This sample of honorable women, across centuries, cultures, and various socio-economic strata, shows that the criteria man uses to measure greatness is often very different from God’s, which values humility, an intimate knowledge of His Word, and willingness to participate in His plan. It is also important to remember some of the lesser known heroines in Christianity. For every one woman of notoriety there are hundreds of other women serving God in anonymity, fighting with the same determination, battling the same enemy, serving others selflessly and laying down their own lives to gain a more perfect one. Below is a list containing 10 of the most influential woman in Christianity:
10 of the Most Influential Women in Christianity
Mary Magdalene (Early Church)
She was an eye witness to nearly every aspect of the Gospel. When personally confronted by the Savior about the depth of her sin, she found forgiveness, hope and a new life. Mary Magdalene dedicated herself to whole-heartedly following Jesus, and she never looked back. She sat at His feet, heard His words, experienced His miracles, and courageously stood by the Lord at His crucifixion when many of His other disciples fled. She saw with her own eyes the penalty and payment for her sin at the cross, and she was one of the first witnesses to the empty tomb where she saw and spoke with the risen Lord! Church fathers rightly named her “Apostle to the Apostles”.
Katharina von Bora-Luther (1499 -1552)
Living in a world where the zeal and love for God is often dampened by confusion and disappointment, it is refreshing to see the steadfast, burning devotion of Katharina von Bora, the wife of Martin Luther. At the age of five she was taken from her home to live in a convent and eventually became a nun. At 22 years old, Katharina heard the reformed teachings of Martin Luther and was born again. She found the courage to renounce her vows and, with the help of Luther, fled the convent. Her relationship with Martin Luther began as mutual respect, but eventually blossomed into a deep abiding love. Throughout her life, Katharina knew the heartbreak of rejection, felt the horrible pain of losing an infant and a young child, carried the burden of an alcoholic son, and heroically supported a man who experienced constant opposition and discouragement. She was diligent to live out the biblical teaching she built her life upon, and her love and devotion to God and to her husband, in effect, furthered the cause of the Reformation.
Olimpia Fulvia Morata (1526 – 1555)
The author Jules Bonnet said of her talents paired with humility, that she “had received from Heaven in rich measure those gifts which excite the admiration of men and that grace which seems able to disarm envy.” She was raised alongside nobility and had certain privilege that early on revealed her extraordinary intellect and talent. At a very young age she was able to speak fluent Greek and Latin and had already composed number of poems and was actively engaged in discourse with well known scholars. In her 20’s she experienced a series of difficulties that uprooted her from the privileged environment she fancied and left her feeling set aside and abased. But it was through this hardship that God turned her affections to Himself. She later wrote, “God is verily the most eloquent of orators: He persuades without words; He bends the mind as he wishes, and inclines it according to His will. He does nothing by chance, but He arranges all things with infinite wisdom. May my talents be used to His glory! That would be to me the most beautiful of rewards.” Through war, plague, exile, captivity and illness, she remained loyal to the Gospel and what has been preserved of her beautiful words is a lasting testament to her faith.
Susanna Wesley (1669 – 1742)
Through loss, financial hardship, and marital stress, the character of this woman of faith was forged. She is the mother of the famous John and Charles Wesley, the same ones who brought the Gospel to hundreds of thousands. She considered all her many children to be her most precious jewels and she made every effort to know each one individually, addressing each care and concern. Though none of her works were published, her children were greatly influenced by the lessons, letters, and biblical training she prepared for them and they proceeded to make great stride for the sake of the Gospel.
Ann Dutton (1692 – 1765)
She had no formal higher education but was very well-read and self taught. Although many have branded her a hyper-Calvinist because she was pastored by Joseph Hussey, in reality she freely pursued, appreciated, and considered opposing doctrine. Even her criticism of those she disagreed with was done with grace and kindness as exemplified in the many letters written to the Rev. John Wesley challenging his Arminian doctrine. Her discourse on the error of sinless perfection is priceless. It is sad that much of the opposition she experienced was not based on the substance of her writing but merely because she was female. Even so, much of her writings and publications survive today to show that God is not a respecter of persons. He gives wisdom liberally to all those who ask and imparts intimate revelation to those who seek Him through His Word.
Evangeline Booth (1865 – 1950)
She was the first woman appointed General of the Salvation Army. During her years of leadership, the organization doubled the number of facilities and set both property holdings and bank accounts in the millions. She also took the Salvation Army’s humanitarian practice of providing for the needs of the poor to the war in Europe and her efforts were applauded by the US government. She received the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) for her exceptional meritorious service.
Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951)
Hers is a true story of tenacity. Amy suffered with a chronic illness that initially held her back from doing missionary work, first in China, when she was rejected because of her health; then she was forced to cut short her missionary trip to Japan, and return home due to the same illness. But what others would see as disqualifying misfortune, God used to move her to the perfect place to fulfill her deep desire to serve God and others. She initially traveled to Bangalore, India for her health, but eventually began a ministry rescuing girls who were forced into prostitution by religious custom. Not only did she influence change in the lives of so many young women, and affect future work that extended to helping boys, but she also inspired other great missionaries like Jim and Elizabeth Elliott, who in turn went on to influence countless others.
Corrie Ten Boom (1892 – 1983)
“Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” These are the words of one of the great heroes of the faith, Corrie ten Boom. Her upbringing to love God and to love others took root in a way, that when put to the test, resulted in ultimate sacrifice. Corrie and her family helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust, and ultimately they were arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where they suffered at the hands of the Nazis. She saw and experienced horrific things there, but God gave her the courage and faith to forgive those who tortured and murdered those she loved. She survived the war and became a great witness for Christ throughout the rest of her life. Of all the honors from dignitaries and nations, none were as rewarding as the one she received when she finally saw the face of her Savior on her own birthday, April 15, 1983.
Joni Eareckson Tada (1949 to present)
Known around the world by her testimonial feature film, conferences, writing, music, radio, art work and television series, Joni Eareckson Tada speaks hope into thousands of lives—not only as an advocate to the disabled community but as an encouragement and counsel to many others. A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. After two years of rehab, she overcame with new skills and a fresh
determination to help others in similar situations. She founded “Joni and Friends” in 1979 to provide Christ-centered programs to special-needs families, as well as training to churches. Joni survived stage 3 breast cancer in 2010, yet keeps a very active ministry schedule. Her lifelong passion is to bring the Gospel to the world’s one billion people with disabilities.
Christine Caine (1966 to present)
It’s hard to decide what stands out the most in evaluating the impact Christine continues to leave on the world. The faith and courage revealed in her personal testimony and the countless precious souls saved from the clutches of human trafficking are certainly in the forefront. As founder of A1 Campaign, an anti-trafficking organization, she is an author, and speaker, and continues to make a difference in thousands of lives.
The lives of these women are recorded in history to be examples to us of loyalty, courage and perseverance. Their willingness to serve and their enduring diligence in matters of the Gospel urge us to remain steadfast in the faith. These are 10 of the most influential women in Christianity.