Ann Hasseltine's Story
The name plays large in the history of American Baptists, especially in Massachusetts. But who was this woman? What was she like?
By all accounts she was an attractive woman and grew up as the life of the party. She was friendly and loved to laugh and dance. She was a popular girl. Ann was brought to Christ by one of her teachers during the Second Great Awakening. Initially she tried to give up her frivolous ways and become a serious young woman but found that a struggle. A believing aunt helped her to understand that joy is also a part of Christian life.
Ann was a level-headed girl who thought things through. Though she wasn’t initially impressed by Adoniram Judson’s tongue tied awe of her, he eventually won her over and she consented to enter missionary service with him as his wife. Ann was both excited and trepidation about the journey and life in a “heathen” land.
Leaving shortly after her marriage, Ann had a honeymoon on the voyage to India, but when they arrived there the troubles began. They were forced to flee India and when they arrived in Rangoon, Burma she was weak and depressed from the death of her traveling companion in childbirth and her own miscarriage. She listened disheartenedly to Adoniram’s dismal description of the Burmese coastline.
But Ann was a resilient woman. Soon she was running the mission house, surprising her language teacher who didn’t believe a woman could have a keen mind, and adjusting to Burmese life. She helped Adoniram learn to teach the people and persevered with him for six years before they made a single convert to Christ.
She faced further joys and heartaches, with the birth and death of her son Roger Williams Judson. She was lonely as letters from home took two years to arrive. Ann was also bold. More missionaries had joined them and when Adoniram was away for his health, the local officials began to harass the mission. Ann gathered her courage, wrote out a petition, and visited her friend the Viceroy. He ordered that the mission be left alone.
Ann wasn’t perfect. She could be highhanded - even bossy - with newer missionaries. Some found her difficult to get along with. On the other hand, she did have the greater experience and knowledge of the culture.
When war broke out between England and Burma, Adoniram was mistaken for a British man and imprisoned. Ann’s fortitude in bringing he and the other prisoners food and advocating for his release are legendary. Though pregnant she worked tirelessly to improve conditions for her husband and his colleagues, while caring for her two adopted Burmese daughters, maintaining the home, and encouraging the fledgeling Burmese church.
It wasn’t long after Adoniram’s release that they were separated again by the Burmese king, who need a translator. During this time, Ann became ill and died. Her last words were in Burmese. Her legacy is remembered with gratitude in Burma and there are churches and schools named after her there and in the US. She has inspired generations of missionaries and Christian women.
Ann’s story recorded on video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DBYhlZD-Xs (Explore CYC’s YouTube Channel for more of the story of Hasseltine and her husband, Adoniram Judson)
Resources for learning about Ann Hasseltine:
The Extraordinary Life of Ann Hasseltine Judson by Rosalie Hall Hunt