Gordon College Women's History Series
From the Editor: Progressive at its inception in 1889, A. J. Gordon's Boston Missionary Training School admitted both white and African American women. Throughout its evolution as Gordon College of Theology and Missions to Gordon Divinity School and now Gordon College, women's contributions as faithful Christian servants have been evident and many. The following is the second of several new profiles, based on excellent materials found in the Gordon College's archives and special collections, which we hope will serve as a testament to that fact.
By Dan Hayner ’09
Maria Tazro Hale did not talk to Adoniram Judson Gordon for three weeks leading up to their marriage. Not until they both were standing at the altar did A. J. know for certain that she was agreeing to be his bride.
In 1856, Gordon was an ambitious young man from New Hampshire enrolled in Brown University. Over the next few years as an undergraduate student, he crossed paths with Maria whose family lived a short distance from the Brown campus, but wooing her was difficult for Adoniram. The young lady, “often a little offish,” according to A. J., was hesitant to leave the comforts of her family and friends in Providence for Boston, where A. J. planned to begin seminary and ministry with the Jamaica Plain Baptist Church. Eventually, love won and the two married on October 21, 1863. A. J. called Maria “the most valued treasure” he found in Providence.
Maria was a gregarious and lively young girl as well as an inquisitive and promising student. At an early age, she studied French, German and Latin and learned to play the piano and violin. Few colleges admitted women in the 1850s and 1860s, but Maria continued as a voracious student. She later delighted audiences in Boston and abroad with her pleasant speaking and singing voice at revival and temperance speeches.
A. J. rejoiced that he and his wife "served the Lord" together in a variety of ministries, from church work, education and family. They had eight children, born between 1865 and 1886, but the death of three-month-old twins Theodore and Theodora in August 1876 while A. J. and Maria were touring Europe, was a painful loss for the family. Ten years after the death of the twins, Theodora Livingstone Gordon, their last child, was born.
And Maria’s role in the home and the church became clearer. While A. J. faithfully sheparded the ministry of the church, he tended to “live about the clouds,” according to daughter, Helen. Maria ran the house with steady grace and selflessness, balancing duties of the home with those of ministry. Her handwritten account (housed in the Gordon College Archives) of Thanksgiving Day in 1880 reveals her abilities to move easily between roles:
“Made the soup and ice cream and superintended the arrangement of house and table for company. Then at church in obedience to the call of the Lord, ‘Enter into his gates with thanksgiving.’ Home again, to give another wind to the machinery to prevent its humming down? Then to the YMCA for an hour afterwards dispersing the hospitalities of our own house to so many guests until nine o’clock, at which sensible hour the company retired. I thank God continually for the health which enables me to be in continual service without fatigue, and that above all He has taught me to cast all care upon Him so that I am not anxious about results. I thank Him to that in my home there is such harmony and cooperation that there is no loss of power through friction.”
For years Maria also taught Sunday school and took care of many of the administrative duties of the church and, later, of the Boston Missionary Training School that was formed under her husband’s direction (the forerunner to today’s Gordon College). Her energy and enthusiasm for the gospel sustained her husband through his years of ministry. In late 1864 while Maria was away visiting family, Adoniram wrote, “Your absence convinces me how greatly I am dependent on you for daily happiness, how necessary you are to my life.”
But Maria also developed a reputation as an accomplished speaker and evangelist. Inspired by her father Isaac’s involvement in public issues, including his advocacy for the abolition of slavery, Maria became a tireless advocate for prohibition in the late 19th century. Following a temperance address in Inverness, Scotland, Reverend Dr. Pritchard, a friend of the family, remarked, “I was impressed with the grace, beauty and logical force with which Mrs. Gordon spoke . . . Her appearance is noble, her voice soft and mellow, but of extraordinary compass.”
Mrs. Gordon served as Chairwoman of the Boston chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, a national group established in 1874 to address the problems related to alcoholism and to push for its prohibition. Her convictions about the “evils of alcohol” were strong and ultimately molded her husband’s views on the issue. Though the amendment was later repealed, Maria lived to see a prohibition amendment added to the U.S. Constitution, a culmination of the efforts of national temperance unions like the Boston chapter she served and led for years.
Eventually, she settled into the role of treasurer and secretary and later teacher at the Missionary Training School established by her husband in the basement of Clarendon Street Baptist Church in 1889. In 1921, Maria Hale Gordon died after a lifetime of Christian service.
Available in Jenks Library's Archives.