March is Women’s History Month and the perfect time to highlight the impact of Christian women.
This is a list of 20 great Christian women everyone should know.
Two huge notes: First, this list doesn’t include the amazing Biblical women like Mary or Deborah, Esther or Ruth and these 10 lesser known women in scripture you should know.
Second, this list doesn’t account for the immeasurable impact of women who do the extraordinary, unnoticed work. Mothers doing the holy work of scrubbing bathrooms and schlepping kids and monitoring cellphones. Or the preschool teacher who shows up Sunday after Sunday for decades with a room ready to receive the most reluctant or eager 4-year-old.
We all know women who make a singular mark for the kingdom through their unseen, long obedience.
This list is meant to inspire with the stories that have been recorded. Let’s celebrate these 20 great Christian women everyone should know.
Amy Carmichael: At 28 years old, Amy Carmichael arrived in India from Ireland as a missionary. She soon realized the plight of girls as young as five and six years old, who were “married” to the temple gods and forced into lifelong prostitution. One by one, she began to rescue the girls and became Amma, or Mother, to more than 1000 girls. Amy ministered among the poor and untouchables of India for 50 years without a single furlough, writing numerous books until her death.
Ann Judson: Ann Judson, along with her husband Adoniram, was one of the first American foreign missionaries. In 1813, the Judsons settled in Burma, now Myanmar, where Ann began to learn the language. She taught the women and translated parts of the Bible. When war broke out and Adoniram was imprisoned, she worked tirelessly for his release. Though she died at 26 years old from strain of the war and living conditions, Ann Judson’s memoir encouraged many women to pursue missions.
Betty Greene: Betty Greene had been enamored with flight since she was a girl. After getting her pilot’s license and serving in the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) during WWII, Betty helped found Missionary Aviation Fellowship. She became the first MAF pilot and served for more than 50 years in numerous countries.
Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom: These Dutch sisters, neither of whom ever married, helped many Jews escape the holocaust by hiding them in their home during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. One evening, their home was raided and they were arrested, interrogated and sent to a concentration camp. Betsie and Corrie held Bible studies and maintained their faith despite the brutal conditions. Betsie died in camp but Corrie was released through a clerical error one week before everyone her age was sent to the gas chambers. Theirs is an amazing story of courage, faith and forgiveness.
Elisabeth Elliot: Elisabeth Elliot leaves a legacy of missions, faith in suffering and Biblical womanhood. She served as a missionary in Ecuador, first as a single woman and then with her husband Jim Elliot. When Jim and four other missionaries were speared to death trying to contact the stone-age Waodani tribe, Elisabeth continued on in the Ecuador jungle, ultimately bringing the gospel to the very tribe that killed her husband. She was twice-widowed and married a third time, influencing a generation through her books, speaking and radio ministry. Many of Elisabeth Elliot’s books have become Christian classics.
Esther Ahn Kim: Esther Ahn Kim was a music teacher in Korea when the Japanese took control. All Koreans were required to join State Shinto worship, but Esther refused to bow to the Japanese gods. She went into hiding to avoid prison. After spiritually and physically preparing for the imprisonment she was sure would come, she bravely shared the gospel with the Japanese. She spent six years in a Japanese prison, suffering and tortured, but won many to Christ for the love she continued to show. Her book, If I Perish I Perish, became a Korean bestseller.
Gladys Aylward: Gladys Alylward, born in London, knew early she wanted to become a missionary to China. When a missions group rejected her, she paid her own way to China to help another elderly missionary. She soon took over running an inn where she told guests Bibles stories each evening. She worked with prison reform and adopted over 100 orphans, leading them across the mountains to safety when their village was invaded by the Japanese. Follow the book with a family movie night about Gladys Aylward in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.
Harriet Tubman: Born into slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. She made 13 trips back to lead more than 300 slaves to freedom in the underground railroad, earning the name “Moses.” Taking great risks on every trip, Harriet said she relied completely on the voice of the Lord for guidance. She served as a nurse, scout and spy during the Civil War and later advocated for the women’s right to vote.
Henrietta Mears: Henrietta Mears, a teacher by trade and gift, became an international influence on evangelism and Sunday school education. On staff at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, California, she completely reworked the K-adult Sunday school, leading it to rapidly grow from 450 to more than 6000 people. With her curriculum in high demand, she founded Gospel Light Publications and Gospel Light International. Her ministry was a key influence for Bill Bright, Billy Graham and Young Life Founder Rayburn. Her book, What the Bible is All About, has sold more than 4 million copies.
Joni Eareckson Tada: At 17 years old, Joni dove into the Chesapeake Bay and fractured her spine. She was left a quadriplegic without even use of her hands. Depressed and suicidal, Joni turned to God and found new faith for her life. Her story is one of triumph through struggle. She’s become an acclaimed painter, recording artist, author, speaker, actor in her own life movie and tireless advocate through international ministry for those with disabilities.
And don’t miss the inspiring family-friendly movie about Joni’s accident, struggles and faith
Katie Davis Majors: Katie Davis was a high school senior – class president, homecoming queen and top of the class – when she first visited Uganda. Taking a year off to serve before college, she began a school sponsorship program, cared for the hungry and sick, and began taking in orphaned children. Stunningly, she opted to stay in Uganda rather than finish college and become the adoptive mom to 13 girls. Today, Katie runs Amazima ministries in Uganda with her husband and 14 children.
Hannah More: Hannah More was one of five girls born to a schoolteacher in mid-1800s Bristol, England. She moved to London becoming a best-selling playwright and author. As a devout evangelical, Hannah used her bluestocking connections and writing to impact reforms like the end of Britain’s slave trade – working alongside William Wilberforce, education for the poor and the reform of manners. She founded multiple schools for children and what became Kenyon College.
Susanna Wesley: Susanna may be most known as mother to Charles and John Wesley. despite multiples difficulties in her marriage, finances, infant loss and more, her faith and discipleship were great influences on her children, leading her to be called Mother of Methodism.
Ida Scudder: Ida was born in India as the granddaughter of the first American medical missionary to India. Vowing never to become a medical missionary herself, she felt called after seeing the overwhelming need especially of female patients in India. She was one of the first female graduates of Cornell Medical School. Ida’s began a women’s clinic, traveling rural dispensaries, a nursing school and Christian Medical College in Vellore, one of India’s top-ranked medical colleges.
Elizabeth Prentiss: Elizabeth Prentiss was a pastor’s wife, mother to six and author in the 1800s. She wrote the hymn “More Love to Thee, O Christ” and is known for her book “Stepping Heavenward.” Elizabeth suffered not only from chronic pain, but within a three month period, her newborn and 4-year-old died. She’s known for using her suffering to draw closer to Christ and share Him through writing.
Edith Schaeffer: Edith and her husband, Francis Schaeffer, were missionaries to Switzerland who co-founded L’Abri Fellowship in 1955. The L’Abri houses across several continents opened their doors to students and others seeking an honest, Biblical understanding of God. Edith Schaeffer wrote over 20 books, including several on femininity and homemaking in an increasingly secular culture.
Darlene Deibler Rose: As newlyweds, Darlene and her husband moved Papau New Guinea to begin missionary work. When World War II began, she and her husband were put in Japanese prison camps. Her husband didn’t survive, but Darlene suffered four years in prison. With enduring faith, she continued to minister in Papua New Guinea for two more decades. Her autobiography is a Christian best seller.
Lottie Moon: Charlotte “Lottie” Moon was a teacher and evangelist to China. She was one of the first single missionaries sent to the mission field by Southern Baptists. Frustrated by the great need for missionaries and the mission board’s lack of funds, she wrote letters encouraging women to start missionary circles and set aside the week before Christmas for a special missions offering. Lottie served 40 years and helped change the way Southern Baptist mission work is funded.
Vonette Bright: Vonette Bright co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as CRU) with her husband, Bill Bright. Days before founding CRU, Bill and Vonette had signed a contract of their making to become “slaves for Christ.” CRU has reached millions of students on thousands of campuses worldwide; launched The Jesus Film seen by millions, perhaps billions, globally; and sponsors multiple ministries around the world. Vonette founded the National Day of Prayer and served as chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism.
Mary McLeod Bethune: Born the 15th child of former slaves, Mary McLeod Bethune longed to be a missionary. She was the only African American in her class at Moody Bible Institute, but was told by a mission agency that “Negro missionaries” weren’t needed in Africa. Her life work became education, especially for girls. She founded a school in Daytona Beach, Florida which later became Bethune-Cookman college, gained national influence as an advisor for several presidents and was active in civil rights.
Cynthia Scott says
Hi Lisa! Loved reading your list I would include A Weatherall Johnson the founder of Bible Study Fellowship, she was a missionary in China before all the a Christian missionaries were thrown out of the country when communism took over. She spent her life committed to helping people study God’s word and founded BSF. Her story is in the book “Crrated for Commitmemt” . Your blog is very helpful to me on my walk with Christ……
Thanks and love to you and yours,
Lisa Appelo says
Thank you so much for sharing, Cynthia! I’m happy to get to add her book to my list.
Jeannie Poon says
Wow!!! Amazing women!! So many books that are now in my reading list! I’m inspired just reading their small bios!
Thank you so much for sharing and compiling this wonderful list!
Lisa Appelo says
Biographies like these help me on my walk so much. And I want my daughters and sons to know these women. Thanks, Jeannie.
Amy Bleich says
I would add Pam Tebow. Her missionary work, her work to support homeschool families, and her stand for the sanctity of life have all left indelible marks on the Kingdom.
Lisa Appelo says
What a great addition. Raising so many arrows for the kingdom and her ministry to others. She’s an example for sure. Thank you, Amy.
Jennifer Waddle says
What an amazing collection of inspiration, Lisa! Thank you.
Lisa Appelo says
Some amazing women…they inspire me so much as well!
Barbara Kallmeyer says
How about including the woman who was the First American saint and started Catholic education in the USA? Elizabeth Bailey Seton
Lisa Appelo says
I’ve known the name Seton connected with Catholic education but didn’t realize there was a woman behind it. You’ve piqued my interest. Thank you, Barbara!
Rev. Zumyil Ephraim Stephen says
Lissa, you are doing a good job here. I am a Pastor in Nigeria. I will share this with my Wife and Children. I like to add to the list – Mary Slessor, she was a missionary to Africa- Nigeria to be specific. She would never be forgotten for her effort in stopping the killing of twins apart from preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. She forfeited getting married just for the sake of the Gospel.
Lisa Appelo says
Thank you so much for that information! My daughter read a book about Mary Slessor but I was unfamiliar with the details of her ministry. I am compiling names for another list and am thankful to know more. You’ve inspired me to read about her. Many blessings to you.
Mary Slessor as a child
Mary Slesor in Africa
Irene Talaasen says
I would add Beverly LaHaye who started Concerned Women of America! Wife of Pastor Tim LaHaye of the Left Behind Books.
I love your list! Now am reading a book called When Others Shuddered (Eight Women who Refused to Give Up) by Jamie Janosz
It is good! Thanks for your posts!!
Hi Lisa, I haven’t been down here for a while, but this morning I remembered your name and checked in to your blog. And wow, just wow. I cannot believe that as a Christian Irish woman now living in India (married into a Hindu family) I never heard of Amy Carmichael. I’m determined to find out all I can about her now. Thank you for this wonderful post.
Diana Rockwell says
Lisa, such a great list, Ruth Graham might be a nice addition. Blessings Diana
Betsy de Cruz says
This is a beautiful, shining list of women, Lisa! Some of whom I’d never heard of. I was intrigued (and challenged!) by Katie Davis when I read a devo by her on the P31 site. And last year, I picked up a copy of an Edith Schaeffer book on homemaking at a used book stand. The tribute to her written by her son Frankie Schaeffer, after her death, has been one of the shaping forces of my “parenting young adults” philosophy. The woman was amazing.
Paris Renae says
Thank you – I want to read them all 🙂
Donna Reidland says
What a great list. I’m pinning so I can be sure to read some or all of these.
Lisa Appelo says
Thank you, Donna. They are a great list of mentors.
Oh wow this is AWESOME! For my reading list for sure!!!!
Jo Pushong says
I recently listened on YouTube to the testimony of Darlene Rose. I had never heard of her, but was mesmerised by her sweet voice and faith as a missionary in PNG and a prisoner ,for the whole of WW2 ,in a Japanese internment camp. It is riveting . She also wrote a book called. Evidence not seen. It is in print.
I was fascinated to read about Betty Greene who flew with MAF. My own parents and many missionaries, in, what was known as the Belgian Congo, were helped by MAF during the troubles there.
Tongbe Happy says
Thanks so much Lisa, I’m inspired.l really love it and I will be blessed to read about those you listed that I’ve not heard or read about.
These are so great! Thank you for this list. I am starting reading with my daughter and we are reading about power influential Christian women.