Antoinette Brown, born in a log cabin in New York, was moved by the ministry of Charles Finney at age six and joined the Congregational Church at age nine. She excelled in school. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1847, she created a stir among the faculty when she returned for graduate studies in theology. No woman had yet studied theology at Oberlin. Her family grew alarmed and stopped supporting her. At the end of her studies, she was given no part in the commencement exercises, and her name didn’t appear in the alumni catalog.
When she attended the World’s Temperance Convention in New York City, she was not allowed to speak. This so incensed Horace Greeley 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.
Greeley’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 a call instead to a small Congregational church, having “neither steeple or bell,” in South Butler, New York.
There on September 15, 1853, Antoinette Brown became the first regularly ordained woman 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.
Brown wrote in her journal: This is a very poor and small 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. …
All of you are God’s children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus 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. (Galatians 3:26-28)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Sept. 15.