While many Christian women in history gave their lives to overseas service, other women stayed in their homelands. They worked to initiate the significant cultural and social differences we celebrate today .
One such woman was Fabiola who lived in the 4th Century AD. Although she was a wealthy woman, Fabiola gave up everything to nurse the poor. She served as an example of a woman who sacrificed her own desires to meet the needs around her.
Brigid, who lived from 450-525 founded the 1st women’s religious community in Ireland while Hilda of Whitby (614-680) founded several monasteries. Hilda, an influential woman in the Saxon church, also hosted the Synod of Whitby in 664. We can only imagine the amount of work required to organize a synod.
Clare of Assisi (1194-1253) grew up as a daughter of wealth. Her family lived in a castle in Mount Subasio, Italy. Clare founded an order of nuns who became known as the Poor Clares, because they took their vow of poverty quite seriously.
Katharine Zell (1497-1562) visited the sick and the prisoners as she accompanied ministers during the Peasants’ War. Katharine also sheltered Protestant refugees in Germany and published several tracts and books that outlined the importance of women using their gifts.
Along with George Fox, Margaret Fell (1614-1702) co-founded the Quakers. Margaret became known as the “nursing mother” of Quakerism, because she opened her home as the communications center for this religious movement.
Another key woman in a religious movement was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. She lived from 1707-1791, and served as a key figure in the Methodist movement of the 18th century.
Catherine Booth became a devout Christian at a young age. By the time she was 12, she had read the entire Bible eight times. Before she met her husband, William, Catherine preached in open-air meetings. It was her commitment to speak for the Lord that first impressed William. Together, they founded the Salvation Army in 1865.
As a more current example, Esther John (1929-1960) worked as a Pakistani Christian nurse. Although born into a Muslim family, she found Christ by observing the teachers of a Christian school. Esther then traveled through the smaller country towns to share her testimony. At the age of 30, she was brutally murdered. A statue to commemorate her life now stands at the entrance to Westminster Abbey.
These are only a few of the many examples of women who knew God created them to use their giftings and serve him in their homelands. They remain shining pillars for all of us 21st century women who seek to make a difference in our world.