Reverend Olympia Brown

In June 1863 at the St. Lawrence Association of Universalists (New York), Olympia Brown became the first woman ordained “with full denominational authority” by any denomination in America.Brown would serve in Universalist congregations throughout the nation, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

A staunch advocate of women’s rights, Brown co-founded the New England Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1868. While in Wisconsin, she served as president of the state Woman Suffrage Association for twenty-eight years. She was also vice-president of the National Woman Suffrage Association.

Another woman, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, was ordained a Congregational minister on September 15, 1853, but the ordination never received the authoritative support of the Congregational General Conference. (See Susan Hill Lindley, You Have Stept Out of Your Place: A History of Women and Religion in America, Louisville, Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996.)