Judson, Sarah Boardman (1803–1845)

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Judson, Sarah Boardman (1803–1845)

American missionary. Name variations: Sarah Hall Judson. Born Sarah Hall on November 4, 1803, in Alstead, New Hampshire; died on September 1, 1845, anchored just off the island of St. Helena; daughter of Ralph Hall and Abiah (Hall) Hall; briefly attended local female seminary; largely self-educated; married George Dana Boardman, on July 3, 1825 (died 1831); married Adoniram Judson, on April 10, 1834; children: (first marriage) Sarah Ann Boardman (1826–1829); George Dana Boardman (b. 1828, later a well-known Baptist minister); Judson Wade Boardman (b. 1830, lived only nine months); (second marriage) Abigail Ann Judson; Adoniram Brown Judson (later an orthopedic surgeon); Elnathan Judson; Henry Hall Judson; Edward Judson (later a minister); and three others who did not survive infancy.

With husband George Boardman moved to Burma (now Myanmar) to be a missionary; set up schools and church for the Karen, an indigenous tribe; translated the New Testament, various religious tracts, and Adoniram Judson's Life of Christ into the language of the Peguans; translated the first part of Pilgrim's Progress into Burmese and put together a Burmese hymn book.

Sarah Judson was born Sarah Hall in New Hampshire on November 4, 1803, the oldest of Ralph and Abiah Hall 's 13 children. The family soon moved to Massachusetts, and Sarah grew up in Danvers and in Salem. In 1820, she joined the First Baptist Church. Unable to continue her studies at a local female seminary because of family finances, she helped care for her siblings and educated herself at home. Sarah taught school for a short while and wrote poems which appeared in the Christian Watchman and the American Baptist Magazine; she was introduced to the idea of missionary work by her pastor and by a meeting in 1823 with Ann Hasseltine Judson , the wife of pioneer Baptist missionary to Burma Adoniram Judson.

Sarah's poem on the death of Burmese missionary James Colman caught the attention of George Boardman, a seminary student who himself planned to be a missionary to Burma, and led to their meeting. Two weeks after the couple married in 1825, they set off for Burma. In early December, they reached Calcutta and were forced to remain there for over a year due to the Anglo-Burmese war; Sarah spent the time learning the Burmese language and giving birth to her first child. Finally, in the spring of 1827, the family arrived in Burma.

The Boardmans lived in Amherst, a hub for missionaries near Rangoon, and then in Moulmein. Early in 1828 they moved to Tavoy on the Bay of Bengal, where they began evangelizing the Karen tribe. Their second child, George Dana, was born that year.

From 1829 to 1831, the Boardmans experienced great hardships. Their daughter died in July of 1829 and the anti-British revolt that year made it necessary for them to quit the area in fear for their lives. In January of 1830 their third child was born but lived only nine months. The whole family suffered from dysentery, and by April of 1830 they had moved back to Moulmein to recuperate. A few months later they were back in Tavoy to baptize the numerous Christian converts, despite the fact that George was still sick. His health continued to decline, and he died on February 11, 1831.

Sarah carried on her work as a missionary after George's death. For three years, she continued working in Tavoy, reestablishing the schools they had built earlier and traveling through the jungle to preach. Adoniram Judson, who had been widowed in 1826 and to whom many Baptist missionaries looked for advice and assistance, remained in contact with Sarah during this time. They were married on April 10, 1834, and worked in Moulmein for eleven years. Together they had eight children, although only five lived past infancy. Adoniram encouraged Judson to study the language of the Peguan peoples of southwestern Burma, and she eventually translated the New Testament, Adoniram's Life of Christ, and several religious tracts into the Peguan language.

After the birth of her last child in December of 1844, Judson suffered a recurrence of dysentery. In May of 1845, she was forced to sail for America, along with her husband and three oldest children, in hopes of recovering. Sarah died during the voyage, scarcely a month before her 42nd birthday, and was buried on the island of St. Helena where Napoleon had spent his last days in exile. Adoniram Judson's third wife, writer Emily Chubbuck (Judson) , published an account of Sarah Boardman Judson's 21-year missionary service in 1848.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan

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Judson, Sarah Boardman (1803–1845)

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