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Frances E. Townsley

The first ordination of a Northern Baptist (now known as the American Baptist Churches, USA) occurred in 1882. May C. Jones was ordained at a meeting of the Baptist Association of Puget Sound in Washington. In 1885 Frances E. "Fannie" Townsley became the second-known Baptist woman ordained. Townsley had begun preaching in churches and holding evangelistic services throughout New England in 1875. She was licensed to preach by her church in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts and several years later moved to Fairfield, Nebraska. There she pastored Fairfield Baptist Church. Still lacking ordination and the ability to administer sacraments, the church’s deacons asked to ordain her. After resisting this move for several months Townsley consented to ordination in April 1885. Her ordination exam took three hours and covered, as well, her sense of call and doctrinal views. As one might expect for the times, Townsley endured criticism and resistance after her ordination. She would later travel frequently to preach in towns throughout Nebraska, and served as a temperance leader. Years later, around the turn of the century Townsley, living in Maywood, Illinois, had an award-winning essay published by the Women’s National Sabbath Alliance.