United Methodist Women in Leadership

March is Women’s History Month. Activists today may be inspired to hear the stories of six historic figures who advocated for women’s voting rights as part of their Christian calling.

Clergywomen have been part of Methodism since John Wesley licensed Sarah Crosby to preach in 1761. Although women were ordained in the Methodist tradition as early as the late 1800s, it was the May 4, 1956 General Conference vote for full clergy rights that forever changed the face of ordained clergy.

As preachers, leaders, teachers, missionaries, organizers, women have shaped the history of the Methodist Church.  In their work with the poor, vulnerable and disenfranchised, church women have initiated important social and political reform.

In the Methodist tradition, women were ordained as ministers as early as the late 19th century, and in 1956 the Methodist Church, a predecessor body of The United Methodist Church, granted women full clergy rights. Women now make up approximately 25% of clergy in The United Methodist Church.

We invite you to explore the inspiring stories of women who have made important contributions to the life of the church both past and present as well as resources to help nurture your own participation and witness as a church leader.

6 Methodist women who fought for the vote

Read this article by Heather Hahn from the United Methodist News Service.

John Wesley was a fan of voting.

According to a 1774 journal entry, he urged Methodist Society members: “(1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy (2) To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and (3) To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Not every society member could take his advice. In Wesley’s day, voting was strictly a land-owning, male affair.

Getting to the point where all adult citizens had a voice in choosing their government took hard work, great risk and tremendous faith. Fortunately, many faithful members of Wesley’s movement, especially women, joined the struggle to expand the right to vote.

In fact, the famed Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York, found a welcoming host in Wesleyan Chapel, part of the Wesleyan Methodist denomination.

Such advocacy changed history.

Learn about six Wesleyan women who helped form a more perfect union even as they were going on to Christian perfection.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)


Frances Willard (1839-1898)


The Rev. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919)


Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)


Jessie Daniel Ames (1883-1972)


Dorothy Height



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