Through the Front Doors: Methodist Women's Journey Toward Ordination

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Maggie Van Cott

Mary Fletcher and Maggie Van Cott

John Wesley appointed Mary Fletcher as a class leader when she was eighteen years old. At twenty-one, she was thrown from her parents' house because of her faith, and moved away. Both in her new location and all around England she preached at public meetings. She also took orphans into her home and adopted one, Sarah Lawrance.

Sarah Lawrance began preaching at age sixteen. The account of her life, written by Mary Fletcher is open to a quote about Sarah's preaching, and reads, "Her method was, after singing and prayer, to read some life, experience, or some awakening author, stopping now and then, to explain and apply it as the Lord gave her utterance.

One pioneering American Methodist preacher was Margaret Newton Van Cott. Born in 1830, she experienced her call to preach and eventually devoted all her time to evangelistic work. She was licensed as a preacher in the New York conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and held revival meetings across the country, from Boston, to San Francisco, Milwaukee to New Orleans. The final chapters of her biography argue for the ordination of women, and quote 62 newspapers articles about Maggie Van Cott.

A large portion of this text was taken with permission from the book Courageous Past, Bold Future: The Journey toward Full Clergy Rights for Women in The United Methodist Church by Patricia Thompson, published in 2006 by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The narration for the audio portion of the exhibit was read by Elizabeth Luton Cook of Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

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Exhibit Items
(Click thumbnails for a larger view)

Life of Mrs. Mary Fletcher Life of Mrs. Mary Fletcher (London: James Nichols, 1817)
The biography of Mary Fletcher is compiled from her diary and her correspondence. In her writings, she tells of for her work with orphans and as a class leader.
1817 MOOR Special Collections

Prayers of Susanna Wesley Account of Sarah Lawrance (London: Thomas Cordeux, 1820)
Written by Mary Fletcher about her adopted daughter, this book is open to her description of Sarah Lawrance´┐Żs preaching: "Her method was, after singing and prayer, to read some life, experience, or some awakening author, stopping now and then, to explain and apply it as the Lord gave her utterance."
1820 FLET A Special Collections

The Harvest and the Reaper The Harvest and the Reaper: Reminiscences of Revival Work of Mrs. Maggie N. Van Cott, the first lady licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States (New York: N. Tibbals and Sons, 1876)
This biography of Maggie Van Cott recounts her attempts to be ordained and her many revival meetings. These revivals were held across the country, from Boston, to San Francisco, Milwaukee to New Orleans. The final chapters argue for the ordination of women, and quote 62 newspapers articles about Maggie Van Cott.
BV3785 .V3 A3

Praise Book Mrs. Van Cott's Praise Book used at her Gospel Meetings (Boston: Ditson and Co., 1877)
Compiled and used by Maggie Van Cott at her revival meetings. The first hymn is written by Van Cott.
1877 COTT A

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