Side A: First Church was built by the Oberlin Community in 1842-44 for the great evangelist Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875). He was its pastor, headed Oberlin College’s Theology Department, and later became College president. In the mid-19th century this Congregational church had one of the largest congregations and auditoriums west of the Alleghenies. Eminent speakers such as Margaret Atwood, Angela Davis, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Mark Twain, and Woodrow Wilson have addressed the community in its Meeting House. Antoinette Brown graduated from the College’s Ladies’ Department in 1847 and then completed three years of study under Finney in the all male Theology Department. She worshipped and led women’s prayer meetings at First Church. The College denied her the Theology certificate since women were not deemed suitable to be ordained. (Continued on other side)
Side B: (Continued from other side) In 1853, Brown was called to serve the Congregational church in South Butler, New York, becoming the first woman since New Testament times to be ordained as a Christian minister. Soon conflicted by the rigid orthodoxy of her church, she resigned in 1854. Married to Samuel Blackwell in 1856, she relished her role as wife and mother to her five daughters while continuing her work as a popular orator and reformer for women’s rights, suffrage and antislavery. In 1878, she became a Unitarian and preached in Unitarian churches. She wrote numerous books that examined her deeply held belief in sexual equality within the new evolutionary science pioneered by Charles Darwin. Oberlin College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1908. The United Church of Christ established the Antoinette Brown Award for outstanding clergywomen in her honor in 1975.
Sponsors: The First Church in Oberlin, United Church of Christ, Oberlin Heritage Center, The Ohio History Connection