Women are as tough as nails when it comes to working for Christ as George Fox realised when he began the Quaker movement in the 1600s. From the beginning, he welcomed women preachers. His first convert was a well-to-do middle-aged mother named Elizabeth Hooton from Nottingham England. She soon became the Quakers’ first woman preacher.
Her new beliefs landed her in jail and she was sent to a grim succession of English prisons before being released at the age of 60. She booked passage to Boston, USA, but when authorities there wouldn’t admit her, she sailed to Virginia and started for New England on foot. Little did she know she was stepping from the ‘frying pan into the fire’.
Governor John Endicott demanded to know the reason for her coming to America and she answered “To do the will of him who sent me”. This response sent her behind bars again and over the next several years she was in and out of Boston and in and out of jail. Even worse and in spite of her age, at Cambridge she was given ten stripes with a three-stringed whip, knotted at the ends. Twice more she was whipped, at Watertown and at Dedham. Elizabeth remained undaunted and when nearly 70, she said “The love I bear to the souls of men makes me willing to undergo whatsoever can be inflicted to me.”
She returned to England and wrote to the king saying “Oh that thou would give up thy kingdom to ye Lord, God of heaven and earth, whose it is, and thy strength and power to Jesus Christ who is King of Kings, and then thou will be more honorable than ever thou wast.” This message was not well received so in 1671 she boarded a ship to escape further abuse and planned to do missionary work in the West Indies . The ship reached the island of Jamaica in the first week of 1672 but during the voyage Elizabeth Hooton, the Quakers’ first convert and first woman preacher had fallen ill and died on January 8th.
Perilous times for followers of Christ, our ancestors in the family of God, many of whom will not be remembered in church history books but who are intimately known to our God whose love gave people like Elizabeth enormous courage and determination.