Women of Righteous Discontent

Who was Mary J. Small?

In 1898 Mary J. Small (1850–1945), wife of Bishop John Bryant Small (1845–1905), became the first Methodist woman to be ordained an elder. Earlier, on May 19, 1895, Small became the second woman to be ordained as a deacon. Her status infuriated some of the male clergy, who thought it inappropriate for women to hold such status. There is no indication that Small ever pastored a church, but she was active in evangelistic activities. She was an officer in the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society and also belonged to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Small was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She joined her husband in his parish work in Connecticut, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. She was licensed as an evangelist and missionary in 1892. Small died in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.


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