“We have too few female heroes of the faith,” asserts author Jamie Janosz in the introduction of her new book, When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up.
If you were asked to name historical female heroes of faith, whom would you name? Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, Corrie Ten Boom, and Elisabeth Elliot might immediate come to mind. But then does the mind go blank?
The fact that we might not immediately know their names certainly does not indicate there have been a lack of women who have served God in faithful and dynamically world-changing ways that still impacts us today. And When Others Shuddered attests to this fact.
When Others Shuddered serves as an introduction to eight women who lived during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. They also all share a connection with Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, in some way. The author, Janosz, is an associate professor of communications at Moody Bible Institute who dug through boxes of archives to learn more about these women’s lives and to tell their story.
The book highlights the lives of Fanny Crosby, Emma Dryer, Nancy McCormick, Sarah Dunn Clarke, Amanda Smith, Virginia Asher, Evangeline Booth, and Mary McLeod Bethune. Their lives represent different ethnic backgrounds, class, financial status, and various personal hardships. But they all had this in common: they loved their Savior. And it was God’s love that flowed through them that enabled them to affect change one life at a time. They shared God’s salvation message through very tangible means: hymn writing, education, donating funds, caring for sick prostitutes in urban brothels, responding to natural disaster like the Chicago fire, taking on the Ku Klux Klan, and standing against the ill-treatment of women and children in industrial factories.
In her book, Janosz draws out some other common themes that flowed through all the lives of these amazing ladies.
Fanny Crosby was blind. Emma Dryer suffered typhoid fever and lost everything in the Chicago fire. Amanda Smith only had one child grow to adulthood. Fanny Crosby and Mary McLeod Bethune had marriages that crumbled. Despite various struggles and hardships, these women didn’t let their hardships or weaknesses define them or limit them. Often, God even used these circumstances to drive them into ministry.
The women Janosz features in her book were faithful to the dreams that God put into their heart. Mary McLeod Bethune had wanted to be a missionary to Africa but that dream did not materialize. Instead, she took her passion and started a school for African American girls in Florida with only $1.65 in her pocket. Emma Dryer was tireless in fundraising and establishing a Bible training school for both men and women. We know that school today as Moody Bible Institute. Sarah Dunn Clarke gave up a life a propriety and luxury to work night after night in a part of Chicago called “the devil’s territory” and launch Pacific Garden Mission. Evangeline Booth followed her parent’s footsteps and worked on behalf of the Salvation Army. She led as Commander of the Salvation Army’s United States operations, beginning in 1904, certainly not a time when many women were leading major national organizations. Booth worked tirelessly responding to national disasters like the San Francisco earthquake and later the World Wars.
The women of When Others Shuddered did not allow others to define their value or the value of others. Amanda Berry Smith and Mary McLeod Bethune were confronted with racial prejudice but did not allow it to inform who they were. Virginia Asher was a friend to the “fallen women” of urban brothel houses who were castaways of society. She worked to help women who had fallen on hard times, as well as their children. “Each woman learned her value was not determined by her economic circumstance or the color of her skin,” writes Janosz. “We are equally free and justified and redeemed by [Christ]. We are His children and He is our Heavenly Father. That knowledge sets us all free. It enables us to rise above our life circumstances and to take risks we might not even think possible.”
The lives depicted in When Others Shuddered have a lot to offer women of today. They were amazing women for their time. But they are also amazing women for our time as well. I found myself spurred on by their personal devotion, love for God, and love for others. “These women taught me that being a woman of faith is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. They showed me that each of us has an individual path to follow — no two look the same,” reflects Janosz. Their stories also serve as a reminder that, “We need to encourage one another in our faith…. We need to be women who do not ‘shudder’ in the face of fearful or uncomfortable situations, but who do the right thing and bravely step forward in faith.”
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