Ann Hasseltine is America’s First Woman Missionary to Foreign Soil

Ann Hasseltine was born in Massachusetts, USA, on December 22, 1789 and became America’s first woman to go overseas as a missionary.

Converted at the age of 17, “Nancy” (as she was known) soon found herself the centre of attention from the local theological students at Andover Theological Seminary who congregated at her parents’ home.

The Life of David Brainerd stirred her missionary interest, and when young Adoniram Judson proposed – and told her that he was planning to leave America’s shores as a missionary to India – she was quick to accept.

Judson’s letter to Deacon Hasseltine reveals the devotion of the first American foreign missionary:

“Dear Sir, Can you consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world?

“Can you consent to her departure to a heathen land and her subjection to hardships and sufferings of a missionary life … to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?”

Deacon Hasseltine consented … and on 19 February, 1812 (just two weeks after their marriage) Adoniram and Ann sailed for India under the newly established American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

But it was Burma that they finally found their field of service, where they did face degradation and insult and persecution …

Adoniram and Ann accepted the Baptist instruction en route to India and were baptised when they arrived at Calcutta. However the East India Company ordered them to leave India so they made their way to Madras and took the only ship available, bound for Rangoon, Burma, where they arrived on July 13, 1813.

They worked faithfully but it took them six years to see their first convert. Then life was interrupted by British incursions into Burmese territory. Adoniram was imprisoned and Ann kept him alive, despite her own illness by getting food to him.

When Britain captured Rangoon in 1824 the Burmese government imprisoned foreigners in Ava, the then Burmese capital. Ann devoted herself sacrificially to helping those who were imprisoned, by many letters to the government and by her personal assistance.

One of those imprisoned gave this “tribute of public thanks to that amiable and humane female, who, though living at a distance of two miles from our prison, without any means of conveyance, and very feeble in health, forgot her own comfort and infirmity, and almost every day visited us, sought out and administered to our wants and contributed in every way to alleviate our misery”.

When Judson was released they moved to Amherst. It was there, while her husband was on an errand to Ava, that Ann died on October 24, 1826, at the age of 36, thus fulfilling the prophetic tone of Adoniram’s letter of proposal to her father.

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com