Anna Howard Shaw

Female Minister and Women's Rights Activist

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What Was "Wrong" With the World Before This Reform?

Before this reform, women were treated badly and didn't get equal rights. Also, men were very abusive and controlling towards them.

Childhood and Education Highlights


During Shaw's childhood, her family immagrated to the U.S. (1851) and her father left most of the family on an isolated farm in Michigan when she was only 12. Soon after, she had to take care of her older brother after he became ill. Anna also had to maintain her families land.


Shaw was determined to get a college education, so while staying with her sister in Big Rapids, she attended high school. Around this time she began preaching as well. Shaw's family offered to pay for her college if she stopped preaching, but Shaw decided to take her own path. She became a liscensed preacher in 1871. Eventually Shaw could attend college, using the funds she earned on preaching and lectures on temperance. For two years she attended Albion College and afterwards she studied at Boston University's School of Theology. She was the only woman in her class so it was a struggle until she graduated in 1878.

What Did Anna Do to Make Changes?

Anna gave up her preaching career to go lecture in support of the Temperance and Women's Rights movement. In 1888, Susan B. Anony encouraged Shaw to focus on the cause of women's suffrage. Anna was also the Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage from 1892-1904. A last way she helped make changes is that during WWI, she headed the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense.

Motivation to Become a Reformer

Anna didn't like what her parents thought a woman should and could do. Becuase of this, Shaw wanted to prove them wrong and she became a preacher anyways. It wasn't easy to be a female minister becuase time after time, she was turned down by several churches. Eventually, her hard work paid off and a Methodist Protestant Church ordained her.

Interesting Facts

  • Anna refused to marry people if the man insisted that the woman had to obey him.
  • Shaw recieved the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919 for her wartime service.
  • Her first sermon was held in Ashton, Michigan.

Birth and Death

February 14, 1847- July 2, 1919