"When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined" (Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 469).
When God Chooses Women
Women have always played an important part in the work of the church, even in biblical times. In the history of the Adventist church, women have served in almost all capacities, filling a wide variety of roles. It is important that we take note of their accomplishments to encourage us to preserve and to inspire future generations to take up the tasks their forebearers faithfully carried out.
Each of these women is important in her own right. She is also a representative of the thousands who have labored and worked in each of the fifty-year periods of the Adventist Church history indicated in this brochure. Still today, distinguished women are often unknown and unnoticed.
Thousands of other women could, and should be mentioned, but we trust that the example of these faithful women will be a blessing as you use your gifts for God.
- Download PDF, Adventist Women of Distinguished Service brochure with biographies
- Download PPTX, Adventist Women of Distinguished Service PowerPoint presentation with photos and biographies
- Download PDF, The Early Years brochure with timeline
- Read this article, "Distinguished Service: 18 Women", written by Heather-Dawn Small, published in Adventist Review, March 1, 2020.
- Read this article, "A Brief Historical Background of Women's Ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church," excerpt from the General Conference Women's Ministries [GC WM] Handbook.
- Read this article about Elizabeth Elwin, missionary pioneer to Central America, posted at ANN, July 25, 2020 (originally published in Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists). Look for more articles published in the encyclopedia.
Download PDF, A Woman-Ministry pamphlet by Mrs. Sarepta M. Irish Henry (shown, right), who in 1898 at the encouragement of Ellen G. White, began organizing the Woman's Ministry department at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Mrs. S.M.I. Henry, an active leader in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (W. C. T. U.), recuperated from an illness at Battle Creek Sanitarium which led her to becoming a Seventh-day Adventist. The General Conference voted her ministerial license, but unfortunately, Mrs. Henry died two years later and no one continued her initial work for women's ministry at the world church headquarters.
The article with historical background of Women's Ministries excerpted from the GC WM Handbook (download resource above) includes a memoir of Mrs. S.M.I. Henry's work with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, written by her daughter, Margaret Henry Rossiter White. To read the full biographical book of Mrs. S.M.I. Henry, written by Margaret Rossiter, published by Fleming H. Revell Company, 1900, download PDF, My Mother's Life: The Evolution of a Recluse.
1844 - 1894
Martha D. Byington Amadon (1834 - 1937)
Teacher. First Dorcas Society president. Taught in one of the first church schools.
Dr. Lottie Blake (1876 - 1972)
Physician, founder, missionary. First African-American Seventh-day Adventist woman physician. Established the school of nursing at Oakwood College; directed the Rock City Sanitarium. Helped to treat Ellen White. Missionary in Central America and the Caribbean with her physician husband.
Maud Sisley Boyd (1851 - 1937)
Bible instructor, colporteur, educator. First single woman missionary to Europe. Helped J. N. Andrews establish the publishing work in Europe and assisted J. N. Loughborough in pioneer tent evangelism in England. She married Charles L. Boyd; they were among the first missionaries in South Africa. Their daughter died and he became sick and died shortly after. Maud then went to Australia where she served as matron, preceptress, teacher, and Bible instructor. She continued her work in Loma Linda in retirement.
Nellie H. Rankin Druillard (1844 - 1937)
Financier, treasurer, founder. A teacher by training and experience, she was one of Adventism's most remarkable women and a particularly able financier. Served as the Nebraska Conference Tract Society Secretary. Later married Alma Druillard; they went to South Africa where she became treasurer and auditor of the conference. She helped found Madison College and served as its treasurer and fiscal advisor for twenty years. Also instrumental in establishing Emmanuel Missionary College, later known as Andrews University. At age 78, she helped found Riverside Sanitarium, singlehandedly organizing the institution and training its workers.
Sarepta Myrenda Irish Henry (1839-1900)
Temperance activist, personal evangelist, writer. While recuperating from an illness at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Mrs. S. M. I. Henry became a Seventh-day Adventist. She began to correspond with Ellen White, then in Australia. Mrs. White encouraged her to continue her public role with the Women's Christian Temperance Union and her interest in women. In 1898 Mrs. Henry established the first Women's Ministry at the General Conference. The General Conference voted her a ministerial license that year; she wrote a weekly column for the Review and Herald on women's ministry and duties. Unfortunately, she died two years later and her work was not continued for many years.
Maria L. Huntley (1847 - 1890)
Administrator, personal evangelist. President, Tract and Missionary Society, which later became Personal Ministries, the Publishing department, and the Adventist Book Centers. Only woman other than Ellen G. White to address the 1888 General Conference Session.
Dr. Katherine (Kate) Lindsey (1842 - 1923)
Physician, founder, missionary. Physician graduating at the head of her class from the University of Michigan with the second class that accepted female students. Founder of first nurses' training school at Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1883. Served 20 years at Battle Creek and then served at Claremont Sanitarium in South Africa. She practiced at the Colorado Sanitarium in Boulder until retirement.
Annie Rebekah Smith (1828 - 1855)
Early Advent hymn writer, editor. While the James Whites traveled, she published the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Annie was the older sister of Uriah Smith and the same age as Ellen White. Converted to Adventism by Joseph Bates in 1851. She died of tuberculosis.
Ellen G. White (1827 - 1915)
Early leader and prophetess of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She was a popular speaker, preacher, and counselor to individuals and institutions. Author of 126 books and compilations.
1895 - 1945
Ai Araki (1890 - 1982)
Japanese Bible worker, church leader. Although blind, she led and preserved her church throughout World War II, the only congregation in Japan to remain intact.
Dr. Gertrude Brown (1866 - 1948)
English physician, founder. Pioneered medical work in British Isles; with her husband, established sanitarium in Crieff, Scotland. Worked with J. Harvey Kellogg.
Georgia Burrus Burgess (1866 - 1948)
Educator, frontier missionary in India. Ministered for 40 years, especially to women. Opened a school in Calcutta. She was prepared to go to India as a missionary with only $1; fortunately, someone gave her $80 more. The first year she served alone as self-supporting missionary.
Lora E. Clement (1890 - 1958)
Associate editor and editor of Youth's Instructor for 41 years.
Dr. Eva Dykes (1893 - 1986)
Musician, educator for more than 50 years. First Seventh-day Adventist woman to receive a PhD in the United States, graduating from Radcliffe in 1921. Taught at Walden and Howard Universities and Oakwood College.
Anna L. Ingels Hindson (1862 - 1933)
Editor, union secretary/treasurer, missionary in Australia. Editor of the Missionary Leader for 18 years and Australasian Record for 34 years. Served the Australasian Union as departmental director for the Youth for eight years and director of the Sabbath School department for 30 years.
Louise Kleuser (1890 - 1976)
Bible worker, pastor, evangelist, editor, seminary professor. Conference departmental director of Education, GC Ministerial Association associate secretary, and an editor of Ministry magazine.
Anna Knight (1874 - 1972)
Nurse, educator, Bible worker. First African-American woman missionary, serving in India. Upon her return to the US, she served as conference and union departmental secretary. In 1940 she was appointed to the General Conference North American Negro Department. The daughter of ex-slave sharecroppers, she read herself into the Adventist faith through the Signs of the Times. Graduated in nursing from Battle Creek College in 1898. Built a self-supporting school for Blacks in Mississippi.
Ana Stahl (1870 - 1968)
Swedish nurse, educator. Pioneer missionary in South America with her husband for 29 years. Instrumental in establishing Indian church schools.
Marinda (Minnie) Day Sype (1869 - 1956)
Pastor, evangelist, licensed minister for 54 years. Conference departmental director for Home Missionary department. Served in Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Florida conferences, and the Bahamas.
1946 - 1996
Ana Rosa Alvarado
Cuban pastor, evangelist, educator, musician for 45 years. Raised many churches and reputedly preached in every congregation in Cuba.
Dr. Nancy Bassham
Thai educator converted from Buddhism and returned as a missionary to her people. First division departmental director for Family Life and Women's Ministries in the Asia-Pacific Division.
Dr. Lyn Behrens
Australian physician. First woman president of Loma Linda University and Medical Center.
Del Delker (1924 - 2018)
Contralto soloist for the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast with 70 recordings and 32 solo albums.
Chessie Harris (1906 - 1997)
Educator and humanitarian. More than 1,200 children have received care at the Harris Home in Huntsville, Alabama. Recognized in 1987 as one of America's Unsung Heroines, she was also honored by President George Bush.
Missionary nurse who, with her pilot husband, supplied the only medical care to thousands along the Amazon River for 38 years.
Betty Holbrook (1926 - 1996)
Teacher, author, missionary in South America. Chairperson of first General Conference Women's Ministries Advisory. Director of General Conference Home and Family Service and Assistant Director for Church Ministries.
Humanitarian, prayer warrior and speaker. Started New York City Van Ministry and Good News Network.
Elsa Luukkanen (1916 - 1996)
Very successful Finnish evangelist and pastor. She and other women carried especially heavy burdens during WWII when the male pastors were drafted. In 1968 the Finnish Union leaders inquired about the possibility of ordaining these women; this was one of the factors leading to the 1973 Mohaven meeting (See Margarete Prange).
First director of General Conference Women’s Ministries office and department, 1990-1996. General field secretary of the General Conference. Vice president for North American Division and Texas Conference.
German pastor and evangelist. Because of her effective leadership, young ministers often interned under her. Her success as a pastor led conference leaders to ask about ordaining her, one of the factors that led to calling the Council on the Role of Women in the Church at Camp Mohaven in 1973. A member of the 1989 Women's Commission.
Dr. Leona Running (1917 - 2016)
Professor of ancient languages at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary for more than 40 years. She knew 17 languages and taught most Adventist ministers who have passed through the seminary during those 40-plus years. She began her service for the church at Voice of Prophecy and as copy editor for Ministry magazine.
1997 - present
Flora Nwamaka Abaribe
Leader, mentor, educator, trainer. Responsible for helping destitute widows in Nigeria to have hope and a future, West-Central Africa Division.
Rosa Maria Taylor Banks, BS, MEd, EdD, LHD
Administrator, professor, speaker, writer, authority on diversity. First woman to serve as vice president of Oakwood College. General Conference associate secretary. Also served as general field secretary and officer of North American Division.
Miriam de Azevedo Berg
Educator, teacher, mentor, Children’s Ministries pioneer in South American Division. Frontier missionary in Mozambique under persecution. Dedicated her life to empower women to serve.
Agness Bakuluma Chirwa
Evangelist, teacher, mentor, entrepreneur, counselor. First volunteer Women’s Ministries director. Know in Zambia as ‘Mother General’ because of her leadership qualities, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division.
Bible worker, evangelist, counselor, writer. Women’s Ministries pioneer in the South Pacific Division.
Hong, Xiao Mei
Pastor and evangelist. Raised up 800-member church congregation and training facility for Adventist leaders in China, Northern-Asia Pacific Division.
Teacher, physiotherapist, counselor for victims of sexual abuse. Missionary in many countries. First director of Women’s Ministries in the Trans-European Division.
Teacher, evangelist, leader. Founder of adult literacy program in India, “Never Too Late to Learn,” helping more than 50,000 women and their families, Southern Asia Division.
Evangelist, writer. Union departmental director for Women’s and Children’s Ministries and Sabbath School. Ministers to dignitaries in Kenya, East-Central Africa Division.
Evangelist, preacher, church planter. Women’s Ministries pioneer in Russia. Through her more than 70 evangelistic programs, 3,038 people were baptized in Euro-Asia Division.
Evangelist, motivator, mentor. Pioneer in establishing Women’s Ministries, especially in German-speaking countries, Inter-European Division.
Esther Días Sablón
Educator. First woman president of Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary, Inter-American Division.
Registered nurse. First director of Women’s Ministries in North American Division and general field secretary of the division.
Leader, church elder, preacher, educator. Women’s Ministries pioneer in the Philippines. Served for 47 years in Southern Asia-Pacific Division.
Additional Biographies of SDA Women
Betty Ahnberg (Late 1900s)
"Aunt Sue" of the "Story Hour," Ahnberg pioneered in radio programming for children.
Minerva Jane Loughborough Chapman (1829 - 1923)
Began work as a typesetter at the Review and Herald Publishing Association. Later she was made secretary-treasurer of the Review and Herald Publishing Association until she was appointed Editor of Youth's Instructor. She worked at RHPA for 27 years. She served as General Conference treasurer from 1877-1883 and from 1885-1887 she was corresponding secretary of the General Conference. (Photo at left)
Fannie M. Dickerson Chase (1864 - 1956)
Editor of the Youth's Instructor from 1903 to 1922.
Grace Agnes Clark (1898 - 1955)
English missionary to East Africa, she helped re-establish Adventist missions after World War I. Appointed secretary-treasurer of Kenya Union Mission 1937-1942. An authority on the Luo language, she has done Bible translations that are still used today. Buried in Nairobi.
Marian Davis (1847 - 1904)
Helped Mrs. White in producing The Desire of Ages, The Great Controversy, The Ministry of Healing, Patriarchs and Prophets, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Christ's Object Lessons, and Steps to Christ. Mrs. White called her "my bookmaker."
Hattie Enoch (Late 1800s)
Licensed to preach in Kansas. GC President G. I. Butler, said, "Elder Cook (conference president) thinks she is a better laborer in such things than any minister in the state." She and her husband later pioneered the work in Bermuda.
Edith M. Graham (d. 1918)
When the Home Missionary department was first organized as a branch of the Publishing department, Miss Graham, treasurer of the Australasian Union Conference, was asked to lead it. When it became an independent General Conference department five years later, Graham was re-elected as secretary. She died a few months later.
Eva Perkins Miller Hankins (1858 - 1942)
Taught at Battle Creek 12 years; she and her husband were among the first to go to Africa as missionaries in the field of education. They taught at Claremont Union College (forerunner of Helderberg College); she served as bookkeeper, teacher, preceptress and matron. After her husband's death she married again. She then served as Indiana Conference Education director before she and her second husband returned to Africa, where she became Education director of the union and assistant editor of the South African Sentinel.
Hetty Hurd Haskell (1857 - 1919)
A teacher; became a missionary in England (1887-1892) and South Africa (1892-1897). In 1897 she met the widowed Stephen Haskell and accepted his proposal to go to Australia to marry him. Ellen White reported that she was one of the "lady carpenters" who got the men going when building on Avondale College was stalled. According to Ellen White, Hetty was a "woman of rare ability as a manager."
Dr. Florence Armstrong Keller (1875 - 1974)
Graduated in the first class from Walla Walla College and later from Kellogg's American Medical Missionary College. She became the first woman physician sent overseas when she and her doctor husband served together 19 years in New Zealand; she served as physician for the Maori royal family. Later, as a faculty member of the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda) she was influential in raising funds to build the White Memorial Medical Center. She continued doing surgery and seeing patients six days a week until she was 92.
Dr. Lauretta Eby Kress (1863 - 1955)
Mrs. Kress studied nursing under Dr. Kate Lindsay at Battle Creek and then she and her husband went on to graduate from medicine at the University of Michigan. At Battle Creek Sanitarium one of their patients was Mrs. S.M.I. Henry. The Kresses pioneered Adventist medical work in England. Later they gave seven years mission service to Australia and New Zealand before returning to the United States. When the Washington Sanitarium and Hospital opened, her husband was the first medical director and Dr. Lauretta was the first surgeon. She is said to have delivered more than 5,000 babies during her career.
Dr. Phoebe Lamson (mid-1800s)
One of two first physicians at Battle Creek Sanitarium.
Ellen S. Lane (1880s)
An evangelist with her husband, Ellen Lane became the first Adventist woman to receive a ministerial license. She is said to have been a more popular preacher than her husband.
Sara McEnterfer (1854 - 1936)
Worked on Mrs. White's staff over 33 years, helping with writing, editing and taking dictation.
Dr. Helen Luella Morton
Doctor and missionary to Thailand. Established hospital at Chiangmai. Lectured internationally on drug abuse and taught at Loma Linda. Murdered in Thailand while serving there.
Sarah Elizabeth Peck (1868 - 1968)
Worked on Ellen White's staff 10 years in Australia. Her work is still the backbone of the indexing system used in the White Estate. She was also principal of Claremont Union College in South Africa and taught at Union College. Served as Superintendent of Education in the California Conference and concluded her career in the GC Education department. She assisted in the preparation of the book Education and began writing the True Education Readers series.
Flora (Lorena Florence) Fait Plummer (1862 - 1945)
She led the General Conference Sabbath School Department for 23 years—longer than any other individual. Before that, in 1900, when the Iowa Conference President received a call, Mrs. Plummer became Iowa's Acting President. This was the only case of a woman holding such a position until the 1990's (see Phyllis Ware).
Lucy Post (1845 - 1937)
Served as a Bible worker in Minnesota, Dakota and Ohio Conferences. Single and 50 years of age, she became the first Adventist woman missionary to Uruguay, South America.
Mary Priest (1823 - 1889)
Elected the first secretary of the Vigilant Missionary Society in 1869 (later became the Tract and Missionary Society; see: Maria Huntley). During the 20-year period she wrote more than 6,000 missionary letters.
Associate treasurer, General Conference.
Adelia Patten Van Horn (1839 - 1922)
Helped care for the James and Ellen White children. Is credited with starting Bible lessons especially for children and youth in 1863. Was fourth editor of Youth's Instructor. From 1871 to 1873 she served as the fifth treasurer of the General Conference. (Photo at left)
Fredricka House Sisley (1852 - 1934)
General Conference treasurer, helped her husband found Union College; they became missionaries in England, South Africa, and Australia.
Jennie Thayer (1853 - 1940)
Was active in the Michigan Conference Tract Society and assisted J. N. Loughborough in editorial work in England. She then became the Atlantic Union Conference secretary-treasurer and auditor.
Mary Walsh (1890 - )
Preacher, pastor, Bible worker, trainer of pastors.
Executive secretary and treasurer of the Central States Conference who became interim president on the death of the president, Paul Monk, in the 1990's.
Lulu Wightman (Early 1900s)
She raised up 17 churches. Licensed to preach in 1898. Considered one of the denomination's most successful evangelists. Unfortunately, later she and her minister husband became discouraged and left the church.
Flora Harriet Lampson Williams (1865 - 1944)
Taught at Southwest Union College and headed three conference-level departments in Michigan: Education, Missionary Volunteer, and Sabbath School. In 1921 she became assistant secretary of the Education department at the General Conference. Edited Home and School magazine.
Much of the historical information is taken from Kit Watt's chapter, "Ellen White's Contemporaries: Significant Women in the Early Church" in A Woman's Place, edited by Rosa Taylor Banks; from Notable Women of Spirit by John G. Beach; and the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.