployed, and elderly.
Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983): Born in Haarlem, Netherlands, ten Boom was reared in a religious household as a Calvinist in the Dutch Reformed Church. As an adult, she became the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in Holland. In World War II, her family hid Jewish people in their home, and ten Boom provided leadership over a network of safe houses. Approximately 800 Jewish people were saved as a result. Her family was later imprisoned, and ten Boom was forced into a concentration camp and was released 10 months later. In 1971, she chronicled her experiences in the best-selling book The Hiding Place.
Jeanette Li (1899-1968): In Tak Hing, South China, Li was born to a devout Buddhist father. From childhood, however, she questioned her father’s beliefs. When she was sick and taken to a mission hospital at 7 years old, she learned about Jesus Christ from the mission doctors. As she traveled through China evangelizing as an adult, Li was imprisoned for 17 months by Communists for her faith. One book review by The Christian Pundit said, “Her life reads almost more like a spy novel than a Christian woman’s autobiography. Li lived through a . . . loveless marriage, war, suspicious officials, brainwashing, natural disasters, sacrificial mission work, imprisonment, dangerous travel” and found her strength “in doing the Father’s will.” Her complete story is in Jeanette Li: The Autobiography of a Chinese Christian.
Joni Eareckson Tada: A Baltimore, Maryland, native, Tada, who was born in 1949, is known for her Christian ministry in the disability community. A diving accident in 1967 rendered her a quadriplegic. However, her disability became the springboard for her ministry. She founded Joni and Friends International Disability Center in 1979 to address concerns of the disability community. She has penned 48 books including the best-selling Joni: The Unforgettable Story of a Young Woman’s Struggle Against Quadriplegia & Depression.
Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook: In 1957 Cook was born in Harlem, New York. Having been a pastor, a presidential advisor for President Clinton, as well as a theologian, author, activist, academic, and the first female and African American person to become the New York City Policy Department’s chaplain, she was appointed by President Obama to be the U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom in 2010.
Priscilla C. Shirer: A native of Dallas, Texas, Shirer was born in 1974. Shirer is a speaker, evangelist, and author of numerous Bible studies who also starred in the box office hit War Room, a Christian film that debuted in 2015. Shirer and her husband started Going Beyond Ministries focused on the expository teaching of the Bible.
Obviously this is a small sampling of Christian women who have impacted history and culture today. I hope this list inspires you to learn about more such women.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).