People & Events
1764 - 1849
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Although largely overlooked, Sara Bass Allen, the second wife of AME Church founder Richard Allen, was characterized by those who knew her as "a pillar [of] the building, a mother in Israel" whose work enabled Richard Allen and his fellow ministers to carry on their work.
Sara was born into slavery in 1764 in Virginia's Isle of Wight County, but was brought to Philadelphia when she was eight years old. Little is known about her early life, but by 1800 she had obtained her freedom.
She met Allen in 1800, and they were married within a year. Their first child, Richard Jr., was born the following year, and five others followed: James, John, Peter, Sara and Ann.
Sara's primary work consisted in managing the Allen household and raising the children, but she also actively supported Allen's activism and assisted in the work of the AME Church. With her husband, Sara assisted runaway slaves, hiding, feeding and clothing them in their home and in the church. The bedraggled appearance of the ministers at the AME Church's first annual conference inspired her to organize the Daughters of Conference, officially designated in 1827. These AME women mended the garments of the ministers, gave them food, and provided them with the material support they needed to survive. The work of the Daughters of Conference continued long after Sara's death.
When Richard died in 1831, he had provided well enough for his family that unlike most widows, Sara could afford not to seek employment. Sara Allen died on July 16, 1849 in the home of her youngest daughter, Ann. She was interred beside her husband in a tomb in the lower level of Mother Bethel Church.
A portrait of Sara Allen
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