Sarah Woodson Early

Dates Alive: 1825-1907

Family: Woodson

Occupation: Teacher; School principal; Lecturer; Writer

Sarah Woodson, the youngest child of Thomas and Jemima Woodson, exemplified her family’s commitment to the fields of education and religion. By the age of five, she had memorized large parts of the Bible. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1856 and then began her long career as a teacher in Ohio, North Carolina, and Tennessee. She was one of the first African American women on a college faculty, at Wilberforce University, of which her brother Lewis Woodson was a founding trustee. 

In 1868 she married Jordan Winston Early, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church and, as she wrote, assisted “in all of his most arduous duties.” She was national superintendent of the Colored Division of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and lectured widely on temperance, self-improvement, and the role of women.  In 1894 she published a biography of her husband.


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“The Women Were Ready”

In the early days of the [AME] Church when its ministers were illiterate and humble, and her struggles with poverty…
“The Women Were Ready”

Sarah Woodson Early speaks in 1893 about the importance of women in the church.

“In the early days of the [AME] Church when its ministers were illiterate and humble, and her struggles with poverty and proscriptions were long and severe, and when it required perseverance, and patience, and fortitude, and foresight, and labor, the women were ready, with their time, their talent, their influence and their money, to dedicate all to the upbuilding of the Church.  No class of persons did more to solicit and bring in the people than they.  They raised money to build churches and to support the ministers. They assisted in the prayer-meetings and class-meetings and Sabbath-schools, and taught there to love the ordinances of the Church and to respect the ministry.  Where there were no churches built they opened their doors for public worship and gladly received the care-worn and weary travelling preachers into their families and provided bountifully for their necessities. They were not only zealous in labors, but were talented in speech.  Some were gifted in prayer; so much so that persons were often convinced by hearing them pray, and were led to God and soundly converted and became useful members of the Church.” (Sarah Woodson Early, from speech given at Chicago World’s Fair, 1893)