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Historical Document
Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee

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In 1819, in an age when women were prohibited by social and religious custom from preaching, Jarena Lee became the first woman to be authorized to preach by Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Although he at first denied her request, Bishop Allen was so moved by Lee's spontaneous exhortation during a visiting minister's sermon that he "rose up in the assembly, and related that [she] had called upon him eight years before, asking to be permitted to preach, and that he had put [her] off; but that he now as much believed that [she] was called to that work, as any of the preachers present."

Despite Allen's blessing, Lee continued to face hostility to her ministry because she was black and a woman. She became a traveling minister, traveling thousands of miles on foot. In one year alone, she "travelled two thousand three hundred and twenty-five miles, and preached one hundred and seventy-eight sermons."

In 1833, Jarena Lee began working with an editor to turn her religious journal into an autobiography. Three years later she had 1000 copies of her Religious Experience and Journal printed, and began distributing it at camp meetings, organizational meetings, and on the street. In 1839, one year before she joined the American Antislavery Society, she had another 1000 copies printed, and in 1849 she printed an expanded version, which carried her autobiography up to her 50th year

In this excerpt, Lee describes her first journey as an itinerant preacher.

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Related Entries:
Portrait of Jarena Lee
Catherine Brekus on Jarena Lee
Margaret Washington on Jarena Lee's conversion
Albert Raboteau on Jarena Lee's conversion

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