Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Spokane's First Woman Minister

By Kris Krell

 Spokane’s First Woman Minister

Ordained April 15, 1897, at the Hillyard Congregational Church, Rosine Edwards Stuart is thought to be Spokane’s first woman minister. Rosine had been a teacher, but she decided to prepare for the ministry so she could help her father in his circuit-rider missionary/ministry career. During his career he estabised more than a dozen churches in the Inland Northwest.  Her father also wrote History of Spokane, a three volume work published in 1900.  

Rosine was born February 22,1873, in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. She came to Spokane in 1885 when her father became pastor of First Congregational Church (now Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ at 4thand Washington).  Rosine graduated from Spokane Falls High School having studied English grammar, physical geography, penmanship, reading, and United States history.  She then graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1895, and also studied at Pacific Theological Seminary in California.   

At Rosine’s ordination, Whitman College President, Dr. Penrose, gave the sermon.   Rosine’s father, Dr. Edwards, and Reverend Elvira Cobleigh from the coast–the only other woman pastor in the area, both participated.  A front-page Spokesman-Review article in May 1897 said “Spokane Girl Returns to City as a Licensed Preacher.  An example from one of Rosine’s books pointed out that it is only by the highest development of self that we are enabled to give the best to others.  

Rosine was the principal of a girls’ academay near Yakima, Washington, for two years prior to her marriage to Malcom Roy Stuart in 1902. Rosine also serviced a church at Tolt, Washington, prior to working at the girls’ school.

Rosine and her husband Roy moved from Tolt, Washington, to Spokane were Roy worked at a dairy.  They had one son and two daughters.  Rosine retired from the ministry after her marriage, but she remained active in church and missionary groupings in Washington and Oregon.  She was frequently called to preach and fill various pastorates.  Rosine lived in the Spokane area for thirty-two years and then moved to Portland, Oregon, where she died on March 24, 1941, at age sixty-eight years from a heart disorder.

Her daughter, Gwendolyn Poole, said she is
 “very proud of her mother,” describing her as brilliant and adding that, “She 
went to college in the 1890s when not very many women did so.”  Gwendolyn 
also described her mother as, “very sweet, a very tolerant person,” although their home life was strict.  “She was a good speaker and she touched many lives.” Gwendolyn also remembers her mother speaking about pioneers such as the Whitmans, Cowleys and Cushing Eells.”

Sources: By the Falls Women of Determination, American Association of University Women, Spokane Branch, Washington State Centennial Project

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