- Palmer, Phoebe
- (1807-1874)Holiness teacher and women's rights advocatePhoebe Palmer was born Phoebe Worrell in New York City on December 18, 1807, and grew up in the Methodist Episcopal Church (now an integral part of the United Methodist Church). She had a conversion experience early in life, but was not satisfied in her relationship with God for many years.In 1827, she married Walter C. Palmer (1804-83). They joined the Norfolk Street Church, which they felt needed strengthening. Beginning in 1835, Phoebe held women's meetings on Tuesday afternoons at her home (with Walter's encouragement). These meetings took on new meaning after 1837, when Pheobe experienced what Holiness people call sanctification or the second blessing. She felt that she had been perfected in love. The Palmers emerged as leaders in the burgeoning Holiness movement within the Methodist Church.Palmer's Holiness beliefs led her to charitable work among the poor and the imprisoned. In 1850, she took the lead in founding the Five Points Mission to assist people trapped in the city's slums. She began to write articles for Timothy Merrit's periodical, Guide to Holiness, the movement's chief organ, as well as her first books.Throughout the 1850s, the Palmers made annual tours of the eastern united States and Canada, visiting Methodist camp meetings and initiating their own Holiness revivals, helping to stimulate a revival that swept through Methodism in 1857. The Palmers spread Holiness teachings in England from 1859 to 1863 (as the Civil War raged in America). Upon their return, Walter purchased the Guide to Holiness and installed Phoebe as its editor, a post she held for the rest of her life. once the war ended, the Holiness movement swept the Methodist church at every level. It was given institutional form by the National Association for the Promotion of Holiness, organized in 1867.During the last decade of her life, Phoebe was a dominant force in the movement. She wrote several more books and was outspoken on a variety of issues from fair wages for domestics to temperance. Outside the Holiness movement, she is most remembered for her advocacy of women's rights in the church. She was frequently called upon to justify her career, which she did in her book Promise of the Father, which relied on her reading of the second chapter of Acts. From the fact that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for both men and women, she argued that women had the power and obligation to testify about the Lord.Phoebe continued her evangelistic, literary, and social work until her death on November 2, 1874. Walter continued to publish the Guide to Holiness until his death in 1883.Further reading:■ Melvin E. Dieter, The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980)■ Phoebe Palmer, Promise of the Father (Boston: H. V Degen, 1859; reprint, Salem, Ohio: Schmul, 1981); , The Way of Holiness with Notes by the Way, 2nd ed. (New York: Lane & Tippett, 1845)■ Richard Wheatley, The Life and Letters of Mrs. Phoebe Palmer (New York: W C. Palmer, Jr., 1876)■ Charles Edward White, The Beauty of Holiness: Phoebe Palmer as Theologian, Revivalist, Feminist, and Humanitarian (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1986).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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