ANN JUDSON: THE FIRST FEMALE MISSIONARY FROM AMERICA
As we celebrate notable women during Women’s History Month, we are reminded each of these women was once a teenage girl. For many people, the teenage years are instrumental in shaping the course of their adult life. Ann Hasseltine, who later became Ann Judson, was no exception.
Born December 22, 1789, in Bradford, Massachusetts, Ann was the doted upon daughter of a wealthy family who provided her with an education. As a teenager, she enjoyed the entertainment of amusing balls and parties. Eventually the teenage Ann was impacted by reading John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. She began thinking about her spiritual condition and realized she needed a Savior. Ann faced the tension of trying to live a godly life when worldly enjoyments were pulling at her attention.
She realized she couldn’t do this without the Holy Spirit’s help and committed her life to Christ. At the age of 19, she knew she wanted to make her life count for something useful. She began praying for other nations, convinced God had called her to go.
At age 21, she met Adoniram Judson, who also sensed God’s call to go to the nations. When he proposed marriage, he knew he was asking her to subject herself “to every kind of distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death.” Ann searched her soul and prayed for God’s guidance before marrying Adoniram on February 5, 1812. And on February 18, the couple set sail for Burma. Ann and her female colleague, Harriet Newell, were “the first women to leave American shores for heathen lands as ambassadors of Christ.”
As the first female missionary sent out from America, Ann’s accomplishments are quite noteworthy. While in Burma, Ann helped her husband with Bible translation. She met with women for weekly prayer meetings. When Adoniram was imprisoned, Ann kept him alive at the risk of her own safety and health. She influenced people through her writing, encouraging them with her accounts from Burma and stirring a missionary zeal in others. The Lord called some who read her writing to serve Him in missions. Ann’s legacy extends well beyond the generation of her days.
As a result of her labor, sacrifice, and dedication to the Lord, Burmese Baptists now enjoy a rich legacy extending over 200 years. Several years ago, I had the privilege to trace Ann’s footsteps in Burma—to tread the trail she walked to where Adoniram was held in prison, to see the spot where she was buried in 1826, and to fellowship with the brothers and sisters we have in Christ as a result of her obedience.
Interested in learning more about Ann and other women leaders? Register now for the Christian Women’s Leadership Center course Women Leaders from the Past. This 30-day self-directed course begins April 1.
If you’d like to read more about Ann’s story and legacy, order A Life Beyond Boundaries: The Extraordinary Story of Ann Hasseltine Judson and Bless God and Take Courage: The Judson History and Legacy by Rosalie Hall Hunt.
Ena Redding* remembers the influence of women who mentored her in her teenage years. She is blessed to be part of this rich legacy as she plants her life in the Middle East. She blogs at EnaRedding.com.