Other Illinois ties to women's firsts in United Methodism
First woman to be voted recommendation as a Pulpit Speaker by the General Conference of The United Brethren Church, 1851. First presented to the General Conference by the Illinois Conference, United Brethren Church.
American temperance leader and reformer, well-known lecturer, writer, and educator, Frances Willard is remembered among Methodists for her strong stance in favor of women’s participation. She was elected by the Rock River Conference, a predecessor of today’s Northern Illinois Conference as a lay delegate in 1888 but was denied the seat at General Conference.
A clergy member of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Margaret Misal was the first East Indian woman to be received into full connection in The United Methodist Church.
“Before I accepted God’s call to become a pastor, I was a high-school teacher in India. I was very content in my job. I had no ambition or any plans to be a pastor. However, as I look back, I know that the Lord had planned my life in a baffling way. I did not have a vision nor did I see any bright light, but somehow traumatic incidents began to take place around me. Finally, I realized that God was calling me into ministry. After strong resistance, I surrendered to God’s will in 1971. In 1972 I enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary for a master of Christian education degree, because I was still unclear about the call. I had to leave my husband and two precious young children, ages three and four, and for two years live eight thousand miles away. Leaving family, home, friends, and country behind made for a very lonesome journey. I continued further studies in the MDiv program at the Theological School at Drew University.”
In 1979 Margaret was given an appointment in the Central Illinois Conference. “It was a long journey. We had no family, no home, no friends--nothing. We had only our strong faith and God’s promise to always be with us. To our delight the church welcomed us graciously. Soon I found out that I was the only ethnic woman in the conference at that time. I had more advantages of being ethnic clergy than disadvantages. People were very receptive of me and my family. However, I realized that I had to work harder than any other pastors due to the language barriers and to prove that I was very capable to be a church leader.
“My journey will continue as long as God leads me and wants me. I am eternally thankful to the Lord for being my friend and guide on this long journey.” She retired in 2004 from the Grant Park UMC. She and her husband Sashi live in retirement in Chandler, Ariz.