The Heroine of Burma
by Thomas Ray
Ann Judson was more than a missionary’s wife; she is one of the noblest and heroic women who has ever bore the Christian name. Every Baptist should be aware of the life and the ministry of the heroine of Burma.
Ann Hasseltine was born in Bedford, Massachusetts, on December 22, 1789. As a child, she exhibited an inquisitive mind and a tenacious perseverance, and her thirst for knowledge distinguished her as someone destined for a life of service. In her 17th year, after many conflicts and much prayer, she found pardon in the finished work of Christ. When she was 20, she read the life of David Brainerd and was deeply moved for those who had never heard the gospel. She recorded in her dairy that she felt “a willingness to give herself away to Christ, to be disposed as He pleases.” But, her future life of service was sealed when she met and ultimately married Adoniram Judson. However, she did not make her decision solely upon Mr. Judson’s proposal. After much prayer and earnestly seeking the will of God, she wrote, “I am not only willing to spend my days among the heathen, in attempting to enlighten and save them, but I find much pleasure in the prospect. Yes, I am quite willing to give up temporal comforts and live a life of hardship and trial, if it be the will of God.”
Ann and Adoniram were married on February 5, 1812, and sailed for Calcutta on the 19th. It was on this three-month journey that both Adoniram and Ann embraced believer’s baptism. Upon their arrival in India, they were immersed by William Ward. This decision severed their relationship with their Congregational supporters. The Judson’s offered their services to the Baptists who gladly accepted.
Shortly after their arrival, they were ordered by the East India Company to leave India or be deported. After numerous hardships and disappointments, they were finally able to book passage on a ship bound for Rangoon, Burma. Upon arrival, they immediately established themselves and began to study the difficult Burmese language. Through their dedication and untiring labor, the gospel began to produce fruit.
In 1823, reinforced by additional missionaries, it was determined that the Judsons and Prices would relocate to Ava, the capitol. War broke out between England and Burma soon after they arrived and Judson and Price were accused of being English spies. They were arrested and thrown into a prison, known as the death house. Adoniram’s life depended completely upon Ann’s ability to provide for his physical needs.
Ann’s heroic efforts during those dark days read more like fiction than reality. Forced to live in inhumane conditions, she became seriously ill, and her responsibilities were multiplied when she gave birth to her precious Maria. Adding to her burdens, the two Burmese girls she had adopted and her infant daughter were stricken with smallpox. However, empowered by God’s grace, she was able to sustain her husband and Dr. Price and nurse the seriously ill children while being assisted by only one helper. Even though seriously ill herself, she persevered through incredible hardships which continued until the Burmese were forced to sue for peace or be destroyed.
After Adoniram obtained his freedom, the Judsons relocated to Amherst where they established a mission. Judson was called away to interpret for the British, and sadly, in his absence, Ann Judson was seized with a malignant fever. Hher shattered constitution was unable to withstand the attack. At 8:00 on the evening of October 24, 1826, she passed into the arms of her beloved Savior. Exactly six months later, little Maria also died and was buried by her Mother.
This article originally appeared in the February 2008 Tribune.
Suggested reading: The Judson’s History and Legacy, Rosalie Hall Hunt.