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Heroes of the Faith: Baptists celebrate 225th anniversary of Ann Judsonís birthcomment (0)

January 16, 2014

By Joanne Sloan

Heroes of the Faith: Baptists celebrate 225th anniversary of Ann Judsonís birth

Ann Hasseltine Judson was America’s first woman international missionary. This year — 2014 — marks the 225th anniversary of her birth, the same year George Washington became president.

Born in Bradford, Mass., Dec. 22, 1789, Ann became a Christian as a teenager. While a schoolteacher, she felt led to become a missionary. It was unthinkable then for a young woman to go to primitive lands. And a woman couldn’t go — unless she was married.

Fortunately, Ann met Congregational minister Adoniram Judson. They married Feb. 5, 1812. Soon they sailed to Calcutta, India. During their voyage, they were convinced of the biblical basis for believer’s baptism, and when they reached India they were baptized. In 1814, Baptists in America officially organized as the Triennial Convention and adopted the Judsons as their first missionaries.

Prevented from working in India, they traveled to Burma, where the gospel had never been preached. They settled in Rangoon and began learning the language.

They prepared a Burmese grammar, and Ann also translated the Books of Daniel and Jonah into Burmese. She significantly translated the first “catechism,” or statement of beliefs about the Christian faith, into Burmese and later the Books of Daniel and Jonah and the Gospel of Matthew into Siamese.

It was difficult to convince the Burmese Buddhists to accept Christ, but after six years, they had their first convert.

In 1822, Ann returned to America because of a severe liver problem. While home, she wrote a history of the Burmese mission that was widely read and encouraged others to become missionaries.

Soon after she returned to Rangoon in 1823, war broke out between Britain and Burma. Adoniram was thrown into a vermin-infested prison. Ann walked several miles every day to the prison to take food to Adoniram. 

Adoniram caught a tropical fever, and Ann moved to a small hut near the prison to care for him. When he was forced to walk barefoot for 12 miles to another prison, she followed after him with her 3-month-old. Staying in a tiny room next to the room of the jailer and his family, she contracted smallpox and spotted fever. She wrote later to Adoniram’s brother that, through her trying circumstances, her faith “taught me to look beyond this world, to that rest … where Jesus reigns and oppression never enters.”

When the war ended, Adoniram returned to his missions work. Ann, though, died of a fever Oct. 24, 1826. Their daughter died six months later and is buried next to Ann.

Ann was an advocate for women’s education when formal education for women was rare. In 1838 several visionary people supported a school for young women in Marion. They enlisted the help of Milo P. Jewett, a graduate of Andover Theological Seminary, who had come to Alabama to establish a school for young women so they could obtain the same quality of education that young men received at Harvard and Yale. The founders named their school The Judson Female Institute after Ann Judson. They declared that she “glorified God and benefited society better than any other woman of their time.” Her legacy at Judson College in Marion has continued for almost 176 years.

Today Ann Judson remains the most influential missionary woman in American history.

(Rosalie Hunt contributed)

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