Jessie Dayton…Women’s Equality Before Her Time

DFH Volume 1 Issue 15

Before she was married, and at the age of 24, Jessie was named to be Sunday School superintendent of the newly organized Hadley Sunday School in District 4 on Hadley Hill.  This district was a one-room schoolhouse located toward West Mountain from the general populace at the top of Hadley Hill. Her daughter, Flossie [Dayton] Denton, taught there years later. Jessie’s appointment to such an important position of leadership in the local church is noteworthy.  In the latter half of the 19th century until the time of prohibition, the Wesleyan Methodist Church was a progressive denomination, leading the way in woman’s rights.  Woman’s Rights convention, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, convened July 19-20, 1848, in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York and was attended by 200 women.  Stanton joined forces with Susan B. Anthony two years later, and the rest is history.  In nearly every other protestant denomination, women were not allowed in church teaching and preaching because of strict adherence to Paul’s instruction in I Timothy 3:11-12, well into the 20th century. My denomination, Christian Reformed, is still struggling with this issue.  The Wesleyan Methodist Church was very progressive in those days.  From their inception to the late 1800’s,  the Wesleyan Methodists were at the cutting edge of woman’s rights, including woman’s rights in church leadership positions.  Jessie White was an example of this.  Jessie [White] Dayton began her “ministry” in 1904 and continued in church teaching and leadership positions into the 1940’s.

Jessie’s commitment to her church was commendable.  The Wilber Dayton family attended Sunday morning worship at the Corinth Wesleyan church.  Then they were at the Hadley Wesleyan Methodist Church, five miles from home, by the time church started at 2 pm.  After church was over in Hadley, they hurried back to Corinth to attend evening service.  Talk about Sunday being a day of rest!  Not for the Wilber T Dayton family. It was likely a day of stress.  Since grampa didn’t have a car, it’s not clear how they got to Hadley and back. They may have walked, or someone from Hadley may have picked them up.  There was no time for the traditional Sunday dinner after church.

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