Friday, June 29, 2012

Three Missionary Wives: The Martyr, the Heroine, the Forgotten

The motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or school master, ought to be "devoted for life." –Adoniram Judson

Although five young men were commissioned as missionaries on February 6, 1812, considerable interest was concentrated on the three young wives who were so publicly expanding expectations of the role and capabilities of women in missions. Prevented by cold weather, distance and preparations for her imminent marriage to Samuel Nott, Roxana Peck of Franklin, Connecticut was the only one unable to attend the ordination at Salem.
Roxana was twenty-seven years old at the time she married Samuel Nott the week after the Salem commissioning service. Ann "Nancy" Hasseltine Judson of Bradford, Massachusetts was twenty-three and had married Adoniram the day before the commissioning. The darling of the three was Harriet Atwood of Haverill, Massachusetts – beautiful, delicate and only eighteen years old. She married Samuel Newell just days after the commissioning.
After their departure for India on two different ships, the lives of the first three missionary women, intertwined by fate and the public imagination, took surprisingly different turns. Each in her own way became a model for the practice of women in mission. United at first by circumstances, by similar spiritual experience, and by shared goals, the lives of Harriet, Ann and Roxana demonstrated how a range of hard realities could reshape mission theory and dictate practice.


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