8 Influential Christian Women Throughout History
With social media more present than ever, it's tempting to fall into the trap of comparison, especially as women. However, God has created each of us to thrive for a special purpose, and it's important to keep our perspective on our identity as women of God. Celebrating the Christian women who have made an impact on our lives can help us reframe our outlook on our own life, too. March is Women’s History Month, so we’re taking a look at some influential Christian women throughout history and the legacy of faith they leave behind.
No one would have blamed Elisabeth Elliot for leaving Ecuador with her infant daughter after receiving news of her husband Jim’s murder. Yet, Elisabeth’s heart crumbled for her enemies. One of the hardest tasks God calls us to is loving our enemies.
Yet, in the space where love conquers hate, God’s transformative grace shines brightest. Elisabeth discipled native men, new Christians, to share the gospel. She picked up the pen where Jim left off, translating Luke into the native language.
Two years following Jim’s death, Elisabeth got the opportunity to meet the members of the tribe who killed her husband. She lived among them, and her forgiveness and persistent love ushered many of them into a relationship with Christ.
Corrie ten Boom
One day, while six Jewish people were hidden behind a false wall in Corrie ten Boom’s bedroom, the German secret police raided Corrie’s home. They remained safe, but Corrie and some of her family members were arrested and taken to a prison camp.
Two years following her miraculous release, the former guard approached her, moments after she’d finished speaking to the Germans about God’s forgiveness. With deep sincerity, the guard asked her to forgive him.
Praying for God’s strength, Corrie grasped the man’s hand as God’s love surged through her. She replied, “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart!”
When news of her owner’s death reached his slaves, Harriet capitalized on the chaos and fled. Winded, miles from captivity, she sidled up to a building to catch her breath and was jolted at the sight of a reward poster with her name on it, offering $300 for her capture.
Harriet pressed on, crossing into the free North without any fanfare. I’m free? She turned her hands over. Am I different?
Harriet Tubman, after obtaining her dream, risked nineteen Underground Railroad passages to escort others to freedom. Spurred by her faith in Christ, Tubman never considered complacency an option. How can we, like Harriet, take risks and sacrifice things in our lives to benefit others—to show them the love of Jesus?
After suffering abuse by her mother’s boyfriend, a young Maya Angelou had courageously named her abuser, who was jailed for just one day and ended up being murdered by people who sought revenge. The trauma and then the guilt left young Maya without a voice.
Throughout her sabbatical of speech, Maya read every book possible. Not deterred by the laws of the Jim Crow South, Maya borrowed many titles from the white school library too. She committed entire plays, sonnets, and poems to memory.
When Maya finally opened her mouth as a thirteen-year-old, she spoke thoughtful words worth saying and possessed eloquence and education with which to say them. Angelou became a best-selling author. She was the first female inaugural poet and the first Black woman to write a screenplay for a major film release. Maya spoke of justice, love, and truth from some of the greatest stages in history.
One busy day in Calcutta, among engines running and horns blaring, only one person noticed the filthy woman slumped over in the alleyway among refuse being eaten alive by rats. Mother Teresa scurried into the darkness and hoisted the woman to her feet. She escorted her to the nearest hospital and demanded the woman be tended to.
That day, Mother Teresa received, as she described it, “the call within the call” to assist “the poorest of the poor.” From Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, Mother Teresa derived her life’s purpose and the wellspring of her energy: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me” (niv).
Mary & Martha
Over 2,000 years ago Mary & Martha served others in their home. In fact, the best guest ever, Jesus, had dinner there multiple times. The story of Mary and Martha, found in Luke 10:38-42, is a great reminder to shift our perspective to what truly matters. While the day-to-day busyness can be overwhelming, remember to find time with the Lord.
Their story teaches that having people in your home is not about entertaining, cleaning, or being a perfect hostess - it’s about the people! Perfection is not the point. People are the point. Welcoming others is love in action!
During World War II, Rosa Parks worked as a housekeeper and seamstress at Maxwell Airforce Base. Rosa traveled home by bus each day, where she was expected to sit in the rear, give up her seat to white folks, and exit out the back door.
At age forty-two, Rosa “sat up” for herself. Rosa’s refusal to surrender her seat on the bus was a clear message that she knew her worth. Others insinuating her skin color made her inferior exhausted her.
Rosa Parks reminded others of their own value. Because of Rosa’s fearless action, the Black community boycotted buses for 381 days. Afterward, bus companies repealed the segregation rules.
Later, Parks said, “I was fortunate God provided me with the strength I needed at the precise time when conditions were ripe for change. I am thankful to Him every day that He gave me the strength not to move.”
Celebrating Influential Christian Women
This month, let us remember the faithful women in Christian history who have come before us and made an impact. What can we learn from their stories? Being mindful about celebrating women's history month as Christians, in a way that honors God, we can find inspiration in these women for our own lives.