Sadly, My Husband Died in Infancy
The title of this post is a quip that Charlotte used to deflect inappropriate questions about why she wasn't married. Charlotte was a wit.
When she came back from Kentucky she started a series of serious conversations about being a pastor in Oregon Yearly Meeting. The meetings without a pastor usually let her come and preach a sermon as a candidate, and they always appreciated those messages, but when it came down to it, most local meetings would not seriously consider a single woman.
The Yearly Meeting superintendent was Dean Gregory. He was a great supporter of young ministers and female ministry. His mother Cora Gregory was a pastor, evangelist and recorded minister. He was working hard to find a place for Charlotte. He wasn't having any luck either.
At last, the pastor of Medford Friends Church, Clynton Crisman, talked his elders into taking her on as a temporary youth pastor, and summer interim preacher (He was hoping for an extended vacation that year.) He reported that he told the elders that the only risk he saw in taking on Charlotte was that she was a better preacher than he was, and that he might not have a job when he got back from vacation. He said this was a joke - he wasn't worried about his job - but that it was also a true reflection of her skills which he deeply respected.
Charlotte lived in the parsonage with the Crismans that summer and they remembered her as a delightful housemate. The stipend she received from the church was minimal.
The youth of Medford loved Charlotte, and their parents found her to be a trust worthy counselor to their children. Everyone enjoyed her preaching. But when Fall rolled around the miniscule budget for a youth pastor dried up and Charlotte was at loose ends again.
Dean Gregory sent her up to talk to the folks at Scotts Mills.
After a successful completion of a degree at Asbury, Charlotte headed back to the Northwest. Very few pastors in the Yearly Meeting had graduate degrees. It was respected, except in the places where it was discounted. There was a traditional tension about education among Friends, especially in the West. Some of it went right back to Fox and his disdain for "professors who were not possessors." Some of it was a farm attitude about Book Learning vs. practical knowledge. Some of it was probably just ignorance and sour grapes.
But in Greenleaf, Idaho, they were impressed enough to put her up for recording. Greenleaf had two female ministers and had always been big on education. The recording was finalized at Yearly Meeting in 1952.
But she still didn't have a church.
How tough was it to be a female minister in the 1950's?
According to the National council of Churches, 4.1% of clergy were female in 1950. That compared to 6.1% of Medical doctors. It got worse. By 1960 only 2.3% of clergy were female. while the percentage of female doctors had risen to 7%.
It was discouraging to say the least.
But Friends! you say...
Yes, Quakers had always been better with female ministry. Female preaching since 1652, and women recorded as soon as recording was done.
Most protestant denominations didn't start making room for female ministry until after 1900. The Episcopalians, great-grandchildren of the church Fox and Fell railed against, didn't manage it until 1976.
In 1917 44% of ministers in Oregon Yearly Meeting were female. Eight were pastors, which was 32% of the pastors.
By 1950 there were 32 female recorded ministers, that was 23% of the total. There were six women listed as pastors, but all of them were pastoring with their husbands.
By 1960 There were 33 female recorded ministers, but the percentage had dropped to 20%.
In 1968 they were 17%.
In 1979-80 they were 13%
In 1999 they were 12%.
It wasn't going to be easy.
Charlotte and Dorothy on the shore of a lake near Osakaloosa - late 40's
So what do adventurous young women do when the opportunities dry up at home? Hit the Road.
Charlotte took an offer of Dean of Women at William Penn College in Osakaloosa, Iowa. (Her brother Mahlon reported that this job was "dorm mother") While visiting the campus she found that Iowa had quite a few poor churches that would consider female ministry. She reported this to Dorothy.
Dorothy Barratt talked Leta Hockett into going to Greenville, Iowa to take a small church. The church did well with their nurture and care, and they were appreciated. Dorothy stated that the church neglected to tell them that the parsonage did not have indoor plumbing except for a pump in the kitchen, and that the pump was broken. To cheer themselves up they painted the outhouse door bright red.
Charlotte only stayed at William Penn for one year. She told her brother that she was disappointed in it because she found it "Too Worldly." We can from this point in history only speculate about what sort of loose living and heretical ideas were rampant in Osakaloosa in 1948. Apparently Charlotte's ideals were untarnished.
After a Year at William Penn, she decided to go farther east to Asbury Seminary to get a Master's of Divinity. Surely that would get her some opportunities. Asbury was (and to an extent still is) the premier school for Holiness preachers. Dorothy stayed in Iowa.
Charlotte's dissertation in 1949 nine was titled "The Extension Department in the Local Church School." This illustrates her early interest in young people and her dream of a church big enough to have departments inside other departments.
Sometimes You Have to Open the Way
Charlotte excelled at college, and no one was surprised. She was one of the last classes to graduate with "Pacific College" on her diploma, as the school changed it name to George Fox College in 1950. The school almost became Friendswood College except for a last minute written plea from Alumni and childhood peer Arthur Roberts who argued for the Historical moniker. Arthur prevailed over and convinced Levi Pennington who was advocating "Hoover College."
(This writer wishes to express deep gratitude on behalf of all present and future alumni to AOR)
Charlotte remembered her time there as a time of joy and promise. She roomed one year there with childhood friend Gerry Wilcutts. There was a close-knit group of women there who socialized together and encouraged each other. Many in this group of women ministers never married. Two years behind Charlotte in School was her close friend Dorothy Barrett.
But with graduation, women who did not go on to marriage were often at loose ends. Charlotte's male peers either went on to graduate school or immediately were offered pastorates or teaching positions. Nothing opened up immediately for Charlotte. So she went home to Greenleaf. And the academy offered her a girls PE teaching position for one year at virtual volunteer wages. She lived at home. And she was not satisfied.
When Dorothy graduated just behind Charlotte, she had no better prospects. Charlotte cooked the first of her ministerial entrepreneur schemes on a visit to Dorothy in Newberg during the Spring of her final year. Then Charlotte presented the plan to the College. She and Dorothy would embark upon a year long tour of the yearly meeting doing recruitment for the college. She asked for sanction and title, but no pay. The admissions office jumped at the chance. Then Charlotte and Dorothy started writing letters to churches. In return for room and board and a chance to talk to high school students they would do any needful work for the church. They offered to preach, visit shuts ins, run Vacation Bible Schools, organize and lead youth rallies, teach Sunday School, even paint, clean and do building maintenance. Anyone who has every done these tasks for years on end at a small church understands why they booked the entire year in no time flat.
So they did the work. Dorothy's favorite memory was of a Tacoma , Washington two week revival meeting with nightly preaching - they took turns - though Dorothy said that even then Charlotte was the better preacher. They also built relationships with most of the pastors in the Yearly Meeting, and they built a good reputation for themselves. Admissions to the College went up that year.
Charlotte had two hopes, first that the College would see the value of this role and offer to pay them. No such offer was forthcoming. The next hope was that one of the vacant churches, and there were several, would see their promise and call them to a pastorate. There was much gratitude, and everyone enjoyed having "those college girls" visit and work for free, and hoped they would come again soon. But no one saw them as the answer to their pastoral needs.