Anna Howard Shaw - Call To Preach

Call To Preach

As Shaw matured, her drive to attend college became firmer. After the Civil War, she abandoned her teaching job and moved in with her married sister Mary in Big Rapids, Michigan. There she hoped to learn a “money-making trade," but she soon found that “the fields open to women were few and unfruitful.”

The onset of her preaching career began when she met Reverend Marianna Thompson who was the first person who supported her pursuit of an education. Thanks to Thompson's help, Shaw entered Big Rapids High school where she began reciting poetry to audiences and taking “speaking and debating classes”. At the age of twenty-three, Shaw was invited by Dr. Peck—a man looking to ordain a female Methodist minister—to give her first sermon. Shaw hesitated at first because her only lecturing experience had been “as a little girl preaching alone in the forest...to a congregation of listening trees.” With some encouragement from Dr. Peck, Shaw agreed and, over the course of six months, prepared her sermon to be given.

Despite the success of her first sermon, her newfound passion to preach received much disapproval from her classmates, friends, and family who agreed to pay for her college education only if she abandoned preaching. Despite such continual opposition and isolation from so many, Anna chose to keep on preaching. She was “deeply moved” by Mary A. Livermore, a prominent lecturer who came to Big Rapids. Ms. Livermore gave her the following advice: “if you want to preach, go on and preach…No matter what people say, don’t let them stop you!”

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