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Olive May Winchester (22 November 1879—15 February 1947) was an ordained American minister and a pioneer biblical scholar and theologian in the Church of the Nazarene, who was the first woman ordained by any Christian denomination in Scotland, and was also the first woman admitted into and graduated from the Bachelor of Divinity course at the University of Glasgow.


Personal life

Olive May Winchester was born on 22 November 1879 in Monson, Maine, the oldest daughter of lawyer Charles Winchester (born 8 August 1851 in Corinna, Maine; died 2 October 1892) and Sarah Blackstone Winchester (born. c. 1853). Winchester's parents were married on 22 February 1880.[3].(Who's Who 848) Her younger sister, Edith E. Winchester (1883-1884), died in infancy.[4].

Winchester became a Christian in 1895, and became an early member of the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, a holiness denomination established in 1895, which subsequently merged with the Church of the Nazarene established by Phineas Bresee to form the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in 1907. Winchester reported that she had been entirely sanctified in 1902 (Laird 94).

Winchester was the great-niece of Oliver Fisher Winchester (30 November 1810 – 11 December 1880), the manufacturer and marketer of the Winchester repeating rifle. He left Olive $25,000[1] from his estate.(Laird n.32, 159) When her great-uncle's sole heir, daughter-in-law, Sarah Lockwood Winchester, died in September 1922, part of the multi-million dollar estate was left to Olive Winchester.[5][6]

Winchester never married, although former student Ross E. Price maintains that she was engaged to Ernest W. Perry, the dean of the Pentecostal Collegiate Institute (PCI), who drowned on Sunday 23 November 1902[2] before their engagement had been made public. Price claims:

"I know I am right that she was engaged to the young man. And I know that when he drowned she then decided never to marry but to give herself to teaching." (Ross E Price, Letter, 11 September 1962; Laird n.34, 159)

Winchester died on 15 February 1947 at the age of 67. [7] In her will, Winchester left $50,000[3] to Pasadena College for the building of the Howard Library. (Laird 97)


Winchester financed her own education.(Laird 92)


Radcliffe Ladies College (1898-1902)

Winchester graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College (which was a division of Harvard University in 1902 with a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree, where she majored in Hebrew and Arabic (Noble 37). (Raser) "Her Harvard instructor in Semitic languages regarded her as “a student of exceptional ability.” (Ingersol, Foremothers, 4) While studying at Radcliffe, Winchester preached often. On one occasion "Sister Olive Winchester, a member of this church, and senior at Radcliffe College, spoke at the morning service with special unction. More than a dozen souls were at the altar.(Beulah Christian (March 1902); Laird 92)

University of Glasgow (1909-1912)

According to Ingersol, "More impressive was her record at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, where she broke a gender barrier as the first woman admitted to and graduated from (1912) the Bachelor of Divinity program." During this time Winchester won the "McFarlan and Cook Testimonial Prize of £21, for Examination in Greek, Moral Philosophy"(Glasgow University Calendar 580). Winchester graduated with honours. (Register 11)

Pacific School of Religion (1916-1917)

Winchester's education continued at Berkeley, California, where she received the S.T.M. (Master of Sacred Theology) degree magna cum laude from the Pacific School of Religion in 1917. While studying in Berkley, she became friends with H. Orton Wiley, pastor of the Berkley Church of the Nazarene and fellow student at the Pacific School of Religion. (Laird 94)

Drew University (1924-1925)

Winchester completed her Th.D. (Doctor of Theology) degree, which she received from the divinity school of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey in 1925 (Ingersol, Schools, 3) for her dissertation entitled: "The Psychological Terms of the New Testament: Their Source and Content."

Winchester "excelled in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and had a reading knowledge of French and German. Religious education and sociology were two additional fields of study that Olive specialized in, and both were largely learned through personal study and rigorous self-discipline." (Laird 92)


Pentecostal Collegiate Institute (1902-1909)

After graduation from Radcliffe College in 1902, Winchester taught at the Pentecostal Collegiate Institute (now Eastern Nazarene College) then located at North Scituate, Rhode Island. Winchester travelled frequently on behalf of the college, raising money and holding services in small communities that lacked regular church services. (Laird 92) Winchester taught at PCI until 1909 before moving to Glasgow to study at the divinity school of the University of Glasgow.

Parkhead Holiness Bible School (1909-1913)

While in Scotland, Winchester became a member of the Pentecostal Church of Scotland, an indigenous holiness denomination later to merge with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in 1915. From 1909 Winchester also taught in that denomination's Parkead Holiness Bible School (Smith 186-187). On 11 May 1910, Winchester "advocated that a holiness periodical and college be organized to help perpetuate and strengthen the holiness work in Scotland."(Laird 92) On the same day, Winchester was ordained at Parkhead, Scotland by the Pentecostal Church of Scotland in their Fourth Annual Assembly, thus becoming the first woman ever ordained by any denomination in Scotland. (Noble 39); Ingersol, Foremothers, 4).

Pentecostal Bible College (1913-1914)

In 1912, the Sixth Annual Assembly of the Pentecostal Church of Scotland, the delegates voted to establish a ministerial training college. (Laird 93) A terrace house located at 1 Westbourne Terrace, Kelvinside, near the University of Glasgow, was purchased to house the relocated college. Classes commenced there in September 1913, with Winchester one of the teachers. Winchester resided in this home. (Noble 40)

In 1913 Winchester urged the creation of the missionary society of the Pentecostal Church of Scotland, and was elected its first president. As the Pentecostal Church of Scotland did not have its own missionaries, Winchester urged the support of missionaries of her previous denomination, the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene (Noble 180). For several years Winchester wrote to the leaders of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri urging them to send representatives to Scotland to expedite a merger of the two denominations. (Smith 187) "Winchester’s involvement in the Pentecostal Church of Scotland helped it clarify its doctrine of the ministry, and in 1915, she played a role in facilitating the merger of that denomination and the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene." (Ingersol, ibid.)

Pentecostal Collegiate Institute (1914-1916)

In June 1914, Winchester returned to the Pentecostal Collegiate Institute in North Scituate, Rhode Island. She was appointed vice-principal and head of the Theology department. After two years, Winchester resigned to move to Berkley, California to continue her post-graduate studies. (Laird 93)

Northwest Nazarene College (1918-1935)

In 1918 Winchester became the professor of biblical literature and theology professor at Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho at the invitation of its president Dr H. Orton Wiley. (Smith 222) Winchester also served as the founding pastor of the Marsing, Idaho Church of the Nazarene from 24 March 1918 until 19 May 1918, until a permanent pastor was appointed.(Idaho Press-Tribune 7 March 2008)[8]

Following an inheritance, in 1922 Winchester provided the funds to build a home for Wiley at Northewest Nazarene College.[9] According to Ingersol,

Throughout her tenure at Northwest Nazarene, Winchester taught her specialties: Biblical language and literature. But she also grew interested in the whole idea of religious education in the local church, and at Northwest Nazarene she developed and taught the initial courses in religious education. She spurred further interest in that emerging discipline by contributing frequent articles on religious education to church papers and curriculum resource manuals.(Foremothers, 4)

Later she added sociology and Christian education to her teaching load. President Wiley, who appreciated good talent and Olive Winchester, made her vice president of the College in 1922, and the following year she was appointed academic dean as well, holding both positions simultaneously until her resignation in 1935. ... A history of Northwest's first quarter-century summarized her administrative role in a sentence: "She contributed very much to the development of the right attitude toward scholastic standards, as vice-president and dean of the college had much to do with the internal organization of the institution."...At the center of her legacy stood the undeniable fact that she was a pivotal figure in the transition of Northwest Nazarene College from a sagebrush academy to a sound academic institution." (Ingersol Roots 11)

Winchester resigned from Northwest Nazarene College in 1935 due to differences with Wiley's successor, President Russell DeLong.

Pasadena College (1935-1947)

Wiley invited her to teach at Pasadena College (now Point Loma Nazarene University) where she taught until her death in 1947. She was appointed head of the graduate department by Wiley.


"Winchester was not the only woman to teach religion at Nazarene colleges during her lifetime.... But Winchester far surpassed them in academic background and achievement, paving the way for other professional female theologians in the church,' (Ingersol, Foremothers, 5) including Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, who encountered Winchester as a freshman at Northwest Nazarene College." (Ibid.)


Winchester was "committed to the “hermeneutic of holiness”"(Hughes 354) and has been described as "the descriptive-doctrinaire approach" to teaching biblical theology. (Hughes 360). According to Ingersol, "Winchester had earned high marks in biblical criticism at Glasgow but was conservative in her application of this knowledge within the Nazarene context. Her books included studies of Moses, the prophets, and the life of Jesus. Her Crisis Experiences in the Greek New Testament (1953) stood in the linguistic-exegetical tradition tradition pioneered by Daniel Steele, a Methodist scholar at Boston University.

Steele defended the doctrine of entire sanctification by a study of the Greek aorist tense, and Winchester appropriated his agenda and attempted to develop it further, though this approach has since fallen out of favor with many Wesleyan-holiness biblical scholars. (Ingersol, Foremothers, 4-5)

Winchester rejected the increasingly prevalent premillennial perspective. Reflecting the New England tradition of Wesleyan-holiness biblical scholarship shaped by Daniel Steele, she was amillennial and interpreted the Book of Revelation as a coded record of events that had occurred in the New Testament era, perhaps during Nero’s reign, not predictions of the future. (Ingersol, Foremothers, 5)

In 1931, Winchester wrote a series on science and religion in The Young People’s Journal, a Nazarene publication for high school youth, where she had a regular column.

In the second essay in the series, Winchester described three scientific theories on the origins of the universe, identifying her own view as the “planetismal theory,” which held that the observable universe developed as gravitational forces caused matter to coalesce over long eons of time. Nazarene theologian A. M. Hills embraced the identical view when he discussed the Christian doctrine of creation in his 2-vol Fundamental Christian Theology. While neither believed in biological evolution, Winchester and Hills embraced cosmic and geological evolution without compunction. (Ingersol, Bedfellows, 21-22)

Honours and awards

Each year Northwest Nazarene University presents the Olive M. Winchester Religious Essay Award. The Olive Winchester Memorial Church of the Nazarene that ministers to the Aymara people of Peru is named in her honour.(Taylor 69)



  • A Brief Survey Of The Old Testament: Moses and the Prophets. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1941.[10]
  • Christ's Life and Ministry. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1932.
  • Crisis Experiences in the Greek New Testament: An Investigation of the Evidence for the Definite, Miraculous of Regeneration and Sanctification as Found in the Greek New Testament, Especially in the Figures Emphasized, and in the Use of the Aorist Tense.. Edited Throughout, With Final Chapter By Ross E. Price. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1953.[11] Includes good bio summary of Winchester's Life by Price.
  • Principles of the Interior or Hidden Life: Designed Particularly For The Consideration Of Those Who Are Seeking Assurance Of Faith And Perfect Love, by Thomas Cogswell Upham. Abridged By Olive M. Winchester. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1946.[12]
  • The Story of the Old Testament. (Revised edition of Moses and the Prophets), by Olive M. Winchester and W.T. Purkiser. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 1960.


  • "Angel Sentinels" in Bondservants of the Japanese by Robert B. Hammond. Sheffield Press, 1943; 8th ed. Voice of China & Asia, 1957. Poem Dedicated to Robert and Helen Hammond (founders of the Voice of China & Asia (VOCA) mission)[13] by Olive M. Winchester.
  • "Our Inheritance In Heaven". The Preacher's Magazine 4:10 (October 1929). [14]
  • "Precepts For Christian Living". The Preacher's Magazine 4:10 (October 1929). [15]
  • "Steps In A Soul's Departure From God". The Preacher's Magazine 4:10 (October 1929). [16]
  • "Studies In The Sermon On The Mount". The Preacher's Magazine 4:10 (October 1929). [17]
  • "Women in the Teaching Ministry." Herald of Holiness (2 July 1945):5.

References and Further Reading

  • Balmer, Randall Herbert, ed. Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism. Baylor University, 2004. See pages 752-753 for article on Winchester.
  • Barnard, Tom. "Leaders and Institutions". [] References Winchester: "Theologian Olive Winchester was another Radcliffe graduate who made a significant impact on Christian higher education during the first half of the 20th century."
  • Bowman, George E. and Nellie C. Ryan, eds. Who's Who in Education: A Biographical Directory of the Teaching Profession. Who's Who, 1927. See article on Winchester.
  • Cameron, James R. Eastern Nazarene College: The First Fifty Years 1910-1950. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene, 1968. Details Winchester's ministry as professor at Pentecostal Collegiate Institute (1902-1909, and 1914-1916).
  • Cameron, Nigel M. De S., ed. The Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology. T&T Clark; IVP, 1993. Article re Winchester indicates she was first woman ordained by any denomination in Scotland.
  • Cook, Robert Cecil, ed. Who's Who in American Education. New York: Robert C. Cook Company, 1928. See page 848 for entry for Winchester.
  • Fletcher, Russell Holmes. Who's Who in California. Who's Who, 1941. See page 994 for bio data on Winchester.
  • Ford, Jack. In The Steps of John Wesley: The Church of the Nazarene in Britain.: A Historical and Comparative Study. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene, 1968. This is the published version of Ford's Ph.D. dissertation for the University of London. See page 55 for the account of Winchester's ordination; page 56 for her role at the Parkhead Holiness School; and pages 57–58 for her ministry at the Pentecostal Bible College.
  • Hughes, Richard T. and William B. Adrian, eds. Models for Christian Higher Education: Strategies for Survival and Success in the Twenty-First Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997. See chapter on Point Loma Nazarene College, especially reference to Winchester (354-360).
  • Ingersol, Stan. "Nazarene Roots: Pressing the Vision: Olive Winchester and Northwest Nazarene College." Herald of Holiness (April 1988): 11.[18]
  • Ingersol, Stan. "Nazarene Women and Religion Sources on Clergy and Lay Women in the Church with antecedent and related materials." Nazarene Archives and Clergy Services of the Church of the Nazarene, March 2003. [19]
  • Ingersol, Stan. "Our Nazarene Foremothers: Woman in a New World: Olive Winchester’s Life in Theology and Higher Education." New Horizons: Resources for Nazarene Clergywomen (February/March 2002):4-5.[20]
  • Ingersol, Stan. "Strange Bedfellows: The Nazarenes and Fundamentalism." Wesleyan Theological Journal (Fall 2005). Discusses Winchester's views on evolution and creation.[21]
  • Ingersol, Stan. Why These Schools? Historical Perspectives on Nazarene Higher Education. [22] Discusses Winchester, her qualifications and contributions to Northwest Nazarene College.
  • Ingersol, Stan. "Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Nazarene Women and an Apostolic Ministry".[23][24]
  • Kirkemo, Ronald B. For Zion's sake: A History of Pasadena/Point Loma College. Point Loma, CA: Point Loma Press, 1992. Details Winchester's years teaching at Pasadena College (1935-1947).
  • Laird, Rebecca. Ordained Women In The Church Of The Nazarene: The First Generation. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1993. Includes a chapter on Winchester.
  • Maddox, Randy. "The Use of the Aorist Tense in Holiness Exegesis." Wesleyan Theological Journal 16. [25] Critiques Winchester's understanding of the aorist tense and its subsequent misuse by holiness exegetes.
  • New England Historical & Genealogical Register Repository: Media: Book Page: 79:140. Records details of Winchester's birth.
  • Noble, T.A. Called to be Saints: A Centenary History of the Church of the Nazarene in the British Isles: 1906-2006. Manchester, UK: Didsbury Press, 2006. See pages 37–40 for Winchester in Scotland, page 44 for photograph, 67, 69, 159, 180, and 201.
  • Pacific School of Religion. Annual Register of the Pacific School of Religion. Berkeley, CA, 1919. See page 11 for Winchester bio details.
  • Price, Ross. “Some Data on Miss Olive Winchester,” pp. 7–8, in the Olive Winchester profile folder, Olive Winchester Collection, Nazarene Archives, Kansas City, MO.
  • Price, Ross Eugene. H. Orton Wiley: Servant and Savant of the Sagebrush College: A Survey of his Ten Years of Service at Northwest Nazarene College as its President and its Spiritual-Intellectual Leader. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene, 1967. Details H. Orton Wiley's leadership at NNC (1916-1926), and Winchester's ministry at NNC (1918-1926).
  • Raser, Harold. "Women Ministers in the Holiness Movement—Where Have They All Gone?: There Were More 50 years Ago than There Are Today." Illustrated Bible Life (March-May 1994): 59-62. [26]
  • Riley, John E. From Sagebrush to Ivy: The Story of Northwest Nazarene College, 1913 to 1988. NNC, 1988. Details Winchester's years at NNC (1918-1935).
  • Smith, Hedley. The History of Scituate, R.I. The Committee, 1976. History of town where PCI was located from 1902.
  • Smith, Timothy L. Called Unto Holiness: The Story of The Nazarenes: The Formative Years. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene, 1962. [27]
  • Taylor, Lucille L. Tribes and Nations From the South. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene, 1960. Page 69 references Olive Winchester Memorial Church of the Nazarene.
  • Thayer, William Roscoe, et al., eds.The Harvard Graduates' Magazine. Page 489 records: "Olive Winchester, '02, is a fully matriculated student in the Faculty of Theology of the University of Glasgow, the first woman to study in that..."
  • Tink, Fletcher. "Some of Our Best ‘Men’ Are Women".[28] Supports position that Winchester was first woman ordained in Scotland.
  • Wright, David F. and Gary D. Badcock, eds. Disruption to Diversity: Edinburgh Divinity, 1846-1996. T&T Clark, 1996. Page 247 confirms Winchester as first woman to be admitted in the BD at Glasgow, and first to be ordained in Scotland. But cf. claims that Caroline Soule (1824-1903), who was ordained in 1880 by the Scottish Universalist Convention was actually first.[29] Perhaps the Christian orthodoxy of the Universalists was disputed.


Winchester, Dr. Olive. Writings, correspondence, classroom materials. In the Archives of Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, California.


  1. ^ (worth approximately $480,000 today) see
  2. ^ "Three Canoeists Drown" New York Times (24 November 1902) [1]; "Three Bodies Recovered in Lake", New York Times (30 November 1902). [2]
  3. ^ worth approximately $466,000 today


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