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John Wesley at age 48

Women and Wesley's Times

John Wesley received much of his early spiritual and academic training from his mother Susanna Wesley. That Susanna was a strong, intelligent, spiritually mature woman may be a reason why Wesley supported such women leaders in the Methodist movement.

Methodists flourished under the direction of class and band leaders, persons of spiritual strength and insight. Most of them were women! ....

....In 1787, despite the objections of some of the male preachers, [John Wesley] officially authorized Sarah Mallet to preach, as long as she proclaimed the doctrines and adhered to the disciplines that all Methodist preachers were expected to accept.1

An infuriated Wesley told some of his followers in London that he did "exceedingly disapprove" of excluding women when the society met to pray, sing, and read the Scriptures.2 Another example is when one clergyman accused Wesley of keeping women in Bristol so busy that they were not giving their families proper attention. "William Fleetwood dismissed the Methodists, or 'Perfectionists,' as he called them, as a group of 'silly women.'3

For Further Study

Next: Susanna Wesley and the Unauthorized Meetings


[1] Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, p. 9.

[2] Paul W. Chillcote, She Offered Them Christ: The Legacy of Women Preachers in Early Methodism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993), p. 22.

[3] Chillcote, p. 25.

The top left drawing depicts the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791) at age 48. All of the black and white drawings have been scanned from public domain nineteenth century or early twentieth century Methodist history books. Please acknowledge this web site, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life if you reproduce these. A few graphics are available in high resolution format, suitable for print media.

© 2012 United Methodist Women/Women's Division. The Women's Division is part of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church