Missionary to the Far East
Ann Hasseltine Judson and her husband Adoniram Judson, were the first Americans to establish a mission in the Far East . More than a missionary’s wife, Ann herself felt the call to the mission field, especially international, before marrying Mr. Judson. She gave her life to God for service wherever He might call her.
Ann Hasseltine was born in Bradford , Massachusetts in 1789. As a young girl she spent much of her time reading religious books and praying. Ann was a part of the New England religious revival of 1806 and at this time she resolved to devote her life to God. She prayed, “Direct me in Thy service, and I ask no more. I would not choose my position of work, or place of labor. Only let me know Thy will, and I will readily comply.” (Deen, Great Women, p. 171).
Ann studied at the Bradford Academy and began teaching when she was eighteen years old. At 21 she met Adoniram Judson who was a Congregational minister at the time at a Missions meeting that was held in her home, hosted by her father, John, who was a deacon. They were soon engaged and they were married on February 5, 1812 . The next day they set sail for India on the “ Caravan” . The voyage took four months and they arrived in Calcutta , India on June 18.
During the voyage both Ann and Adoniram read “ Lives of the Martyrs and Saints,” along with several books on baptism and upon their arrival they joined the Baptist Church and they were baptized by immersion in a Calcutta chapel. They wrote home about their change in conviction, which caused some criticism, but good came from this change also. The Judsons were instrumental in the awakening of Baptist church in America to their duty to carry on foreign mission work. Due to their influence, the Baptist General Convention in Philadelphia was formed in 1814, which appointed the Judsons as Baptist missionaries with freedom to select their own field of labor.
Shortly after they arrived in India , they were ordered by the government to return to America , so the Judsons moved their missionary work to Burma , located between India and China . They settled in Ragoon, the principle seaport of Burma and began learning the language. They quickly realized that it would be very difficult to preach Christianity in a language lacking the words God, Heaven, and Eternity, but nevertheless they proceeded to translate the Scriptures into the Burmese language. They began with the book of Jonah, which was especially attractive to the Burmese mind.
Ann soon adopted the Burmese dress with its light tunic of bright-colored gauze and a skirt of bright silk, slit at the ankle. A dedicated missionary, Ann formed a society of native women who met together on Sundays to pray and read the Scriptures and conducted classes for women. Her greatest contribution to the cause of women and missions was her inspirational writing. She wrote enthralling stories of life on the mission field and the struggles she faced, predominantly when her husband was confined to Burmese prison for nearly two years. She also wrote also wrote tragic descriptions of child marriages, female infanticide, and the trials of the Burmese women who had virtually no rights except what rights their husbands allowed them. Ann felt that even worse than the ill treatment of women was their ignorance. Burmese women were not taught and they spent their days in idleness. She worked to remedy this situation and enlisted the help of women back home.
As with most women missionaries, Ann suffered from poor health on the mission field. She served for thirteen years in Burma before she died at the age of 37 on October 24, 1826 . She was buried at Amherst under a tree while her Burmese converts wept over her grave. In the decades after her death numerous biographies and biographical sketches were written about Ann and she became a role model for all Christian young women.