Christian Women That Made a Difference

Question
Denominations aside, we often read of men in church history. But what about women that made a difference? Please list some women of different denominations and their contributions to church history from ancient and modern church history.
Answer
Books abound from multiple denominations (thousands of them) with names of women who have made a difference in Christianity's history. I'm sure there are as many more that never made it into a book (but are in "the" book) who furthered the kingdom of God. Below are some illustrations from Mary Hammack's A Dictionary of Women in Church History (electronic ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997, c1984).

AGATHA (c. 225 - 251), a Christian woman of Sicily with unusual beauty. Quintain, the pagan governor of Sicily, was greatly attracted to her and attempted to seduce her. She tried to relocate so as not to be seen by him, but she was discovered and brought to Catana. Realizing her circumstances, she prayed for death. In a further attempt to gratify his desires, the governor assigned Agatha to a licentious woman, Aphrodica, who tried to persuade Agatha to give in to prostitution. All such efforts were wasted, and Agatha's Christian testimony remained firm. This caused Quintain great resentment, especially when Agatha spoke so clearly of her Christian faith. The governor was determined to have his revenge and had Agatha scourged, burned with red-hot irons, torn with sharp hooks, and finally laid naked on live coals intermingled with glass. She died as a result of that torture on February 5, 251.

AGAPE (c. 272 - 304), one of three sisters martyred for her Christian stand. All three sisters lived in Thessalonica. They were instructed in the Christian faith and doctrines but were warned to remain unknown and to live in seclusion and prayer. Agape, along with her sisters, were discovered and examined before the governor, Dulcatius. During the questioning her Christian testimony was firm, indicating that she could not comply with laws that enforced the worship of idols and devils. This angered the governor, and he condemned her to death. She was martyred on March 25, 304.

ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY (1207 - 1231), daughter of King Andrew II of Pozsony and Gertrude, daughter of Berchtbld. She came from a long line of Christians and was reared in Wartburg Castle near Marburg in Hesse. As a young child she was betrothed to Louis IV of Thuringia; they were married when he was twenty-one and she was fourteen. He died during a crusade about six years later, and she was left a widow with three children. She is especially remembered for her dedication to God and her compassion for the ill and poor. She literally gave away her wealth for benevolent causes. She built a home for lepers near Wartburg Castle; during famine, opened soup kitchens; and sold many of her own jewels to provide necessities for the needy. Louis had requested his brother care for her should he be killed in the war. But the brother took advantage of the situation and even requested her to leave the palace. The Crusaders came to her rescue and required her brother-in-law to return power to her son that he might succeed his father. On Good Friday in 1228, she took vows of the third Order of St. Francis and became the first Franciscan tertiary in Germany. She served the lepers and the poor, denying herself. She died of exhaustion within four years. A chapel was erected in her honor.

ELIZABETH OF BRANDENBURG (1485 - 1545), a Danish princess with an outstanding Christian testimony and credited with introducing Lutheranism to Denmark. In 1505 she was married to Joachim I, Elector of Brandenburg, who did not favor the Reformers. However, she remained steadfast in her faith. It is recorded that while her husband was away, she had Protestant services in the palace and took communion. When her husband learned of it, he threatened her with "imprisonment" in a nunnery. She disguised herself as a servant and fled from her palace and went to the palace of her uncle, John the Constant, Elector of Saxony, where she knew she would be safe there; later she was given residence in the Castle of Lichtenburg, near Wittenberg. There she could freely study the Scriptures and serve the Lord openly. Martin Luther visited her frequently. Her husband remained a Roman Catholic and died in 1535. Her household servants were all required to attend chapel services daily, and sometimes she would read chapters from the Bible to them. Her son succeeded his father as Elector Joachim II and became a Protestant.

BARKER, LILLIE EASTERBY (1865 - 1925), a native of Richmond, Virginia, and a graduate of the Chester Female Institute. She married John Alexander Barker in 1888. They went to Brazil as missionaries but had to return because of her health. She is remembered for her work and leadership in the Women's Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention. During her leadership she established the Margaret Home Fund and the promotion of missionary education for youth.

DEDERER, ANNA (1902 - 1976), pioneer missionary evangelist and nurse in the Micronesian Islands. Born in Boeckingen, Germany, she took some of her medical training in Lohr, Hagen, and Tilbingen, Germany. She was at the Liebenzeller Mission Seminary in Germany from 1925 to 1929. After she came to the United States, she attended the Andover-Newton Theological Seminary, the University of Hawaii, and the Pacific School of Religion. Ordained in 1949, she taught religion in public and secondary schools in five villages on Kusaie; worked with several pastors there; held hospital chapel services; organized programs for youth camps; and taught Bible classes for youth and women under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Her service in the Micronesian Islands included church and school responsibilities on the Mortlock Islands; a girls training school on Truk for eight years under the Liebenzeller Mission; at Majuro of the Marshall Islands; in the Caroline Islands; and elsewhere in the same general area.

These are but a very small sampling of women that have made a difference. See also some longer articles on other woman that made an impact on our history from J. H. Alexander (also well known for her books More Than Notion and Ladies of the Reformation).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).