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Famous Christian Women Who Changed the Modern World

As parents, it’s good to teach our children about heroic people who have shined the light of truth in their generations. Here is a list of some of great women from the past two centuries who made an impact on their world – and who can serve as role models for us today.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

In our ever-changing world, we face major challenges requiring ingenuity, diplomacy, cooperation, and peaceful solutions. Today, more than ever, we need godly women and men who will walk in faith, listen for God’s voice, and move with the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is nothing new. In every generation, God has raised up people of faith to bring answers to pressing problems. We are fortunate to have the legacy of famous Christian women to look to for inspiration and instruction today.

Teaching Your Kids About Women Leaders

As parents, it’s good to teach our children about heroic people who have shined the light of truth in their generations. Here is a list of some of great women from the past two centuries who made an impact on their world – and who can serve as role models for us today.

Sojourner Truth

Born a slave in New York in 1797, her name was Isabella Baumfree. She spoke only Dutch until she was sold at the age of 9. In 1827, she escaped into Canada where she remained until the state of New York abolished slavery. Returning to America as a domestic servant, she helped with Elijah Pierson’s street corner preaching. In 1843, she heard “a voice from heaven” and began spreading “God’s truth and plan for salvation.” Convinced that God had called her to leave the city and go into the countryside, “testifying the hope that was in her,” Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843.

During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army. After the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. She continued to fight for equality and civil rights on behalf of women and African Americans until her death.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The seventh of 12 children of Lyman Beecher, a Congregationalist minister, revivalist, and reformer. Stowe’s book, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ opened the eyes to many about the harsh conditions faced by African American slaves, stirring the controversy over slavery and helping many to see it as an evil institution.  When she visited the White House, President Abraham Lincoln greeted the author with the words, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

Stowe averaged nearly a book a year, but Uncle Tom’s Cabin remained her legacy. Stowe also published a small volume of religious poems and gave public readings from her writings. Even one of her harshest critics acknowledged that it was “perhaps the most influential novel ever published, a verbal earthquake, an ink-and-paper tidal wave.”

Harriet Tubman

An escaped slave who courageously became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman led enslaved people to freedom before the Civil War. During this time, Harriet lived with a bounty on her head. In the midst of her remarkable life, she also served as a nurse, a Union spy, and a women’s suffrage supporter. In 1863, Harriet became head of an espionage and scout network for the Union Army. She provided vital information about Confederate Army movements. She also organized liberated slaves to form Black Union regiments. In 1896, Harriet purchased land adjacent to her home and opened the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People.

Women of the Bible

Strengthen your daughter or granddaughter’s faith with this creative, hands-on devotional

Susan B. Anthony

The Anthony family was Quaker, with a long history of social justice and antislavery activism. Susan B. Anthony dedicated her life to women’s rights and suffrage, having learned the traits of fairness and justice in her godly family. She raised up the banner for the abolition of slavery, the right of women to own property and to attend higher learning, and the right of women to vote. Anthony resisted the pressure to secularize the women’s moment, “knowing it would take both the religious and the irreligious to change society.”

Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael first worked in Japan, then Ceylon, but her main life’s work was in southern India. She adopted Indian clothing and preached the Gospel to all who would listen, leading many women to Christ. Amy lived among the Indian women who had been persecuted after being converted to Christ from Hinduism. When Amy or ‘Amma’ (which means mother) learned about childhood prostitution and trafficking of children in the name of Hinduism, she first began to take in girls, and then boys, creating a refuge for children. Working with other Indian women, Amy created a large hostel and a hospital for children. She founded the Dohhnavur Mission where she helped to save thousands of children out of prostitution. Despite constant opposition, her tireless labors as a social reformer led to the law in India being changed to protect children from trafficking and prostitution.

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom and her family helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and helped to save nearly 800 lives. The entire ten Boom family became active in the Dutch resistance, risking their lives by harboring those hunted by the Gestapo. Some fugitive Jews hid in their home for only a few hours. Others stayed several days until another “safe house” could be located. Betrayed by another Dutch citizen, the entire family was imprisoned, including Corrie’s 84-year-old father, who soon died under horrible conditions.

Corrie and her sister Betsie were moved to Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie died there on December 16, 1944. Twelve days later, Corrie was released due to a clerical error. Corrie returned to the Netherlands after the war and set up a rehabilitation center for concentration camp survivors. To recognize the efforts of the Ten Boom family to hide Jews from arrest by the Nazis, Corrie ten Boom received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on December 12, 1967. To recognize the efforts of the Ten Boom family to hide Jews from arrest by the Nazis, Corrie ten Boom received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on December 12, 1967. In 1946, she began a worldwide ministry that allowed her to share the message of God’s love in more than 60 countries.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Louise Parks was nationally recognized as the “mother of the modern-day civil rights movement” in America. On December 1, 1955, she refused to surrender her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, triggering a wave of civil disobedience. These nonviolent protests soon reverberated throughout the United States. In her autobiography, My Story, she wrote of the incident: “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” Her courageous act gave fuel to the Civil Rights Movement and helped to change the course of history.

Aimee Semple McPherson

From Los Angeles in 1919, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson launched a series of meetings – and her amazing oratory gifts catapulted her to national fame. Within a year, America’s largest auditoriums could not hold the crowds that gathered to hear this woman preacher – an amazing phenomenon since many churches did not support female ministers at the time. On January 1, 1923, McPherson dedicated Angelus Temple, which held up to 5,300 worshipers.

During the depression, the Angelus Temple Commissary provided food, clothing, and other necessities to needy families without charge. In the 1940s, McPherson began preaching across the country again. In September of 1944, she addressed 10,000 people in the Oakland Auditorium. She died the next day of kidney failure and the effects of the mixture of prescription drugs she had been taking. Her legacy is the denomination she founded, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, with more than 2 million members in nearly 30,000 churches worldwide.

Mother Teresa

At the age of eighteen, moved by a desire to become a missionary, Gonxha Agnes left her home in Albania in September of 1928 to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland. Entering into her calling, she received the name Sister Mary Teresa. In January of 1929, she arrived in Calcutta, India and began teaching at St. Mary’s School for girls. On May 24, 1937, Sister Teresa made her Final Profession of Vows, becoming, as she said, the “spouse of Jesus” for “all eternity.” From that time on she was called Mother Teresa. After a short course with the Medical Mission Sisters in Patna, Mother Teresa returned to Calcutta and started caring for the poor.

Each day she went out into the streets to find and serve Jesus in “the unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for.” After some months, her students started joining her in this compassionate work. In time this ministry grew, reaching out to lepers, addicts, and various kinds of the Untouchable class in India. In the 1970s and 80s the world began to take notice of Mother Teresa and her mission of mercy. Numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, honored her work. She received both prizes and attention “for the glory of God and in the name of the poor.” By 1997, Mother Teresa’s Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members and were established in 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world.

Katherine G. Johnson

One of the mathematicians featured in the movie ‘Hidden Figures’, Katherine G. Johnson was also a longtime member of Carver Memorial Presbyterian Church in Newport News, Virginia. A NASA mathematician and aerospace technologist from 1953-86, Johnson’s computations influenced every major space program from the Mercury astronauts through the space shuttle program. Her calculations helped sync the Apollo Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She was perhaps best known for the work she did in advance of Astronaut John Glenn’s 1962 orbital mission.

Worried about glitchy early computers, Glenn asked engineers to “get the girl” — meaning Johnson — to run the same numbers that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand on her desktop calculating machine. “If she says they’re good,” Glenn declared, “then I’m ready to go.” In 2015, President Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom when she was 97, calling her “a pioneer in American space history.”

Condoleezza Rice

After graduating from the University of Denver, Condoleezza Rice accepted a position at Stanford University as professor of political science. From 1989 through March 1991, the period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, she served in the Bush Administration as Senior Director of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council. She was soon promoted to Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1999, Rice left Stanford to become foreign policy adviser to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush.

Upon his election, Rice was named head of the National Security Council, the first woman to hold this position. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, she became an important and influential adviser to President Bush. In 2005, she succeeded Colin Powell as secretary of state, becoming the first African American woman to hold the post. In 2009, Rice returned to Stanford where she became the Director of the Hoover Institution. She has published several books including her two autobiographies.

Final Thoughts on Famous Christian Women Who Changed the World

It is good to teach our children that like these famous Christian women, they were born to carry out God’s plan for their lives in a spirit of love. The Psalmist declares: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:16, ESV) God has a wonderful plan for your child’s life and has prepared each with talents, abilities, and personality to see that plan accomplished – for their good, for the nurture and care of your family, and for His plan to reveal His love to the world.

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