Aimee Semple McPherson
Canadian-American evangelist
Aimee Semple McPherson
Aimee Semple McPherson, also known as Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-American Los Angeles, California evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. She founded the Foursquare Church. McPherson has been noted as a pioneer in the use of modern media, especially radio, and was the second woman to be granted a broadcast license.
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    FIFTIES
  • 1944
    Age 53
    On September 26, 1944, McPherson went to Oakland, California, for a series of revivals, planning to preach her popular "Story of My Life" sermon.
    More Details Hide Details When McPherson's son went to her hotel room at 10:00 the next morning, he found her unconscious with pills and a half-empty bottle of capsules nearby. She was dead by 11:15. It was later discovered she previously called her doctor that morning to complain about feeling ill from the medicine, but he was in surgery and could not be disturbed. She then phoned another doctor who referred her to yet another physician; however, McPherson apparently lost consciousness before the third could be contacted. The autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of McPherson's death. She had been taking sleeping pills following numerous health problems – including "tropical fever". Among the pills found in the hotel room was the barbiturate Seconal, a strong sedative which had not been prescribed for her. It was unknown how she obtained them. The coroner said she most likely died of an accidental overdose compounded by kidney failure. The cause of death is officially listed as unknown. Given the circumstances, there was speculation about suicide, but most sources generally agree the overdose was accidental, as stated in the coroner's report.
  • 1943
    Age 52
    Newsweek published an article about McPherson, "The World's Greatest Living Minister", in July 19, 1943, noting she had collected 2,800 pints of blood for the Red Cross; servicemen in her audience are especially honored, and the climax of her church services is when she reads the National Anthem.
    More Details Hide Details McPherson gave visiting servicemen autographed Bibles. She observed they often had no religious affiliation and did not even own a Bible. She wrote: "What a privilege it was to invite the servicemen present in every Sunday night meeting to come to the platform, where I greeted them, gave each one a New Testament, and knelt in prayer with them for their spiritual needs, and God’s guidance and protection on their lives. Later, when the altar call would be given, many of these same servicemen would make another trip to the platform publicly to receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior." She insulted Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tōjō, and became involved in war bond rallies. Pershing Square's Victory House in Los Angeles never saw a bigger crowd. McPherson sold $150,000 worth of bonds in one hour on June 20, 1942, breaking all previous records, then repeated the performance again on July 4, 1944. The U.S. Treasury awarded her a special citation. The Army made McPherson an honorary colonel.
    Her efforts at making interracial revival a reality at Angelus Temple continued. She welcomed blacks into the congregation and pulpit. While race riots burned Detroit in 1943, McPherson publicly converted the notorious black former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson on the Temple stage and embraced him “as he raised his hand in worship”.
    More Details Hide Details Pacifism, which was a component of Pentecostalism, was evaluated by the Foursquare Gospel Church in the 1930s with official statements and documents which were further revised by McPherson. A press quote attributed to McPherson, in reference to Mahatma Gandhi, appears to explore the concept, "I want to incorporate the ideals of India with my own." Additionally, Clinton Howard, the chairman of the World Peace Commission, was invited to speak at the Angelus Temple. In 1932, she promoted disarmament, "If the nations of the world would stop building warships and equipping armies, we would be all but overwhelmed with prosperity." Foursquare leaders, alarmed at rapid changes of technology, especially sea and air, which challenged the United States' isolation and security, decided to officially draw up an amendment inclusive of varied opinions in regards to military service. The idea that one could trust to bear arms in a righteous cause, as well as believing the killing of others, even in connection to military service, would endanger their souls; both views were acceptable.
    He also expressed his support of her Foursquare Church application admittance into National Association of Evangelicals for United Action in 1943.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1936
    Age 45
    Also in 1936, McPherson reassigned staff responsibilities in an effort to address the Temple's financial difficulties.
    More Details Hide Details This, together with other unresolved issues, accelerated simmering tensions among various staff members. Rumors circulated that "Angel of Broadway", charismatic evangelist Rheba Crawford Splivalo, who had been working extensively with McPherson for several years, planned to take the Angelus Temple from her. McPherson asked Splivalo to "leave town". In the course of the staff controversy, McPherson's lawyer issued a strongly worded press release that upset Roberta Star Semple, McPherson's daughter, and led her to initiate a $150,000 lawsuit against him for slander. Splivalo also sued McPherson for $1,080,000 because of alleged statements calling her a ‘Jezebel and a Judas’ and "unfit to stand in the Angelus Temple pulpit". The two lawsuits filed by Semple and Splivalo were not related, but McPherson did not see it that way. She saw both as part of the Temple takeover plot. McPherson's mother was also involved and sided with Semple, her granddaughter, making unflattering statements about McPherson to the press. In these charged circumstances, McPherson's defense of herself and her lawyer in a public trial was dramatic and theatrical. She testified tearfully with swoons and faints about how her daughter conspired with others against her. Her daughter's lawyer, meanwhile, mocked McPherson by imitating her mannerisms and making faces at her. The trial did much to estrange McPherson from her daughter. The judge ruled for Semple, giving a $2,000 judgement in her favor.
    In mid-1936, a delegation who had been involved with the 1906 Azusa Street Mission Revivals, including Emma Cotton, asked if they could use the Angelus Temple for their 30th Anniversary Celebration.
    More Details Hide Details The original mission building was demolished and its land unavailable. African American Evangelist Emma Cotton and McPherson therefore organized a series of meetings which also marked her enthusiastic reidentification with the Pentecostal movement. McPherson's experiments of Hollywood celebrity ambitions coexisting with her ministry were not as successful as she hoped. Alliances with other church groups were failing or no longer in effect, and she searched for ways to start again. Therefore, she looked to her spiritual origins and allowed for the possibility of reintroducing even the more alarming aspects of the Pentecostal experience into her public meetings. Temple officials were concerned the Azusa people might bring in some "wildfire and Holy Rollerism". McPherson indicated she would turn hand springs with them as needed to see the power of God manifest. The Azusa Street Revival commemoration events brought numbers of black leaders to her pulpit. The original attendees of the Azusa revivals filled the Angelus Temple along with every ethnic minority, "the saints who were once smelted together with the fires of Pentecost" were "being reunited, rewelded, and rejuvenated." McPherson recommitted herself to the dissemination of "classic Pentecostalism", and her concern now was that Foursquaredom was in the danger of becoming too "churchy". For the first time since the Temple opened, McPherson began to publicly deliver some of her messages in tongues. McPherson traversed the line between cold formality and wildfire and now decided it was easier to cool down a hot fanatic than to resuscitate a corpse.
  • 1935
    Age 44
    In 1935, McPherson embarked on a worldwide six-month discovery tour to examine the social, religious, and economic climates of many countries.
    More Details Hide Details At one point, it was earlier reported she wanted to study the women's movement in connection with the campaign for the independence of India, and was anxious to have "a chat with Mahatma Gandhi". She received an invitation from him and he gave her a sari made from threads woven from his simple spinning wheel. Impressed with Gandhi and his ideas, McPherson thought he might secretly lean towards Christianity, his dedication possibly coming from catching "a glimpse of the cleansing, lifting, strengthening power of the Nazarene". Other highlights included traversing barefoot, in Myanmar, the lengthy stone path to the Great Pagoda, a gold-covered 325-ft tiered tower enshrining relics of four Buddhas, which caught and reflected the rays of the sun, a "vision of breath-taking glory." She heard Benito Mussolini speak in Italy, and fretted war would again ensue. In the rain, at Verdun, France, she sat on a wrecked military vehicle in mournful contemplation of the hundreds of thousands who died on the still-uncleared battlefield. White, bleached bones of the fallen poked out of the earth, and nearby, laborers toiled carefully at their dangerous iron harvest, collecting old munitions for disposal.
    McPherson later publicly repented of the marriage, as wrong from the beginning, for both theological and personal reasons and therefore rejected nationally known gospel singer Homer Rodeheaver, a more appropriate suitor, when he eventually asked for her hand in 1935.
    More Details Hide Details While married to Robert Semple, the two moved to Chicago and became part of William Durham's Full Gospel Assembly. There, Aimee was discovered to have a unique ability in the interpretation of speaking in tongues, translating with stylistic eloquence the otherwise indecipherable utterances of glossolalia. Unable to find fulfillment as a housewife, in 1913, McPherson began evangelizing and holding tent revivals across the Sawdust Trail in the United States and Canada. After her first successful visits, she had little difficulty with acceptance or attendance. Eager converts filled the pews of local churches which turned many recalcitrant ministers into her enthusiastic supporters. Frequently, she would start a revival meeting in a hall or church and then have to move to a larger building to accommodate the growing crowds. When no buildings were suitable, she set up a tent, which was often filled past capacity.
  • 1934
    Age 43
    Debates such as the Bogard-McPherson debate in 1934 drew further attention to the controversy, but none could really argue effectively against McPherson's results.
    More Details Hide Details The new developing Assemblies of God denomination, Pentecostal as McPherson was, for a time worked with her, but they encouraged separation from established Protestant faiths. McPherson resisted trends to isolate as a denomination and continued her task of coalition-building among evangelicals. McPherson worked hard to attain ecumenical vision of the faith, and while she participated in debates, avoided pitched rhetorical battles that divided so many in Christianity. She wanted to work with existing churches on projects and to share with them her visions and beliefs. Assisting in her passion was the speedy establishment of LIFE Bible College adjacent to the Angeles Temple. Ministers trained there were originally intended to go nationally and worldwide to all denominations and share her newly defined "Foursquare Gospel." A well-known Methodist minister, Frank Thompson, who never had the Pentecostal experience, was persuaded to run the college, and he taught the students the doctrine of John Wesley. McPherson and others, meanwhile, infused them with Pentecostal ideals. For about a year, Antonia Frederick Futterer, suggested by Los Angeles Times as the inspiration for Steven Spielberg's film character, Indiana Jones, was also a facility member. McPherson's efforts eventually led Pentecostals, which were previously unconventional and on the periphery of Christianity, into the mainstream of American evangelicalism.
  • 1933
    Age 42
    In this, her last national revival tour, between September 1933 and December 20, 1934, two million persons heard 336 sermons.
    More Details Hide Details Many more were reached by 45 radio stations. The Boston Evening Traveler newspaper reported: "Aimee's religion is a religion of joy. There is happiness in it. Her voice is easy to listen to. She does not appeal to the brain and try to hammer religion into the heads of her audience. Rather, she appeals to the hearts of her hearers. She radiates friendliness. She creates an atmosphere that is warming. She is persuasive, rather than forceful; gracious and kindly, rather than compelling. Fundamentally she takes the whole Bible literally, from cover to cover." Nevertheless, she was not a radical literalist. In an informal meeting with some Harvard students, McPherson told them that Genesis allowed great latitude of interpretation, and that neither she nor the Bible insisted the world was created only 6,000 years ago. In another meeting with students, she heard their assertion the teachings of Christ have outlived their usefulness; education, science and cold reasoning were the new saviors of the world. Thus compelled, McPherson decided to travel and look at the world with new eyes.
    McPherson and Hutton separated in 1933 and divorced on March 1, 1934.
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  • 1932
    Age 41
    In 1932, the commissary was raided by police to allegedly locate a still used to make brandy out of donated apricots.
    More Details Hide Details Some sauerkraut and salad oil were purportedly observed leaking from their respective storage areas. As a consequence, the commissary was briefly shut down. The press got involved and the public demanded an investigation. Since no one really wanted to stall the temple's charity efforts, the acceptable solution was to replace the immediate management. The staff was let go and students from her Foursquare Gospel Church's LIFE Bible College filled in. The newspaper media, generally cynical of the Temple and in particular, of McPherson, recognized "the excellent features of that organization's efforts" and "the faults of the Angelus Temple are outweighed by its virtues". McPherson issued a statement declaring, "They have clashed loud their cymbals and blown their trumpets about a still and some sauerkraut,... our work is still before us. If anybody abused his trust, it must not happen again."
  • 1931
    Age 40
    Author Raymond L. Cox states: "Mrs. McPherson's daughter, Roberta Salter of New York, told me, 'Mother never had an apartment in her life.' By 1931, she kept herself securely chaperoned to guard against such allegations."
    More Details Hide Details During 1930, the evangelist's appearances and whereabouts can be traced almost every day. She was incapacitated with illness a full five months of that year, and there is no place on her schedule as reported in her publications and church and travel records for the benefit Berle alleged. Besides, Roberta also told Cox, "Mother never did a benefit in her life. She had her own charities". Following her heyday in the 1920s, McPherson carried on with her ministry, but fell out of favor with the press. They once dubbed her the "miracle worker" or "miracle woman", reporting extensively on her faith-healing demonstrations, but now were anxious to relay every disturbance in her household to the headlines. Her developing difficulties with her mother, Mildred Kennedy, were starting to take the front page. Yet, McPherson emerged from the kidnapping nationally famous. As much as 10% of the population in Los Angeles held membership in her Temple. For a time, movie studios competed with each other offering McPherson long-term contracts.
    She married again on September 13, 1931 to actor and musician David Hutton, followed by much drama, after which she fainted and fractured her skull.
    More Details Hide Details While McPherson was away in Europe to recover, she was angered to learn Hutton was billing himself as "Aimee's man" in his cabaret singing act and was frequently photographed with scantily clad women. Hutton's much-publicized personal scandals were damaging the Foursquare Gospel Church and their leader's credibility with other churches.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1929
    Age 38
    In response to the difficulties, Kennedy came back in late 1929, but because of continued serious disagreements with McPherson, tendered her resignation on July 29, 1930.
    More Details Hide Details The following month, McPherson suffered a physical and nervous breakdown. For 10 months, she was absent from the pulpit, diagnosed, in part, with acute acidosis. When she gained strength and returned, she introduced with renewed vigor her moving "Attar of Roses" sermon, based on the Song of Solomon, with its Rose of Sharon as the mystical Body of Christ. While journalists attending her Sunday illustrated sermons assumed her language was fit only for slapstick or sentimental entertainment, scholars who have studied her work for Bible students and small prayer groups, found instead the complex discourse of neoplatonic interpretation. The Old Testament book, the Song of Solomon, for example, she had hundreds of pages written about it, each "different from one another as snowflakes". The October 10–18, 1931, revival in Boston started out sluggishly and many predicted its failure. A Los Angeles newspaper ran headlines of the flop and expected more of the same in the days to come. On opening night, McPherson spoke to less than 5,000 persons in the 22,000-seat sports arena, and safety pins and rubber bands abundantly cluttered the collection baskets. The city had large populations of Unitarians, Episcopalians, and Catholics, venerable denominations traditionally hostile to a Pentecostal or fundamentalist message. Afterwards, from her hotel room, McPherson, known to be a sports fan, asked for the afternoon's World Series scores and a Boston Herald reporter sent her a copy of the Sunday edition.
  • 1927
    Age 36
    In the summer of 1927, Mildred Kennedy, McPherson's mother, left the Angelus Temple.
    More Details Hide Details In an attempt to curtail her daughter's influence and officially transfer more power to herself, Kennedy initiated a staff-member "vote of confidence" against McPherson, but lost. The two had heatedly argued over management polices and McPherson's changing personal dress and appearance. For similar reasons, 300 members of the choir left, as well. The choir could be replaced; however, Kennedy's financial and administrative skills had been of crucial importance in growing McPherson's ministry from tent revivals to satellite churches and maintaining its current activities in the Temple. A series of less able management staff replaced Kennedy, and the Temple became involved in various questionable projects such as hotel building, cemetery plots, and land sales. Accordingly, the Angelus Temple plummeted deep into debt.
    In early 1927, McPherson immediately set out on a "vindication tour", visiting various cities and taking advantage of the publicity her kidnapping story created to preach the Gospel.
    More Details Hide Details Her visit to New York in fox-furs and a finely trimmed yellow suit was noted in the society pages. She visited even nightclubs, to include a famous speakeasy in New York: Texas Guinan’s Three Hundred Club on 54th Street. While McPherson sipped water at her table, Guinan asked if she would speak a few words to the patrons. Delighted, McPherson stood and addressed the jazzed and boozy crowd: "Behind all these beautiful clothes, behind these good times, in the midst of your lovely buildings and shops and pleasures, there is another life. There is something on the other side. “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” With all your getting and playing and good times, do not forget you have a Lord. Take Him into your hearts." The unexpected speech that did not judge, and had a conciliatory tone between them and the Divine, earned a thoughtful moment of silence from the crowd, then an applause that went on for much longer than the speech took. The revelers were invited to hear her preach at the Glad Tidings Tabernacle on 33rd Street. The visits to speakeasies and nightclubs added to McPherson's notoriety; newspapers reported heavily on them, rumors erroneously conveyed she was drinking, smoking and dancing; and her mother along with some other church members, did not understand McPherson's strategy of tearing down barriers between the secular and religious world, between the sinner and the saved.
    In 1927, she published a book about her version of the kidnapping: In the Service of the King: The Story of My Life.
    More Details Hide Details Various influential individuals offered their opinions on the inquiry. In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, a few months after the case was dropped, the Reverend Robert P. Shuler stated, "Perhaps the most serious thing about this whole situation is the seeming loyalty of thousands to this leader in the face of her evident and positively proven guilt." H.L. Mencken, noted journalist, satirist, cultural critic, and scholar and an ideological opponent of McPherson, opposite each other in the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" trial, also commented. He wrote that since many of that town's residents acquired their ideas "of the true, the good and the beautiful" from the movies and newspapers, "Los Angeles will remember the testimony against her long after it forgets the testimony that cleared her." Numerous allegations of illicit love affairs were often directed against McPherson. Suspected lovers generally denied involvement. For example, Kenneth Ormiston, a married man with a small son, could have profited immensely from an exposé about himself and McPherson. Whether the two had a good working relationship and were friendly with each other was not disputed. During the 1926 kidnapping grand jury trial, his privacy in every way was invaded as reporters and investigators tried to link him amorously to McPherson. Ormiston told newspapers his name connected in such a way to the evangelist "was a gross insult to a noble and sincere woman."
    All charges against McPherson and associated parties were dropped by the court for the lack of evidence on January 10, 1927.
    More Details Hide Details Regardless of the court's decision, months of unfavorable press reports fixed in much of the public's mind a certainty of McPherson's wrongdoing. The newspapers had a vested interest in keeping the controversy going, since it generated huge sales. The bulk of the investigation against McPherson was funded by Los Angeles-area newspapers at an estimated amount of $500,000. Some supporters thought McPherson should have insisted on the jury trial and clear her name. The grand jury inquiry concluded while enough evidence did not exist to try her, it did not indicate her story was true with its implication of kidnappers still at large. Court costs to McPherson were estimated to be as high as $100,000. A jury trial could take months. McPherson moved on to other projects.
  • 1926
    Age 35
    On the beach, May 19, 1926, McPherson said she had been approached by a young couple who wanted prayer for their sick child.
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    On May 18, 1926, McPherson went with her secretary to Ocean Park Beach north of Venice Beach to swim.
    More Details Hide Details Soon after arriving, McPherson was nowhere to be found. It was thought she had drowned. Searchers combed the beach and nearby area, but could not locate her body. The Angelus Temple received letters and calls claiming knowledge of McPherson, including demands for ransom. McPherson sightings occurred around the country, often in widely divergent locations many miles apart on the same day. As a precaution, the ransom notes were sent to the police who investigated at least one of them. Mildred Kennedy, though, regarded the messages as hoaxes, believing her daughter dead. As the Angelus Temple prepared for a memorial service commemorating McPherson's death, Kennedy received a phone call from Douglas, Arizona. Her daughter was alive. The distraught McPherson was resting in a Douglas hospital and related her story to officials.
    The kidnapping of Aimee Semple McPherson caused a frenzy in national media and changed her life and the course of her career. After disappearing in May, 1926, she was found in Mexico five weeks later, stating she had been held for ransom in a desert shack there.
    More Details Hide Details The subsequent grand-jury inquiries over her reported kidnapping and escape precipitated continued public interest in her future misfortunes.
  • 1925
    Age 34
    McPherson became a strong supporter of William Jennings Bryan during the 1925 Scopes trial, in which John Scopes was tried for illegally teaching evolution at a Dayton, Tennessee, school.
    More Details Hide Details Bryan and McPherson had worked together in the Angelus Temple and they believed Darwinism had undermined students' morality. According to The New Yorker, McPherson said, evolution "is the greatest triumph of Satanic intelligence in 5,931 years of devilish warfare, against the Hosts of Heaven. It is poisoning the minds of the children of the nation." She sent Bryan a telegram saying, "Ten thousand members of Angelus Temple with her millions of radio church membership send grateful appreciation of your lion-hearted championship of the Bible against evolution and throw our hats in the ring with you." She organized "an all-night prayer service, a massive church meeting preceded by a Bible parade through Los Angeles." While her mother Mildred Kennedy was a registered Democrat, no one was certain of McPherson's registration. She endorsed Herbert Hoover over Franklin D. Roosevelt, but enthusiastically threw her support behind the latter and his social programs when he was elected into office. She was a patron of organized labor, preaching a gangster's money was "no more unclean than the dollars of the man who amasses his millions from underpaid factory workers". She was more cautious, though, when labor strikes resulted in violent uprisings. She saw in them the possible activities of Communism, which sought to infiltrate labor unions and other organizations. McPherson intensely disliked Communism and its derivatives as they sought to rule without God; their ultimate goal, she believed, was to remove Christianity from the earth.
  • 1924
    Age 33
    With the opening of Foursquare Gospel-owned KFSG on February 6, 1924, she became the second woman granted a broadcast license by the Department of Commerce, the federal agency that supervised broadcasting in the early 1920s.
    More Details Hide Details McPherson racially integrated her tent meetings and church services. On one occasion, as a response to McPherson's ministry and Angelus Temple being integrated, Ku Klux Klan members were in attendance, but after the service, hoods and robes were found on the ground in nearby Echo Park. She is also credited with helping many Hispanic ministries in Los Angeles. McPherson traveling about the country holding widely popular revival meetings and filling local churches with converts was one thing, settling permanently into their city caused concern among some local Los Angeles churches. Though she shared many of their fundamentalist beliefs, such as divine inspiration of the Bible, the classical Trinity, virgin birth of Jesus, historical reality of Christ's miracles, bodily resurrection of Christ, and the atoning purpose of his crucifixion; the presentation of lavish sermons, and an effective faith-healing ministry presented by a female divorcee whom thousands adored and about whom newspapers continuously wrote, was unexpected. Moreover, the Temple, especially the women, had a look and style uniquely theirs. They would emulate McPherson's style and dress, and a distinct Angelus Temple uniform came into existence, a white dress with a navy blue cape thrown over it. Men were more discreet, wearing suits. Her voice, projected over the powerful state-of-the-art KFSG radio station and heard by hundreds of thousands, became the most recognized in the western United States.
  • 1922
    Age 31
    On a Sunday morning in April 1922, the Rockridge Radio Station in Oakland CA; offered her some radio time and she became the first woman to preach a sermon over the "wireless telephone."
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  • 1921
    Age 30
    He petitioned for divorce, citing abandonment; the divorce was granted in 1921.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1919
    Age 28
    The parade back to the temple even elicited a greater turnout than President Woodrow Wilson's visit to Los Angeles in 1919, attesting to her popularity and the growing influence of mass media entertainment.
    More Details Hide Details Already incensed over McPherson's influential public stance on evolution and the Bible, most of the Chamber of Commerce and some other civic leaders, saw the event as gaudy display; nationally embarrassing to the city. Many Los Angeles area churches were also annoyed. The story received nationwide coverage. Then, speculations, together with alleged witnesses, began to emerge that her disappearance might have been caused by other than the kidnapping event McPherson described. Against her mother's wishes, who thought the press would continue to unfavorably exploit the story, McPherson decided for vindication and presented her complaint in court. A grand jury inquiry convened to determine if enough evidence could be found to indict any kidnappers. However, pressured by various influential community groups, the court instead intensely investigated McPherson, her family, and acquaintances to determine if the kidnapping was fabricated. District Attorney Asa Keyes led the prosecution against her. He was known for winning convictions, but six of his imprisoned were found to be innocent and pardoned by the state governor.
    The Faith Healing Ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson were extensively written about in the news media and was a large part of her early career legacy. No one has ever been credited by secular witnesses with anywhere near the numbers of faith healings attributed to McPherson, especially during the years 1919 to 1922.
    More Details Hide Details Over time, though, she almost withdrew from the faith-healing aspect of her services, since it was overwhelming other areas of her ministry.
    The appeal of McPherson's 30 or so revival events from 1919 to 1922 surpassed any touring event of theater or politics ever presented in American history. "Neither Houdini nor Teddy Roosevelt had such an audience nor PT Barnum."
    More Details Hide Details Her one- to four-week meetings typically overflowed any building she could find to hold them. She broke attendance records recently set by Billy Sunday and frequently used his temporary tabernacle structures in which to hold some of her meetings. Her revivals were often standing-room only. One such revival was held in a boxing ring, with the meeting before and after the match. Throughout the boxing event, she walked about with a sign reading "knock out the Devil". In San Diego, California, the city called in the National Guard and other branches of the armed forces to control a revival crowd over 30,000 people. She became one of the most photographed persons of her time. She enjoyed the publicity and quotes on almost every subject were sought from her by journalists. Her faith-healing demonstrations gained her unexpected allies. When a Romani tribe king and his mother stated they were faith-healed by McPherson, thousands of others came to her, as well, in caravans from all over the country and were converted. The infusion of crosses and other symbols of Christianity alongside Romani astrology charts and crystal balls was the result of McPherson's influence. Prizing gold and loyalty, the Romani repaid her in part, with heavy bags of gold coin and jewels, which helped fund the construction of the new Angelus Temple. In Wichita, Kansas, in May 29, 1922, where heavy perennial thunderstorms threatened to rain out the thousands who gathered there, McPherson interrupted the speaker, raised her hand to the sky, and prayed, "let it fall (the rain) after the message has been delivered to these hungry souls".
  • 1918
    Age 27
    In late 1918, McPherson came to Los Angeles, a move many at the time were making for better opportunities.
    More Details Hide Details Minnie Kennedy, her mother, rented the largest hall they could find, the 3,500-seat Philharmonic Auditorium (known then as Temple Auditorium). People waited for hours to get in, and McPherson could hardly reach the pulpit without stepping on someone. Afterwards, grateful attendees of her Los Angeles meetings built a home for her family and her, which included everything from the cellar to a canary bird. At this time, Los Angeles had become a popular vacation spot. Rather than touring the United States to preach her sermons, McPherson stayed in Los Angeles, drawing audiences from a population which had soared from 100,000 in 1900 to 575,000 people in 1920, and often included many visitors. Wearied by constant traveling and having nowhere to raise a family, McPherson had settled in Los Angeles, where she maintained both a home and a church. McPherson believed that by creating a church in Los Angeles, her audience would come to her from all over the country. This, she felt, would allow her to plant seeds of the Gospel and tourists would take it home to their communities, still reaching the masses. For several years, she continued to travel and raise money for the construction of a large, domed church building at 1100 Glendale Blvd. in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. The church would be named Angelus Temple, reflecting the Roman Catholic tradition of the Angelus bell, calling the faithful to prayer, as well its reference to the angels.
  • 1917
    Age 26
    By 1917, she had started her own magazine, The Bridal Call, for which she wrote many articles about women’s roles in religion; she portrayed the link between Christians and Jesus as a marriage bond.
    More Details Hide Details Along with taking seriously the religious role of women, the magazine contributed to transforming Pentecostalism from a movement into an ongoing American religious presence. While McPherson was traveling for her evangelical work, she arrived in Baltimore, where she was first "discovered" by the newspapers in 1919, after a day of conducting evangelistic services at the Lyric Opera House. Baltimore became one of the pivotal points for her early career. The crowds, in their religious ecstasy, were barely kept under control as they gave way to manifestations of "the Spirit". Moreover, her alleged faith healings now became part of the public record, and attendees began to focus on that part of her ministry over all else. McPherson also considered the Baltimore Revival an important turning point, not only for her ministry, "but in the history of the outpouring of the Pentecostal power,"
  • 1916
    Age 25
    In 1916, McPherson embarked on a tour of the Southern United States in her "Gospel Car", and again later, in 1918, with her mother, Mildred Kennedy.
    More Details Hide Details Mildred was an important addition to McPherson's ministry and managed everything, including the money, which gave them an unprecedented degree of financial security. Their vehicle was a 1912 Packard touring car emblazoned with religious slogans. Standing on the back seat of the convertible, McPherson preached sermons over a megaphone. On the road between sermons, she would sit in the back seat typing sermons and other religious materials. She first traveled up and down the eastern United States, then went to other parts of the country.
  • 1915
    Age 24
    One spring morning in 1915, her husband returned home from the night shift to discover McPherson had left him and taken the children.
    More Details Hide Details A few weeks later, a note was received inviting him to join her in evangelistic work. Her husband later followed McPherson to take her back home. When he saw her, though, preaching to a crowd, he witnessed her transformation into a radiant, lovely woman. Before long, he became her fellow worker in Christ. Their house in Providence was sold and he joined her in setting up tents for revival meetings and even did some preaching himself. Throughout their journey, food and accommodations were uncertain, as they lived out of the "Gospel Car". Her husband, in spite of initial enthusiasm, wanted a life that was more stable and predicable. Eventually, he returned to Rhode Island and around 1918 filed for separation.
  • 1914
    Age 23
    Then in, 1914, she fell seriously ill, and McPherson states she again heard the persistent voice, asking her to go preach while in the holding room after a failed operation.
    More Details Hide Details McPherson accepted the voice's challenge, and she suddenly opened her eyes and was able to turn over in bed without pain.
  • 1912
    Age 21
    Shortly after her recuperation in the United States, Semple joined her mother Minnie working with the Salvation Army. While in New York City, she met Harold Stewart McPherson, an accountant. They were married on May 5, 1912, moved to Providence, Rhode Island and had a son, Rolf Potter Kennedy McPherson, in March 1913.
    More Details Hide Details During this time, McPherson felt as though she denied her "calling" to go preach. After struggling with emotional distress and obsessive–compulsive disorder, she would fall to weep and pray. She felt the call to preach tug at her even more strongly after the birth of Rolf.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1908
    Age 17
    At that same revival meeting, Aimee became enraptured not only by the message that Robert Semple gave, but also with Robert himself. She decided to dedicate her life to both God and Robert, and after a short courtship, they were married on August 12, 1908, in a Salvation Army ceremony, pledging never to allow their marriage to lessen their devotion to God, affection for comrades, or faithfulness in the Army.
    More Details Hide Details The pair's notion of "Army" was very broad, encompassing much more than just the Salvation Army. Robert supported them as a foundry worker and preached at the local Pentecostal mission. Together, they studied the Bible and became very knowledgeable. After embarking on an evangelistic tour to China, both contracted malaria. Robert also contracted dysentery, of which he died in Hong Kong. Aimee recovered and gave birth to their daughter, Roberta Star Semple, as a 19-year-old widow. On board a ship returning to the United States, Aimee Semple started a Sunday school class, then held other services, as well, oftentimes mentioning her late husband in her sermons; almost all passengers attended.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1890
    Born
    Born on October 9, 1890.
    More Details Hide Details
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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