Ann Hasseltine Judson

by adustyframe ~ December 21st, 2008

**If you looked at this earlier today in Internet Explorer, try reading again. There was some strange script in my post. I could see it in Firefox and didn’t know you couldn’t see it in Explorer.**

One of my very favorite Christian women in history is Ann Judson.

She was one of the first American woman missionaries. Her story of service and faithfulness always inspires me.

I’ve been meaning to post about her for many months, but I lost my notes about her.

**Do any of you even remember I was posting about Christian women in history?

Tonight, I was looking for something else and found the paper I wrote about her and how fitting–it’s her birthday!

Ann was a strong minded teen who was often in trouble and charmed her way out of it. She was the baby in a family of 4 girls and was spoiled.

Adoniram Judson was a preacher’s son who was strong minded, cocky, stubborn, and brilliant. Together they would become a remarkable team working for God.

Nancy Hasseltine was born December 22, 1789 in Bradford, Massachusetts. She became a Christian in 1806 at the age of 16. She desired to serve God and she and her friend Harriet Atwood talked about dedicating their lives to God’s service.

In the year 1810, exciting things were happening in the Congregationalist denomination. Four young men from Andover Theological Seminary presented a petition to the Massachusetts ministers. These young men, Samuel  Mills, Samuel Newell, Samuel Nott, and Adoniram Judson asked to be sent by the churches on a mission to the heathen world.

On Friday June 29, 1810, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was organized to support the volunteers.

That afternoon Adoniram Judson and Nancy Hasseltine met and apparently it was love at first sight. One month later, a letter arrived at the Hasseltine home from Adoniram Judson. He was proposing marriage! Nancy delayed answering until her exasperated sisters threatened to do it for her. She answered his letter and she and Adoniram were engaged.  Her friend Harriet became engaged to another of the volunteers, Samuel Newell.

Nancy and Adoniram were married on February 5, 1812 and she became Ann Judson.  Adoniram was ordained the next day. Two weeks later on February 19, the Judsons and the Newells set sail for India.
Ann said the boat ride was like Noah’s Ark–“so many animals”. She skipped rope and danced to get exercise.

Complications due to the war between American and England prohibited them from staying in India. They were allowed to visit with William Carey in Serampore and spoke with him about serving in Burma. (This land is now called Myanmar which you may remember from the devastating cyclone.)

William Carey discouraged them from going to Burma because of its despotic government and the savage inhabitants. The Newells left them for the Isle of France near Madagascar and the Judsons were to follow.

During this time, the Judsons became Baptists out of conviction. Adoniram studied the Bible to prove that baptism meant sprinkling and from his study believed it meant immersion. Ann had stubbornly refused at first saying, “If you become a Baptist I will not.” They withdrew from the Congregationalist denomination and the Baptist missionaries in Serampore offered to help them.

Their first child was born stillborn on a boat during one of their trips.

When the Judsons reached the Isle of France in January 1813, they learned that Harriet and her newborn daughter had died in November. Ann’s friend was the first American woman to give her life for the cause of Christ in the non-Christian world.

The Judsons sailed for Madras, but the East India Company forced them to leave. They had to choose–Europe, America, or Burma. They chose Burma and on July 13, 1813 they landed in Rangoon. Burma was a filthy, primitive, barbaric country, but it did not dismiss them from its shore.

The Judsons began to settle in Burma, and immediately began learning the language and translating the Bible. Ann adopted some of the Burmese customs and dress but could never bring herself to wear sandals!

By now, Ann’s health was fragile due to liver problems and on occasion she had to leave Burma to receive medical care. On September 11, 1815 Roger Williams Judson was born. He died of a fever on May 4, 1816.

During this time the Judsons learned the Burmese language and Adoniram compiled a grammar of the language which is still in use today. They witnessed, worked and prayed, but still no converts. Their continual prayer was,

“God grant that we may live and die among the Burmans, though we never should do anything else than smooth the way for others.”

In August of 1821, Ann sailed for America because of ill health. She struggled for 4 months to regain her strength. She received a letter from Rangoon that there were now 17 converts. She was anxious to return home. Adoniram wrote that missing her felt like his arm had been amputated and his eyes gouged out.

After 28 months away, she sailed into Rangoon harbor December 5, 1823. They moved to Ava to start a new mission. Ann’s voyage was a great spectacle; a foreign woman had never been seen here. Friends and relatives were called; no one wanted to miss this sight!

Ann opened a school for girls and the Judsons continued their Bible translation.

The king viewed foreigners suspiciously (this is still the case in 2008!). When Rangoon fell to the British the foreigners were accused of being spies.

Adoniram was imprisoned on June 8, 1824. Their home was searched but thankfully, Ann had hidden the silver and the Burmese Bible they were translating.

The prison was a place of vermin, human victims, and torture. Daily, Ann pleaded with the officials to release the prisoners. She was not allowed to see her husband. She pleaded, paid bribes, and wrote letters. She sent a petition to the queen who ignored her pleas.

She continued her cause but had given up hope of their release. Because of her daily visits to government officials, favors were granted to the foreign prisoners and she was finally allowed to visit her husband. She smuggled the Bible translation work to him in a pillow case.

In January 1825, Maria Elizabeth Judson was born. She was 20 days old before she was allowed to meet her father. In May 1825, the foreign prisoners were carried away from Ava.

Ann, her 2 adopted Burmese girls, her baby Maria, and a servant tried to find them. They bumped along in an old cart and found them 2 days later. The prisoners had been tied together and forced to march with no shoes. Their feet were bruised and “destitute of skin”. If they stopped they were beaten mercilessly. Adoniram was unable to walk and was basically carried by other prisoners.

Everyday, Ann had to fight for food, clothing, and health. A smallpox epidemic had broken out and Ann and one of her children contracted the disease. Even while ill, Ann continued serving. Gradually her patients recovered but she had reached the end of her physical endurance.  She could barely crawl, yet she set out in a cart to Ava, for food and supplies.

This took the last of her strength and she lay ill for two months. Ann was unable to feed Maria and listened to her cry for food. Ann sent gifts to her husband’s captors and Adoniram was allowed to carry Maria through the village to find young mothers to feed her.

In November 1825, Adoniram was released from prison only to be imprisoned again 6 weeks later. He was forced to be an interpreter for the army. While he was away, Ann contracted spotted fever and lay ill for 6 weeks.

Ann sent a letter to the governor begging him to free her husband–the next morning, Adoniram was released.

They returned to Rangoon for a short time. The city they had lived in 13 years before. As they walked the streets of the city, they could never imagine the works that would be built on their foundation.

The Judsons moved to Amherst, Burma which was British occupied. Adoniram was sent as the British ambassador to accompany the Civil Commissioner to Ava. He was promised that if he went, they would fight for religious liberty for the Burmese people. Ann agreed that he should go.

While he was gone, she built a house, opened 2 schools and held Sunday services.

In last September 1826, she wrote Adoniram telling him that she had moved into the new house and that Maria was getting better, but she was still weak.

In November he received a letter bearing an emblem of grief. He thought that Maria had died.

“To sum up the unhappy tidings in a few words, Mrs. Judson is no more…”

Everything had been done for her, but 2 weeks after the fever struck her on October 24, 1826 at the age of 36, her spirit went home to God.  She was buried under a Hopia tree.

They told Adoniram that the fever had affected her head and she said very little. She left instructions to care for her baby and the house until her husband returned. The last 2 days, she laid still, her eyes closed and died at 8 in the evening.

Ann’s life had been full of hardship and loss, yet she accomplished so much. Besides working to free her husband she wrote a catechism in Burmese, and translated the books of Daniel and Jonah into Burmese. In 1819, she translated the book of Matthew into Thai.

That spring, baby Maria, age 2 years and 3 months was also laid to rest under the Hopia tree.

Adoniram Judson returned to America, but a burning desire to win the Burmese sent him back to the Orient. He remarried twice.

As a young man, he cried out–“I will not leave Burma until the cross is planted here forever.”

When he died, he left the Bible translated into Burmese, 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers.

Ann was buried under a Hopia tree, maybe it was symbolic. Hope had governed her life from its beginning in New England to its close in the jungle of Burma. But deeper than hope and even deeper than faith was the secret that transformed her life–

“Whom not having seen, I love.”

Information on current mission work in Myanmar.


3 Thoughts Shared to Ann Hasseltine Judson

  1. Barbara H.

    She is one of my favorite missionaries, too. For a while I was posting about some of the “heroes of the faith” — I wanted to keep their stories before people or acquaint others with them who might not know them. I need to think about making that a regular feature.

  2. theprincessofquitealot

    Fantastic article on her and thanks for mentioning where present day Burma is. I was actually thinking the other day…”I wonder what Burma is called nowdays.”

  3. Alexy

    Thank you for sharing this. I am so so so blessed. Thank God so much for her life and Judson’s life … They have left such a sweet fragrance behind …

Thank You for Sharing Your Thoughts