Charlotte White is quite possibly one of the most forgotten yet influential missionaries to have lived. Her impact on others was significant, and her involvement in missions as a woman was revolutionary. Her story exhibits the power of God and what He can do through those who surrender to Him.
Her story begins in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1782. Here she was born into a family with Episcopalian beliefs and spent most of her childhood. Sadly, tragedy struck White’s family at the age of eleven, and she was left orphaned. As the years went by and White grew older, she met and married Nathaniel White. Together they had one son. Unfortunately, just five months after the baby was born, her husband passed away, and shortly thereafter, her baby died as well.
Despite her immense suffering, White had an encounter that changed her life forever. She encountered Jesus Christ and put her faith and trust in Him. As a result, her life drastically changed, and she was given a new purpose and identity.
In 1814, the “General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America For Foreign Mission” was established. This was the first Baptist organization created with the intent of raising and sending missionaries around the world. Shortly after it was established, Adoniram Judson was named its’ first missionary; but only Adoniram was appointed, not his wife. Just a couple of weeks later, White was involved in something tremendous. She helped organize one of the first women’s missions institutions called the “Sansom Street Baptist Female Society for Promoting Evangelical Missions.”
In 1815, White was appointed as the first American unmarried female missionary and traveled to Burma to work with the Judson’s. This caused a great uprising and the Board tried to take it back, but White had already set sail for Burma.
Before arriving in Burma, White, along with Hough missionaries stopped in Calcutta, India. They planned to pick up a printing press to take back to the Judsons in Burma, so they could print the Bibles and tracts they had translated. While they were there, White met a British missionary named Joshua Rowe and married him. She stayed in India with her new husband and his three children.
The family moved to a small town called Digah to start their ministry. First, they took on learning the language the people spoke, Hindi. White mainly worked with children and deeply cared for their education. She found multiple girls’ schools, taught classes, and instructed other women in the area how to teach. She also put on worship services for the local people. White had an abundant love for the Hindi-speaking people and, most importantly, shared Christ with them.
White spent over eleven years in India, ministering to the people of Dinah. Unfortunately, when her husband passed away, she could not support herself as well as her six children. She later traveled to England in hopes that the English would support her work in India. After a couple years of unrewarded efforts, she and her children moved back to the United States and remained there until her death in 1863.
White’s story is a story of redemption and purpose that only comes from Christ. It was only by God’s grace and power that she could overcome such horrible circumstances and be used to influence others powerfully. Her life was spent loving the people of India and sharing with them the love of Christ. Though her name has been forgotten, we ought never to forget how mighty our God is and what he can do through willing vessels.