Women are tough as nails when it comes to working for Christ, as George Fox realized 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 age 60. She booked passage to Boston, but when authorities there wouldn’t admit her, she sailed to Virginia and started for New England by foot.

She was stepping from pan to fire.

Governor John Endicott demanded the reason for her coming to America. She answered, “To do the will of Him that sent me.” She found herself behind bars again, and over the next several years she was in and out of Boston, and in and out of jail. Even worse, her grandmotherly age didn’t keep her from the whipping post. At Cambridge, she was given ten stripes with a three-stringed whip, knotted at the ends. At Watertown, she was whipped again. At Dedham, she again felt the lash.

She 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.” At length she returned to England and wrote King Charles II 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 wilt be more honorable than ever thou wast.

The message was not well-received, and in 1671 she boarded ship for the West Indies to do missionary work and to escape further abuse. The ship reached the islands the first week of 1672, but Elizabeth Hooton, the Quakers’ first convert and first woman preacher, had fallen ill. She died on January 8 and was buried in the Jamaican sands like a soldier falling in the line of duty.

Three times the Romans beat me with a big stick, and once my enemies stoned me. I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea. During my many travels, I have been in danger from rivers, robbers, my own people, and foreigners. My life has been in danger in cities, in deserts, at sea, and with people who only pretended to be the Lord’s followers. (2 Corinthians 11:24-26)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Jan. 8.

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