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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Early Female Evangelist: Alice Mather, Spencer, IA (UPDATED)

In Oklahoma City in 1904 a woman from the Methodist Episcopal Church preached a revival in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. At this point, both groups were busy building and there was apparently some sharing of resources.  Oklahoma at this time was more open to the idea of the two fractured sections of Methodism working together than the general denominational structures of both. They were also, apparently, open to the idea of a woman preaching a revival as well.

The event was duly reported in the local newspaper, with numerous tidbit or pithy quotes as was the custom, and she was referred to always as "Mrs. Mather."

She was Margaret Alice Moody Mather from Spencer, Iowa. She was born 27 January 1862 in Clayton Co., Iowa. She married in 1883 Luther Pearson Mather (b. 1838, Fenner, NY).   She was mentioned in The Northwest Christian Advocate of March 17, 1897 (pg. 20) as an "evangelist" and that she assisted Pastor A.R. Cuthbert, pastor in a revival that saw many conversions. Her name would emerge in various copies of that journal as well as the Conference journals of Iowa Methodism. The 1900 Iowa census lists her as an "evangelist" and her husband as a day laborer. She was the mother of three children but as of 1900 only two remained: Leo David Mather and Alice Floy Mather.  She died 1947 in Clay Co., Iowa.

Her home conference, Northwest Iowa, had this to say about her in the Christian Advocate, volume 80 (1905)," Mrs. Alice Mather, an evangelist from Spencer, NW Iowa Conference is assisting the pastor, Rev. F.L. Buckwalter. She is a loyal Methodist, a fine preacher, a sweet singer and sympathetic in her preaching. She preaches straight to the hearts of the people, and all are delighted with her...The meetings prove that Methodist preaching and methods, directed by the spirit, will still bring about genuine conviction and conversion. The people have crowded the altar..."

It was clear, Oklahoma received a rare blessing in inviting this woman to come and preach in Oklahoma City. Who knows how many she inspired in the faith or encouraged to follow where they felt they were being led vocationally?

"Methodists Around To New Zeal By A Woman Evangelist's Discourses" "Is a Powerful Speaker", "Interest in Revival's Becoming Intense and Numbers are Nightly Becoming Converts to the Christian Faith." (Oklahoman, April 15, 1904; pg.8); U.S. Federal Census, Iowa; The NW Christian Advocate 1905; NW Iowa Conference Report, 1911; NW Christian Advocate, 1912; Spencer Clay County (IA) News (Dec.2, 1897, p.3); The Perry (IA) Daily (Dec.14,1894, pg.1); The Alton Democrate (IA) (March 14,1896,pg.8); Monmouth Daily Atlas (IL) (March 10, 1916).


  1. Jan 6 1897, p 19 of the same publication gives her name as Mrs. Alice Mather preaching in the Havelock, Iowa church with pastor C. M. Phenix.

  2. Also Jan 11, 1912 (page undetermined) of the same publication gives a longer article about another revival and gives her name as Mrs. Alice Mather.

  3. Again a longer piece in Jan 9, 1905. Seems she was quite effective and well liked. I found all this by some persistent "googling".

  4. I have access to and they have lots of newspapers with references to her preaching or speaking in Iowa. I've not found her grave in though.

  5. Great. Thanks! I had seen the name Alice but had no verification it was the same individual. I found her listed in the Iowa Conference journal but it did not list her as a member of the clergy, so she may have been a lay preacher, exhorter or something similar. She deserves deeper research for sure.

  6. For more on the earliest women preachers from the Methodist movement in England, please visit the website for the trilogy, The Asbury Triptych Series. The opening book, Black Country, features several of the earliest women preachers in Methodism. The website is