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Ballard, Edna Anne Wheeler (25 June 1886–10 February 1971), and Guy Warren Ballard (28 July 1878–29 December 1939), controversial founders of the "I Am" movement, controversial founders of the “I Am” movement, were born, respectively, in Burlington, Iowa, and Newton, Kansas. Edna was the daughter of Edward G. Wheeler, reportedly a railway clerk, and Anna Hewitt Pearce; Guy the son of a farmer, Josephus Ballard, and Phebe Jane Leigh. “I Am” was a religious movement that grew at a phenomenal rate in the 1930s, became the subject of a celebrated fraud case and a landmark freedom of religion decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1940s, and has since held a modest but continuing place in American spiritual life....

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Ripley, Sophia Willard Dana (06 July 1803–04 February 1861), Transcendentalist and early feminist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the daughter of Francis Dana, Jr., and Sophia Willard Dana. The eldest of four children, Sophia Dana grew up in an atmosphere of alternating uncertainty and stability. Her straying father, a black sheep son of the illustrious and prosperous Dana flock, which included a chief justice, lawyers, professors, seafarers, and merchants, was frequently “out west or away somewhere.” Her mother was from the academic Willard family, which included a Harvard College president and any number of influential liberal-thinking ministers. From early in her youth, Sophia was probably aware of her immediate family’s precarious financial arrangements. Because of her father’s irresponsible spending habits, her mother pragmatically opened a school in her Willard family home, “Fay House” (which stood on the edge of the grounds of Harvard College), where Sophia and her only sister, Mary Elizabeth Dana, later taught. In time, her grandfather largely disowned his namesake son for creating so many debts, noting in his will that while he was leaving him “one hundred dollars and no more” as his share of the family estate, he was bequeathing one sixth of his fortune to his grandchildren, with the provision that his son have no stake in the money. Sophia Dana’s share of that inheritance seems not to have substantially eased her later straitened circumstances, but her growing years in Fay House were comfortable and promising....

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Rose, Ernestine (13 January 1810–04 August 1892), freethinker, reformer, and feminist, was born Ernestine Louise Siismondi Potowski in Piotrkow, Poland, the only child of an orthodox rabbi and his wife. Although the Jewish religion discouraged female education, Ernestine was well educated and could read Hebrew and the Scriptures; as an adolescent, however, she rejected Judaism because of its second-class treatment of women. When Ernestine was sixteen years old her mother died, leaving her a considerable inheritance. Her father used this inheritance as a dowry, promising Ernestine’s hand in marriage to a much older man. Ernestine resisted and successfully argued her case before a Polish court to nullify the contract, an unprecedented move for a young Jewish woman before a Christian court. The same year her father married a sixteen-year-old woman, making Ernestine uncomfortable in the family house, and she left Poland in 1827....

Article

Tingley, Katherine Augusta Westcott (06 July 1847–11 July 1929), founder of the utopian Point Loma Theosophical community in San Diego, California, was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the daughter of James P. L. Westcott, a lumber merchant and later hotel keeper, and Susan Ordway Chase. Little is known of Tingley’s early life, save that she attended a Congregational church and was married twice (to Richard Henry Cook in 1867, divorced after two months, and to George W. Parent around 1880, divorced after several years) before marrying Philo Tingley in 1888. At one point she may have acted with a stock company; in any case, she had a flair for the dramatic, and drama was a strong interest of hers. She also became interested in Spiritualism....

Article

White, Alma Bridwell (16 June 1862–26 June 1946), evangelist and founder of the Pillar of Fire denomination, was born Mollie Alma Bridwell in Lewis County, Kentucky, the daughter of William Bridwell, a farmer and tanner, and Mary Ann Harrison. Raised a Methodist, Alma joined a local congregation at age twelve and underwent a conversion experience four years later in which she felt the call to preach. After attending the Female Seminary in Vanceburg, Kentucky, for a year, she enrolled at Millersburg (Ky.) Female College in 1880. After teaching school in Millersburg for a year, Alma accepted an aunt’s offer to move to Bannack, Montana, a mining town seventy miles south of Butte. Between 1882 and 1886 she held a series of teaching positions. In 1887 she married Kent White, a young Methodist preacher from West Virginia, whom she had met four years earlier; they had two sons....