Judson, Ann Hasseltine (1789–1826)

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Judson, Ann Hasseltine (1789–1826)

American Baptist missionary to Burma and first American woman missionary to the East. Name variations: Nancy Judson. Born Nancy Ann Hasseltine on December 22, 1789, in Bradford, Massachusetts; died on October 24, 1826, in Amherst, near Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar), from a jungle fever; daughter of John Hasseltine (a deacon in the Congregationalist church) and Rebecca Hasseltine; attended Bradford Academy; married Adoniram Judson (a Congregationalist minister), on February 5, 1812; children: Roger Williams Hasseltine (1815–1816); Marie Elizabeth Butterworth (1825–1827).

Left for missionary work in India (February 6, 1812); landed in Calcutta (June 18, 1812); baptized as a Baptist (September 6, 1812); arrived in Rangoon, Burma (1813); returned to United States weakened from fever (1822); returned to Burma (late 1823); moved to Ava, Burma (February 1824); husband Adoniram Judson taken prisoner by Burmese nationalsduring British-Burma war (June 1824); husband released and the Judsons return to Rangoon (February 21, 1826); moved to Amherst in Burma with the British (July 5, 1826).

Ann Hasseltine was born in 1789, in Bradford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Rebecca Hasseltine and John Hasseltine, a deacon in the Congregationalist church. After attending Bradford Academy, she married Adoniram Judson, a Congregationalist minister, on February 5, 1812. The Judsons left for missionary work in India the following day.

Upon their arrival in Calcutta, the Judsons and their fellow missionaries were ordered back to the United States by the East India Company. Following their baptism as Baptists and unwilling to return, the Judsons moved on to Burma, settling in Rangoon. The formation of the Baptist General Convention in Philadelphia in 1814 and the subsequent appointment of the Judsons as Baptist missionaries provided them with support to continue this mission. The primary focus of the Judsons during their first nine years was the translation of the New Testament into Burmese and educating the Burmese in Christianity. Ann Judson established a school for Burmese girls and ran this while helping her husband in his translation and evangelizing work.

Severely weakened by a series of fevers, Ann journeyed to America in 1822 and spent her time preparing her account of The American Baptist Mission in Burma which was published in March 1823. She returned to Burma in the late summer

of 1823. During her absence, her husband completed the translation of the New Testament and prepared a 12-section summary of the Old Testament. Upon her return, the Judsons went upriver to Ava, then the capital of Burma, intending to establish a mission there. They entered into the tensions between the English and Burmese and soon after the outbreak of war Adoniram was imprisoned, and Ann remained under all but house arrest. Giving birth to a daughter Marie and suffering from small pox, tropical fever, and spotted fever during Adoniram's captivity, Ann's health was severely jeopardized. Throughout his captivity, Ann kept his work hidden from the authorities; it would be published following her death.

Following Adoniram's release on February 21, 1826, the Judsons returned to Rangoon and soon moved on to Amherst in lower Burma to establish a new mission. Shortly after their arrival, Adoniram was called back to Ava to assist as a translator in the peace negotiations. A final jungle fever ended Ann's life on October 24, 1826. (In 1834, Adoniram would marry Sarah Boardman Judson .)

Ann Judson's assistance in the translation of the Bible into Burmese, a work that served as the cornerstone of the Christianization of the East, and her status as the first woman missionary to the East, is regarded as incomparable in the history of the Christian mission to the East.


Deen, Edith. Great Women of the Christian Faith. NY: Harper & Brothers, 1959.

Hartley, Cecil B. The Three Mrs. Judsons, the Celebrated Female Missionaries. NY: United States Book Company, 1863.

Knowles, James Davis. Life of Mrs. Ann H. Judson, Late Missionary to Burma with an Account of the American Baptist Mission to that Empire. Philadelphia, PA: American Sunday School Union, 1830.

suggested reading:

Simmons, Dawn Langley. Golden Boats from Burma: The Life of Ann Hasseltine Judson, The First American Woman in Burma. Philadelphia, PA: Macrae Smith, 1961.


Some papers pertaining to the Burma mission and the Judsons are located at Harvard University. The remaining papers of Ann H. Judson (she destroyed most of her letters and diaries during the war) are held at the Baptist Board of Missions. Other documents and a memorial read at the presentation of a portrait of Judson to the academy are housed at Bradford Academy.

Amanda Carson Banks , Vanderbilt Divinity School

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