Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944)

  • Priscilla Pope-Levison


Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy’s life was a study in profound contrasts, ranging from a rural Canadian farm to Los Angeles stardom. These contrasts provided ample fodder for her many supporters and critics who regarded her either as a fervent Christian or a fevered charlatan. Generally regarded as one of the most successful women evangelists of all time, her first eighteen years were quite unspectacular. She was the only child of James Morgan Kennedy, a farmer and devout Methodist, and Minnie Pearce Kennedy, an orphan who was raised in a Salvation Army home. From a young age, her mother encouraged Aimee’s participation in The Salvation Army, whose music and pageantry fueled Aimee’s dramatic tendencies.1 In her adolescent and teen years, she chose a Methodist Church over The Salvation Army due to the distance of the latter and the greater popularity of the former. With the encouragement of the Methodists, she saw her first movie and read her first novel. Then, on a wintry, December day in 1907, while en route to a play rehearsal, Aimee implored her father to stop for a moment at a storefront Pentecostal church. Her curiosity led not only to her conversion and calling to evangelistic work, but also a crush on the preacher, Robert Semple.


Evening Service Holy Ghost Early Rain Heroic Woman Play Rehearsal 
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  1. 2.
    Charles Darwin (1809–1882) was a British naturalist who became legendary for his theories on natural selection and evolution. Aimee considered these theories to be antithetical to “the mighty hand of a Creator.” For more on her view of creation and evolution, see Edith Blumhofer, Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody’s Sister, Library of Religious Biography (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 56–57.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Acts 2:39. Aimee Semple McPherson, The Personal Testimony and Life of Aimee Semple McPherson (Chicago: Pentecostal Herald, 1915), 5–11.Google Scholar
  3. 42.
    Aimee Semple McPherson, “To the Servants and the Handmaidens; Baccalaureate Sermon,” Bridal Call 13 (February, 1930): 5–6Google Scholar

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© Priscilla Pope-Levison 2004

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  • Priscilla Pope-Levison

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