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Adams, Hannah (02 October 1755–15 December 1831), historian of religions and writer, was born in Medfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Thomas Adams, Jr., a merchant of “English goods” and books, and Elizabeth Clark. She was a distant cousin of President John Adams. Adams lost her mother when she was eleven; her father remarried and had four more children with his second wife. Using the inheritance of her grandfather’s prosperous farm for capital, her father opened a store. By the time she was in her teens the business had failed and depleted the family’s resources to a level of need from which they would never recover. Although her father was never able to bring to his family any financial stability, he was able to share with his daughter an avid thirst for knowledge and his love of reading. In his youth, illness had prevented him from pursuing formal education, but, driven by personal ambition, he became extremely well read and mastered an exhaustive collection of facts....

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Alamo, Susan (25 April 1925–08 April 1982), independent Pentecostal minister and television and radio evangelist, was born Edith Opal Horn in Dyer, Arkansas, the daughter of Edward Horn and Geneva McAlster. Edith Horn converted from Judaism to evangelical Protestantism as a child. After some high school and a brief early marriage (to Tom Brown), she moved to Hollywood to try to make a career as an actress. There she met and, around 1940, married Solomon Lipowitz, with whom she had one daughter, known as Christhaon Susan. This marriage officially ended in 1966, though the couple had separated sometime before. As Susan Lipowitz she worked sporadically as an actress but mostly traveled around the country with her daughter as an evangelical minister and tent missionary. In 1965, while working as a street evangelist in Hollywood, she met Tony Alamo (born Bernie Lazar Hoffman in 1934), a talent promoter in the music business. She soon converted Alamo, who also was born Jewish, to her strand of Protestantism, and they were married in 1966, once in Tijuana and twice in Las Vegas, to be “triple sure.” It was the third marriage for both....

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Allen, Catherine (03 September 1851–05 June 1922), Shaker eldress, was born Minnie Catherine Allen in Patriot, Indiana, the daughter of John Allen, a clergyman and reformer, and Ellen Lazarus, a reformer. Allen was born on property purchased by her mother in hopes of establishing another socialistic community like Brook Farm. When no one agreed to engage in this experiment, the family moved in 1857 to the Modern Times Colony in Brentwood, Long Island. At the request of her mother, Allen was brought as a boarder to the North Family of Shakers in Mount Lebanon, New York, on 2 February 1865. Her reception into the Shaker society was somewhat unique because the Shakers rarely accepted children if both parents were alive and neither of them planned to join the community. No doubt Allen was accepted because of her parents’ long association with communities such as Brook Farm and because they were sympathetic to the Shakers....

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Angela, Mother (21 February 1824–04 March 1887), educator and religious sister, was born Eliza Marie Gillespie in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Purcell Gillespie, an attorney, and Mary Madeleine Miers. After the death of her father the family moved to Lancaster, Ohio, in 1838. Eliza was educated by Dominican nuns in Somerset and later attended the Ladies’ Academy of the Visitation in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C....

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Anthony, Sister (15 August 1814–08 December 1897), member of the Sisters of Charity and Civil War nurse, was born Mary O’Connell in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of William O’Connell and Catherine Murphy. After her mother’s death in about 1825, Mary and a sister emigrated to the United States, where they lived with an aunt in Maine. While still quite young, both girls were enrolled in the Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts....

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Antin, Mary (13 June 1881–15 May 1949), author, was born in Polotzk, Russia, the daughter of Israel Antin, a scholar and unsuccessful shopkeeper, and Esther Weltman. The assassination of Czar Alexander II three months before her birth unleashed a series of brutal pogroms and increased restrictions on the employment, residency, and education of Jews. These events formed the background of Antin’s childhood, a world she recalled as divided in two, between Polotzk and Russia, Jews and Gentiles, with the constant presence of anti-Semitism....

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Ashbridge, Elizabeth (1713–16 May 1755), Quaker minister and autobiographer, was born Elizabeth Sampson in Middlewich, Cheshire, England, the daughter of Thomas Sampson, a ship’s surgeon, and Mary (maiden name unknown). What little is known about Ashbridge’s life is elicited almost entirely from her brief but compelling autobiography, ...

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Avery, Martha Gallison Moore (06 April 1851–08 August 1929), lecturer and lay Catholic preacher, was born in Steuben, Maine, the daughter of Albion King Paris Moore, a house builder, and Katharine Leighton. She was educated in the village public school and then in a private dame school. When Martha was thirteen years old her mother died and she went to live with her grandfather, Samuel Moore, who was active in local and state politics. This atmosphere may have contributed to Martha’s future political interest. As a young woman she carried on a millinery business in Ellsworth, Maine, where she joined a Unitarian congregation. It was there that she met Millard Avery, a fellow church member. They were married in March 1880; they had one daughter. In 1888 Avery and her daughter moved to Boston to be closer to her husband, who was working as a traveling salesman. That year she joined the newly organized First Nationalist Club of Boston and wrote articles for its publication, ...

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Ayres, Anne (03 January 1816–09 February 1896), founder of the first Episcopal women's religious order, founder of the first Episcopal women’s religious order, was born in London, England, the daughter of Robert Ayres and Anne (maiden name unknown). She emigrated in 1836 with her mother to the United States and settled in New York City on the lower west side of Manhattan....

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Bailey, Alice Anne La Trobe-Bateman (16 June 1880–15 December 1949), founder of a spiritual movement growing out of the Theosophical tradition, was born in Manchester, England, the daughter of Frederic Foster La Trobe-Bateman, a prosperous engineer and member of a socially prominent family, and Alice Hollinshead. She spent major parts of her early life in Canada and Switzerland because of her father’s work. Her mother died when she was six; her father, when she was nine; thereafter she lived on the estate of her grandfather John Frederic La Trobe-Bateman, a wealthy and very well known engineer. She was unhappy as a child, despite mystical tendencies. Her religious upbringing was in the conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. After finishing school at eighteen, she worked from 1899 to 1907 for the Young Women’s Christian Association in a ministry to British troops, which included delivering highly evangelical sermons, first in Ireland and then in India. She met her future husband, Walter Evans, then a soldier, in India. They were married in 1907 in Britain. She then went with him to the United States, where he studied for the Episcopal priesthood in Cincinnati. After his ordination in 1910, they moved to Reedley, California, where he was given a church. They had three daughters. The marriage was not a success, however, and in 1915 they separated, divorcing in 1919. Alice retained custody of the children....

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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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Barker, Ruth Mildred (03 February 1897–25 January 1990), Shaker trustee, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of James P. Barker and Ruth Jackson. Her father died in 1903, and that year, unable to care for Mildred, her mother took her to the Alfred, Maine, community of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, informally known as the Shakers. Barker, who came to be known as Sister Mildred, grew up within the Alfred community, signed the covenant, and worked primarily as a caretaker of young girls. She moved to Sabbathday Lake, southwest of Lewiston, Maine, in 1931 with the consolidation of the two communities....

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Barnard, Hannah Jenkins (1754–27 November 1825), disowned Quaker minister, was born in Dutchess County, New York, the daughter of Valentine Jenkins and his wife (name unknown), farmers. Reared a Baptist in the Hudson River valley, Hannah Jenkins became a convinced Friend at the age of eighteen and in 1779 married a widower with three children, Peter Barnard, originally from the Nantucket Quaker community but then a struggling wagoner in Hudson; the couple was active in the local monthly meeting. They had no children together....

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See Becker, Abraham Jacob

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Bennett, Belle Harris (03 December 1852–20 July 1922), church and ecumenical leader, was born Isabel Harris Bennett on the family plantation, “Homelands,” in Madison County near Richmond, Kentucky, the daughter of Samuel Bennett and Elizabeth Chenault. Belle (as she preferred) was reared in a cultured and affluent but strict Methodist household. Her parents were descendant from early Virginia and Maryland settlers. Her paternal grandfather had migrated to Madison County around 1790 and was known as “Honest John Bennett,” a Methodist itinerant, who supported himself as a farmer and tailor. Isabel Harris, her maternal grandmother, had migrated from Virginia and was related to the Chenaults, a French Huguenot family that had fled to British America to avoid religious persecution. Belle was the younger of two daughters in a family of eight children, all of whom attended the local county school. At age eleven Belle entered a private school conducted by Robert Breck, a Presbyterian minister. Next she attended Nazareth, a Catholic school, near Bardstown, then furthered her training at College Hill, Ohio. As a student she was proficient in belles lettres and the classics but as both an avid reader, especially of history, and a world traveler she continued her education throughout life. In 1916 Kentucky Wesleyan College conferred on her an honorary LL.D....

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Bennett, M. Katharine Jones (28 November 1864–11 April 1950), philanthropist and church leader, was born in Englewood, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Jones and Winifred Davies, natives of North Wales. Her father was a prosperous builder. Her first name was Mary, but she was known as Katharine and tended to use just an initial for her first name. Entering Elmira College in Elmira, New York, in 1881, she graduated four years later with an almost perfect academic record. After teaching in both public and private schools in her native Englewood, she was drawn into social and religious service. In 1894 she was named national secretary of young people’s work for the Woman’s Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), commuting to its New York City office. During this period she also became a member of the governing board of the College Settlements Association, organized in 1890 by graduates of several eastern women’s colleges in an effort to advance the growing settlement house movement....

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Bingham, Sybil Moseley (14 September 1792–27 February 1848), missionary and teacher, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, the eldest child of Pliny Moseley and Sophia Pomeroy. Both parents had died by the time Sybil was nineteen, and she supported her three younger sisters by accepting teaching positions in Hartford, Connecticut; Canandaigua, New York; and Ontario Female Seminary. Invited by friends, she attended the ordination ceremony of ...

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Blackwell, Antoinette Louisa Brown (20 May 1825–05 November 1921), minister, reformer, and author, was born in Henrietta, New York, the daughter of Joseph Brown, a farmer and justice of the peace, and Abigail Morse. Antoinette proved a precocious child, following her older siblings to school at the age of three. The preaching of evangelist ...

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Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (31 July 1831–08 May 1891), major occult writer and cofounder of the Theosophical Society, was born Helena de Hahn in Ekaterinoslav (later Dnepropetrovsk) in the Ukraine, the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn and Helena Pavlovna Fadeev. Both parents were of aristocratic stock. Her father, of German descent, was an artillery officer, and her mother was a popular novelist whose stories inevitably turned on the sufferings of women at the hands of callous men. Much of Helena’s childhood was spent on the estates of her maternal grandfather, a provincial governor. Helena was a strong-willed, imaginative child who would sometimes hide from household members for hours and on other occasions make up exceedingly elaborate stories....

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Boardman, Sarah Hall (04 November 1803–01 September 1845), Baptist missionary and translator, was born in Alstead, New Hampshire, the daughter of Ralph Hall and Abiah O. Hall (her maiden name). Sarah learned Latin, read widely in Christian apologetics and philosophy, and taught school for a time. She was also a writer and poet, and as the eldest of thirteen children, she helped to raise her siblings. Sarah converted to the Christian faith at age sixteen and was baptized by Lucius Bolles, a Baptist pastor in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1825 she married the Reverend George Dana Boardman; they had three children. The couple then accepted a missionary assignment with the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions in Burma. Temporarily detained in Calcutta, India, due to the Burmese War, they arrived in Moulmain in 1827 and settled in Tavoy in 1828. In 1831 George died, and Boardman was left with her children in Tavoy, which was under military siege....