Our Heritage — Part 5

by Liz Sykes | March 05, 2014

Antoinette Brown was born in a log cabin in New York and was moved by the ministry of Charles Finney when she was six years old and joined the Congregational church at age nine. Excelling in school and graduating from college in 1847, she created a stir when she returned for graduate studies in theology. No woman had previously studied theology at the Oberlin College. Her family was alarmed and stopped supporting her.  At the end of her studies she was not given a part in the commencement exercises and her name didn’t appear in the alumni catalogue.

She later attended the World’s Temperance Convention in New York city and was not allowed to speak. This so incensed Horace Greely of the New York Tribune that he reported, “This convention has completed three of its four business sessions and the results may be summed up as follows:  First Day – Crowding a woman off the platform. Second Day – Gagging her. Third Day – Voting that she shall stay gagged. Having thus disposed of the main question, we presume the incidentals will be finished this morning.”

Greely’s words catapulted Antoinette Brown to prominence and she was offered a preaching ministry at a large New York City church but she felt too inexperienced for a large metropolitan pulpit, accepting instead  a small Congregational church ‘having neither steeple or bell.’

On September 15th 1853 Antoinette became the first regularly ordained female minister in America. Rev. Luther Lee preached the ordination message from Galatians 3:28 “Faith in Christ is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman” (CEV).

Brown wrote in her journal:  “This is a very small and poor church, ample I believe for my needs in this small community. My parish will be a miniature world in good and evil. To get humanity condensed into so small a compass that I can study each individual, opens a new chapter of experience. It is what I want..."