Timeline of women's ordination in the United States

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This is a timeline of women's ordination in America.

  • 1815: Clarissa Danforth was ordained in New England. She was the first woman ordained by the Free Will Baptist denomination.
  • 1853: Antoinette Brown Blackwell[1] was ordained by a church belonging to the Congregationalist Church.[2] However, her ordination was not recognized by the denomination.[3] She later quit the church and became a Unitarian;[3] in 1878, the American Unitarian Association recognized her as a minister.[4] The Congregationalists later merged with others to create the United Church of Christ, which ordains women.[3][5]
  • 1861: Mary A. Will was the first woman ordained in the Wesleyan Methodist Connection by the Illinois Conference in the United States. The Wesleyan Methodist Connection eventually became the Wesleyan Church.[6]
  • 1863: Olympia Brown was ordained by the Universalist denomination in 1863, the first woman ordained by that denomination, in spite of a last-moment case of cold feet by her seminary which feared adverse publicity.[7] After a decade and a half of service as a full-time minister, she became a part-time minister in order to devote more time to the fight for women's rights and universal suffrage.[3] In 1961, the Universalists and Unitarians joined to form the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).[8] The UUA became the first large denomination to have a majority of female ministers.[3]
  • 1866: Helenor M. Davison was ordained as a deacon by the North Indiana Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church, probably making her the first ordained woman in the Methodist tradition.
  • 1871: Celia Burleigh was ordained by the first Unitarian congregation in Connecticut in Brooklyn, Connecticut.
  • 1878: Antoinette Brown's ordination recognized by the American Unitarian Association (see 1853, above).
  • 1878: Abigail (Abbie) Ellsworth Danforth was ordained by the Ohio Universalist Convention.[9] She served Universalist churches in Ohio, including churches in Kent, Peru, Flint, Huntington, Bryan, Margaretta, and Le Roy, and was active in the Ohio Women's Missionary Society. In 1902, she moved to Tacoma, Washington, and served as minister of the Universalist Society until 1904. She also became Vice President of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association[10]
  • 1880: Anna Howard Shaw was the first woman ordained in the Methodist Protestant Church, an American church which later merged with other denominations to form the United Methodist Church.[11]
  • 1889: The Nolin Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church ordained Louisa Woosley as the first female minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, USA.[12]
  • 1889: Ella Niswonger was the first woman ordained in the American United Brethren Church, which later merged with other denominations to form the American United Methodist Church, which has ordained women with full clergy rights and conference membership since 1956.[13]
  • 1922: The Jewish Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis stated that "...woman cannot justly be denied the privilege of ordination."[14] However, the first woman in Reform Judaism to be ordained (Sally Priesand) was not ordained until 1972[15]
  • 1930: A predecessor church of the Presbyterian Church (USA) ordained its first female as an elder.[3]
  • 1956: The Presbyterian Church (USA) ordained its first female minister, Margaret Towner.[16]
  • 1964: Addie Davis became the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained.[17] However, the Southern Baptist Convention stopped ordaining women in 2000, although existing female pastors are allowed to continue their jobs.[3]
  • 1965: Rachel Henderlite became the first woman ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the United States; she was ordained by the Hanover Presbytery in Virginia.[18][19]
  • 1970: On November 22, 1970, Elizabeth Alvina Platz became the first woman ordained by the Lutheran Church in America, and as such was the first woman ordained by any Lutheran denomination in America.[20] The first woman ordained by the American Lutheran Church, Barbara Andrews, was ordained in December 1970.[21] On January 1, 1988 the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which continues to ordain women.[22]
  • 1972: Freda Smith became the first female minister to be ordained by the Metropolitan Community Church.[23]
  • 1972: Sally Priesand became the first female rabbi to be ordained in Reform Judaism, and also the first female rabbi in the world to be ordained by any theological seminary.[15]
  • 1974: Sandy Eisenberg Sasso became the first female rabbi to be ordained in Reconstructionist Judaism.[24]
  • 1974: The Philadelphia Eleven were ordained into the Priesthood of the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A.[25]
  • 1975: Barbara Ostfeld-Horowitz was ordained as the first female cantor in Reform Judaism.[26]
  • 1976: Venerable Karuna Dharma became the first fully ordained female member of the Buddhist monastic community in the U.S.[27]
  • 1977: Pauli Murray became the first African American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1977.[28]
  • 1977: On January 1, 1977, Jacqueline Means became the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.[29] 11 women were "irregularly" ordained to the priesthood in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, before church laws were changed to permit women's ordination.[25] They are often called the "Philadelphia 11". Church laws were changed on September 16, 1976.[25]
  • 1978: Lauma Lagzdins Zusevics, an American, was ordained as the first woman to serve as a full-time minister for the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.[30]
  • 1978: Mindy Jacobsen became the first blind woman to be ordained as a cantor in the history of Judaism.[31]
  • 1979: The Reformed Church in America started ordaining women as ministers.[32] Women had been admitted to the offices of deacon and elder in 1972.[3]
  • 1981: Lynn Gottlieb became the first female rabbi to be ordained in the Jewish Renewal movement.[33]
  • 1985: Amy Eilberg became the first female rabbi to be ordained in Conservative Judaism.[34]
  • 1987: Erica Lippitz and Marla Rosenfeld Barugel were ordained as the first female cantors in Conservative Judaism.[35]
  • 1993: Rebecca Dubowe became the first Deaf woman to be ordained as a rabbi in the United States.[36]
  • 1993: Leslie Friedlander became the first female cantor ordained by the Academy for Jewish Religion (New York).[37][38]
  • 1994: Lia Bass was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, thus becoming the first Latin-American female rabbi in the world as well as the first woman from Brazil to be ordained as a rabbi.[39][40][41][42]
  • 1995: The Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park, Maryland, ordained three women in violation of the denomination's rules - Kendra Haloviak, Norma Osborn, and Penny Shell.[43]
  • 1999: Beth Lockard was ordained as the first Deaf pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.[44][45]
  • 1999: Tamara Kolton was ordained as the first rabbi of either sex (and therefore, because she was female, the first female rabbi) in Humanistic Judaism.[33]
  • 1999: Angela Warnick Buchdahl, born in Seoul, Korea,[46] became the first Asian-American person to be ordained as a cantor in the world when she was ordained by HUC-JIR, an American seminary for Reform Judaism.[47]
  • 2000: Helga Newmark, born in Germany, became the first female Holocaust survivor ordained as a rabbi. She was ordained in America.[48][49]
  • 2001: Angela Warnick Buchdahl, born in Seoul, Korea,[46] became the first Asian-American person to be ordained as a rabbi in the world; she was ordained by HUC-JIR, an American seminary for Reform Judaism.[47]
  • 2001: Deborah Davis was ordained as the first cantor of either sex (and therefore, since she was female, the first female cantor) in Humanistic Judaism; however, Humanistic Judaism has since stopped graduating cantors.[50]
  • 2002: Sharon Hordes was ordained as the very first cantor in Reconstructionist Judaism. Therefore, since she was a woman, she became their first female cantor.[51]
  • 2006: Susan Wehle was ordained as the first American female cantor in Jewish Renewal in 2006; however, she died in 2009.[52]
  • 2006: For the first time in American history, a Buddhist ordination was held where an American woman (Sister Khanti-Khema) took the Samaneri (novice) vows with an American monk (Bhante Vimalaramsi) presiding. This was done for the Buddhist American Forest Tradition at the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center in Missouri.
  • 2009: Alysa Stanton, born in Cleveland and ordained by a Reform Jewish seminary in Cincinnati, became the world's first black female rabbi.[53]
  • 2009: On July 19, 2009, 11 women received smicha (ordination) as kohanot from the Kohenet Institute, based at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, becoming their first priestess ordainees.[54]
  • 2010: The first American women to be ordained as cantors in Jewish Renewal after Susan Wehle's ordination were Michal Rubin and Abbe Lyons, both ordained on January 10, 2010.
  • 2010: In Northern California, 4 novice nuns were given the full bhikkhuni ordination in the Thai Therevada tradition, which included the double ordination ceremony. Bhante Gunaratana and other monks and nuns were in attendance. It was the first such ordination ever in the Western hemisphere.[55] The following month, more full ordinations were completed in Southern California, led by Walpola Piyananda and other monks and nuns. The bhikkhunis ordained in Southern California were Lakshapathiye Samadhi (born in Sri Lanka), Cariyapanna, Susila, Sammasati (all three born in Vietnam), and Uttamanyana (born in Myanmar).
  • 2010: With the October 16, 2010, ordination of Margaret Lee, in the Peoria-based Diocese of Quincy, Illinois, women have been ordained as priests in all 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States.[56]
  • 2010: Sara Hurwitz, an Orthodox Jewish woman born in South Africa, was given the title of "rabbah" (sometimes spelled "rabba"), the feminine form of rabbi. As such, she is considered by some to be the first female Orthodox rabbi.[57][58]
  • 2011: The Evangelical Presbyterian Church's 31st General Assembly voted to allow congregations to call women to ordained ministry, even if their presbytery (governing body) objects for theological or doctrinal reasons. Such congregations will be allowed to leave the objecting presbytery (such as the Central South, which includes Memphis) and join an adjacent one that permits the ordination of women.[59]
  • 2011: The American Catholic Church in the United States, ACCUS, ordained their first woman priest, Kathleen Maria MacPherson, on June 12, 2011. She is now the pastor of the St. Oscar Romero Pastoral and Outreach Center in El Paso, Texas / Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.[60]
  • 2012: Ilana Mills was ordained, thus making her, Jordana Chernow-Reader, and Mari Chernow the first three female siblings in America to become rabbis.[61]
  • 2012: Christine Lee was ordained as the Episcopal Church's first female Korean-American priest.[62]
  • 2014: Fanny Sohet Belanger, born in France, was ordained in America and thus became the first French female priest in the Episcopal Church.[63]
  • 2015: The Rabbinical Council of America passed a resolution which states, "RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh in an Orthodox institution."[64]
  • 2017: The Orthodox Union adopted a policy banning women from serving as clergy, from holding titles such as "rabbi", or from doing common clergy functions even without a title, in its congregations in the United States.[65]


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