Women of Distinguished Service

When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined. 
—Ellen G. White, Evangelism p. 469



Women have always played an important part in the work of the church, even in biblical times.  In the history of the Adventist church, women have served in almost all capacities, filling a wide variety of roles.  It is important that we take note of their accomplishments to encourage us to perserver and to inspire future generations to take up the tasks their fore bearers faithfully carried out.

Each of these women is important in her own right.  She is also a representative of the thousands who have labored and worked in each of the fifty-year periods of the Adventist Church history indicated in this brochure.  Still today, distinguished women are often unknown and unnoticed.

Thousands of other women could, and should be mentioned, but we trust that the example of these faithful women will be a blessing as you use your gifts for God.

"When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the lost if the talents of both are not combined" (Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 469)



You can download a .pdf copy of the brochure here.








1844 - 1894

Martha D. Byington Amadon (1834 - 1937)

First Dorcas Society president; taught in one of the first church schools

Lottie Blake (1876 - 1972)

First African-American Seventh-day Adventist woman physician. Established the school of nursing at Oakwood College; directed the Rock City Sanitarium. Helped to treat Ellen White. With her physician husband, she became a missionary in Central America and the Caribbean.

Maud Sisley Boyd (1851 - 1937)

Bible instructor, colporteur, educator. First single woman missionary to Europe. Helped J. N. Andrews establish the publishing work in Europe and assisted J. N. Loughborough in pioneer tent evangelism in England. She married Charles L. Boyd; they were among the first missionaries in South Africa. Their daughter died and he became sick and died shortly after. Maud then went to Australia where she served as matron, preceptress, teacher, and Bible instructor. She continued her work in Loma Linda in retirement.

Nellie H. Rankin Druillard (1844 - 1937)

Financier, treasurer. A teacher by training and experience, she was one of Adventism's most remarkable women and a particularly able financier. Served as the Nebraska Conference Tract Society Secretary. Later married Alma Druillard; they went to South Africa where she became treasurer and auditor of the conference. She helped found Madison College and served as its treasurer and fiscal advisor for twenty years. Also instrumental in establishing Emmanuel Missionary College, later known as Andrews University. At age 78, she helped found Riverside Sanitarium, singlehandedly organizing the institution and training its workers.

Maria L. Huntley (1847 - 1890)

President, Tract and Missionary Society, which later became Church Ministries and Publishing departments and the Adventist Book Centers. Only woman other than Ellen White to address the 1888 General Conference Session.

Dr. Katherine (Kate) Lindsey (1842 - 1923)

Physician graduating at the head of her class from the University of Michigan with the second class that accepted female students. Founder of first nurses' training school at Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1883. Served 20 years at Battle Creek and then served at Claremont Sanitarium in South Africa. She practiced at the Colorado Sanitarium in Boulder until retirement.

Annie Rebekah Smith (1828 - 1855)

Early hymn writer and editor. While the James Whites traveled, she published the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. Annie was the older sister of Uriah Smith and the same age as Ellen White. Converted to Adventism by Joseph Bates in 1851. She died of tuberculosis.

Ellen Gould Harmon White (1827 - 1915)

Early leader and prophetess of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She was a popular speaker, preacher, and counselor to individuals and institutions. Author of 126 books and compilations.

1895 - 1945

Ai Araki (1890 - 1982)

Bible worker and church leader in Japan. Although blind, she led and preserved her church throughout World War II, the only congregation in Japan to remain intact through the war.

Gertrude Brown (1866 - 1948)

An English physician. Worked with J. Harvey Kellogg. Pioneered medical work in British Isles; with her husband, established sanitarium in Crieff, Scotland.

Georgia Burrus Burgess (1866 - 1948)

She was prepared to go to India as a missionary with only $1; fortunately, someone gave her $80 more. Opened a school in Calcutta. The first year she served alone as self-supporting. She served there as educator and frontier missionary for 40 years, ministering especially to women and among the Hindu people.

Lora E. Clement (1890 - 1958)

Associate editor and editor of Youth's Instructor for 41 years.

Dr. Eva Dykes (1893 - 1986)

Musician and educator for over 50 years. First Seventh-day Adventist woman to receive a Ph.D. in the United States, graduating from Radcliffe in 1921. Taught at Walden and Howard Universities and Oakwood College.

Sarepta Myrenda Irish Henry (1839-1900)

Temperance activist, personal evangelist and writer. Mrs. S.M.I. Henry became ill and while recuperating at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, became an Adventist. She began to correspond with Ellen White, then in Australia. Mrs. White encouraged her to continue her public role with the Women's Christian Temperance Union and her interest in women. In 1898 Mrs. Henry established the first Women's Ministry at the General Conference. The General Conference voted her a ministerial license that year; she wrote a weekly column for the Review and Herald on women's ministry and duties. Unfortunately, she died two years later and her work was not continued for many years.

Anna L. Ingels Hindson (1862 - 1933)

Secretary, secretary-treasurer, and missionary in Australia. Was editor of the Missionary Leader for 18 years and Australasian Record for 34 years. Served eight years as the union secretary of the Young People's Department and 30 years as secretary of the Australasian Union Sabbath School Department.

Louise Kleuser (1890 - 1976)

Bible worker, pastor, evangelist, editor, and seminary professor. Conference Education Department Secretary and Associate in the GC Ministerial Association and an editor of Ministry.

Anna Knight (1874 - 1972)

The daughter of ex-slave sharecroppers, she read herself into the Adventist faith through the Signs of the Times. Graduated in nursing from Battle Creek College in 1898. Built a self-supporting school for Blacks in Mississippi. She became the first African-American woman missionary, serving in India. Upon her return to the US, she served as educator, nurse, Bible worker, conference and union departmental secretary. In 1940 she was appointed to the General Conference North American Negro Department.

Ana Stahl (1870 - 1968)

A Swedish nurse and educator, she became a pioneer missionary in South America and was instrumental in starting church schools for the Indian people. Worked there with her husband for 29 years.

Marinda (Minnie) Day Sype (1869 - 1956)

Pastor, evangelist, licensed minister for 54 years working in Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Florida conferences and the Bahamas. Conference Home Missionary Departmental Director.

1946 - 1996

Ana Rosa Alvarado

Cuban pastor, evangelist, educator and musician for 45 years. Is said to have preached in every church in Cuba and raised up many of them.

Dr. Nancy Bassham

A Thai converted from Buddhism, she returned as a missionary to her people. Educator and first Family Life and Women's Ministries Director in the Asia-Pacific Division.

Dr. Lyn Behrens

Australian physician. First woman president of Loma Linda University.

Del Delker

Contralto soloist for the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast. Has made 70 recordings and 32 solo albums.

Chessie Harris (1906 - 1997)

Educator and humanitarian. More than 1,200 children have received care at the Harris Home in Huntsville, Alabama. Recognized in 1987 as one of America's Unsung Heroines, she was also honored by President George Bush.

Jessie Halliwell

Missionary nurse who, with her pilot husband, supplied the only medical care to thousands along the Amazon River for 38 years.

Betty Holbrook (1926 - 1996)

Teacher, author and missionary to South America. Chairperson of first General Conference Women's Ministries Advisory. Director of General Conference Home and Family Service and Assistant Director for Church Ministries.

Juanita Kretschmar

Humanitarian, prayer warrior and speaker. Started New York City Van Ministry and Good News Network.

Elsa Luukkanen (1916 - 1996)

Very successful Finnish evangelist and pastor. She and other women carried especially heavy burdens during WWII when the male pastors were drafted. In 1968 the Finnish Union leaders inquired about the possibility of ordaining these women; this was one of the factors leading to the 1973 Mohaven meeting (See Margarete Prange).

Margarete Prange

German pastor and evangelist. Because of her effective leadership, young ministers often interned under her. Her success as a pastor led conference leaders to ask about ordaining her, one of the factors that led to calling the Council on the Role of Women in the Church at Camp Mohaven in 1973. A member of the 1989 Women's Commission.

Dr. Leona Running

Starting at the Voice of Prophecy and a copy editor for Ministry, she went on to become professor of ancient languages at the SDA Theological Seminary for more than 40 years. She knows 17 languages and has taught most Adventist ministers who have passed through the seminary in the past 40+ years.

1997 - Present


Additional Biographies of SDA Women

Betty Ahnberg (Late 1900s)

"Aunt Sue" of the "Story Hour," Ahnberg pioneered in radio programming for children.

Minerva Jane Loughborough Chapman (1829 - 1923)

Began work as a typesetter at the Review and Herald. Later she was made Secretary-Treasurer of the Publishing Association until she was appointed Editor of Youth's Instructor. She worked for the press for 27 years. She served as General Conference Treasurer from 1877 - 1883 and from 1885-1887 she was Corresponding Secretary of the General Conference.

Fannie M. Dickerson Chase (1864 - 1956)

Editor of the Youth's Instructor from 1903 to 1922.

Grace Agnes Clark (1898 - 1955)

English missionary to East Africa, she helped re-establish Adventist missions after World War I. Appointed Secretary-Treasurer of Kenya Union Mission 1937 - 1942. An authority on the Luo language, she has done Bible translations that are still used today. Buried in Nairobi.

Marian Davis (1847 - 1904)

Helped Mrs. White in producing The Desire of Ages, The Great Controversy, The Ministry of Healing, Patriarchs and Prophets, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Christ's Object Lessons, and Steps to Christ. Mrs. White called her "my bookmaker."

Hattie Enoch (Late 1800s)

Licensed to preach in Kansas. GC President G. I. Butler, said, "Elder Cook (Conference President) thinks she is a better laborer in such things than any minister in the state." She and her husband later pioneered the work in Bermuda.

Edith M. Graham (d. 1918)

When the Home Missionary Department was first organized as a branch of the Publishing Department, Miss Graham, Treasurer of the Australasian Union Conference, was asked to lead it. When it became an independent GC department five years later, Graham was re-elected as Secretary. She died a few months later.

Eva Perkins Miller Hankins (1858 - 1942)

Taught at Battle Creek 12 years; she and her husband were among the first to go to Africa as missionaries in the field of education. They taught at Claremont Union College (forerunner of Helderberg College); she served as bookkeeper, teacher, preceptress and matron. After her husband's death she married again. She then served as Indiana Conference Educational Secretary before she and her second husband returned to Africa, where she became Education Secretary of the Union and Assistant Editor of the South African Sentinel.

Hetty Hurd Haskell (1857 - 1919)

A teacher; became a missionary in England (1887-1892) and South Africa (1892 - 1897). In 1897 she met the widowed Stephen Haskell and accepted his proposal to go to Australia to marry him. Ellen White reported that she was one of the "lady carpenters" who got the men going when building on Avondale College was stalled. According to Ellen White, Hetty was a "woman of rare ability as a manager."

Dr. Florence Armstrong Keller (1875 - 1974)

Graduated in the first class from Walla Walla College and later from Kellogg's American Medical Missionary College. She became the first woman physician sent overseas when she and her doctor husband served together 19 years in New Zealand; she served as physician for the Maori royal family. Later, as a faculty member of the College of Medical Evangelists (now Loma Linda) she was influential in raising funds to build the White Memorial Medical Center. She continued doing surgery and seeing patients six days a week until she was 92.

Dr. Lauretta Eby Kress (1863 - 1955)

Mrs. Kress studied nursing under Dr. Kate Lindsay at Battle Creek and then she and her husband went on to graduate from medicine at the University of Michigan. At Battle Creek Sanitarium one of their patients was Mrs. S.M.I. Henry. The Kresses pioneered Adventist medical work in England. Later they gave seven years of mission service to Australia and New Zealand before returning to the United States. When the Washington Sanitarium and Hospital opened, her husband was the first medical director and Dr. Lauretta was the first surgeon. She is said to have delivered more than 5,000 babies during her career.

Phoebe Lamson (mid-1800s)

One of two first physicians at Battle Creek Sanitarium.

Ellen S. Lane (1880s)

An evangelist with her husband, Ellen Lane became the first Adventist woman to receive a ministerial license. She is said to have been a more popular preacher than her husband.

Sara McEnterfer (1854 - 1936)

Worked on Mrs. White's staff over 33 years, helping with writing, editing and taking dictation.

Helen Luella Morton

Doctor and missionary to Thailand. Established hospital at Chingmei. Lectured internationally on drug abuse and taught at Loma Linda. Murdered in Thailand while serving there.

Sarah Elizabeth Peck (1868 - 1968)

Worked on Ellen White's staff 10 years in Australia. Her work is still the backbone of the indexing system used in the White Estate. She was also Principal of Claremont Union College in South Africa and taught at Union College. Served as Superintendent of Education in the California Conference and concluded her career in the GC Education Department. She assisted in the preparation of the book Education and began writing the True Education Readers series.

Flora (Lorena Florence) Fait Plummer (1862 - 1945)

She led the General Conference Sabbath School Department for 23 years—longer than any other individual. Before that, in 1900, when the Iowa Conference President received a call, Mrs. Plummer became Iowa's Acting President. This was the only case of a woman holding such a position until the 1990's (see Phyllis Ware).

Lucy Post (1845 - 1937)

Served as a Bible worker in Minnesota, Dakota and Ohio Conferences. Single and 50 year of age, she became the first Adventist woman missionary to South America (Uruguay).

Mary Priest (1823 - 1889)

Elected the first secretary of the Vigilant Missionary Society in 1869 (later became the Tract and Missionary Society; see: Maria Huntley). During the 20-year period she wrote more than 6,000 missionary letters.

Rowina Rick

Associate Treasurer, General Conference.

Adelia Patten Van Horn (1839 - 1922)

Helped care for the James and Ellen White children. Is credited with starting Bible lessons especially for children and youth in 1863. Was fourth editor of Youth's Instructor. From 1871 to 1873 she served as the fifth Treasurer of the General Conference.

Fredricka House Sisley (1852 - 1934)

General Conference Treasurer, helped her husband found Union College; they became missionaries in England, South Africa, and Australia.

Jennie Thayer (1853 - 1940)

Was active in the Michigan Conference Tract Society and assisted J. N. Loughborough in editorial work in England. She then became the Atlantic Union Conference Secretary-Treasurer and Auditor.

Mary Walsh (1890 - )

Preacher, pastor, Bible worker, trainer of pastors.

Phyllis Ware

Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the Central States Conference who became interim president on the death of the president, Paul Monk, in the 1990's.

Lulu Wightman (Early 1900s)

She raised up 17 churches. Licensed to preach in 1898. Considered one of the denomination's most successful evangelists. Unfortunately, later she and her minister husband became discouraged and left the church.

Flora Harriet Lampson Williams (1865 - 1944)

Taught at Southwest Union College and headed three conference-level departments in Michigan: Education, Missionary Volunteer, and Sabbath School. In 1921 she became Assistant Secretary of the Education Department at the General Conference. Edited Home and School magazine.

Much of the historical information is taken from Kit Watt's chapter, "Ellen White's Contemporaries: Significant Women in the Early Church" in A Woman's Place, edited by Rosa Taylor Banks; from Notable Women of Spirit by John G. Beach; and the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia.


What It Is

During 1995—Year of the Adventist Woman—it was decided to honor some of the important women of Seventh-day Adventist Church history in a photo display at the General Conference World Headquarters. A committee was set up with Kit Watts, assistant editor of the Adventist Review, as chairperson. The committee consisted of women of various ethnic backgrounds or who had served the church in various divisions of the world.

It was the mission of this committee to pick about thirty of the most important women in our church's history.

It quickly became obvious that this was not just hard—it was almost impossible, as there were numerous women who represent so many different facets of our church history. Finally the committee came up with the idea of dividing our church history into three 50-year segments, and choosing about 10 women from each of those eras, and as much as possible, representing the different parts of the world field. Because the first 50 years of our history (1844 ¬1894) took place in North America, all of those representing that period are from North America. Many of those from the next 50-year period, (1895 - 1945) were missionaries, and numerous of the last 50 years (1946-1996) represent various world divisions.

Some women who were outstanding leaders, directors of General Conference departments, GC treasurers, etc., were not pictured because they are already pictured, or should be, by other General Conference departments.

Once the women were chosen, the search for photos began. These women were humble workers, and with few exceptions, those who served before the twentieth century left nothing more than a snapshot, if that. A great deal of research effort and photographic expense was required to come up with the photos.

At the time the pictures were hung, all of those in the 1946 - 1996 section were living, but since then two of the women, Betty Holbrook and Elsa Luukkanen, have died. When Rose Otis, Women's Ministries Director, left the General Conference Department to go to the North American Division, her picture was added to the display. In the display, no dates are given for those who are still living.

This display became one of the more popular stops on the General Conference World Headquarters tour. Rose Otis then thought it would be nice to have the display available to the women in the various parts of the world so that they too could visualize many of the women who have served their church so faithfully, and understand that women have always been an important part of the history and leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Seventeen pictures of the women from the General Conference display have been chosen and framed to be sent to each world division. Because different women are more known in and important to various parts of the world, the seventeen chosen are not always the same for each division. In addition, three matching empty frames are being sent to each division so that pictures of women from that part of the world can be added.

Grace Jeanette Niesen
(1921 - 1990)

Each of these women is important in her own right, but she is also a representative of the millions who have labored and worked in the Adventist church, often unknown and unnoticed.

The display is in honor of Rose Otis' mother, Grace Niesen, a committed third generation Adventist woman, and has been paid for with funds from her estate.


Ideas for Use

There are numerous ways the display can be used. One of the most obvious is a wall display such as used at the General Conference Headquarters. And this may be appropriate at least part of the time. In most divisions, however, this would mean that very few women would actually see the display. It is suggested that as much as possible the display be used out in the field where people will be able to see it. For this reason, a carrying case has been included with the display.

This display can and should be particularly meaningful and useful throughout 1998, the centennial of Women's Ministries in the Adventist Church.

A view of the Adventist Women of Distinguished Service opposite the offices of the Women's Ministries Department at the General Conference World Headquarters.


Suggestions of places the display can be used:

  • College libraries. If there is a locally observed day/week/month for women's history, this would be an ideal time for using the display.
  • Other places on college campuses. This would be especially appropriate at the time of awarding Women's Ministries Scholarships or any other special programs recognizing Adventist Women.
  • At Women's congresses, training sessions or retreats.
  • At conference or union constituency meetings.
  • At camp meetings.
  • At individual churches during the International Women's Day of Prayer in March or Women's Ministries Day in June.
  • At other places and times in your territory.

How the pictures can be displayed:

  • On a wall.
  • On a movable wall display unit.
  • In a glass display case.
  • On a table or counter.
  • On the front of a platform or stage.
  • Others of your choice and creativity.

 To make the display more attractive, a table covering in one of the Women's Ministries colors is provided, as well as cards giving each woman's name and dates to display with the individual's picture.

When the pictures are displayed on a flat surface, it makes an attractive display if flowers and other feminine items, especially those of historical significance, are added. Some of these items might be women's gloves, fans, delicate boxes or vases, dainty items of lace or other needlework, dolls, tea cups, old copies of SDA books, et cetera.

As often as possible, some type of program or pamphlet giving historical sketches of the women, announcements, posters, or other forms of publicity should be used in connection with the pictures so that people have a clearer understanding as to what the pictures are all about. At the General Conference this is done by the tour guides and by our "Adventist Women of Distinguished Service" pamphlet, as the pictures by themselves do not tell enough of the story.  The biographies of all the women in the original display are given here, as well as additional information that you can use in planning programs, plays, displays or other material to go with the pictures.