Davidson, Hannah Frances (1860-1935)

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Hannah Frances Davidson (1860-1935) was a pioneer Brethren in Christ missionary in Africa. Her father, Henry Davidson, was a minister and the first editor of the denomination's paper, the Evangelical Visitor. She attended Ashland College in Ohio and obtained her BA and MA degrees from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, the first member of the Brethren in Christ to earn an academic degree. She taught high school in Michigan and assisted her father in editing the church paper. From 1888 to 1897, except for a year's leave of absence, she was a member of the faculty of McPherson College (Church of the Brethren) in Kansas.

While there she responded to a call for missionaries from the mission board of the Brethren in Christ Church. She was among the small group of five missionaries, including Jesse M. Engle, who sailed for Africa in late 1897 to found Brethren in Christ missions on that continent. She assisted in establishing Matopo Mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), some 30 mi. (50 km.) west of Bulawayo. She organized a school system, surveyed the mission grounds and surrounding land, and served as Bible teacher and preacher (although without ordination).

In 1906 with Adda Taylor and two African young men, Davidson traveled north nearly 500 mi. (800 km.), more than one-third of the way by ox-cart, to found Macha mission in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). She was superintendent of the mission for most of her remaining years in Africa. Here she again organized a school system which came to include some 30 so-called outschools. She also managed a large and successful farm which by 1921 had 100 cattle. In addition she assisted Primitive Methodist missionaries in the translation of the Greek New Testament into the local languages which at that time were still unwritten.

On a furlough to the Unites States in 1914, Davidson wrote South and South Central Africa: A Record of Fifteen Years' Missionary Labors Among Primitive Peoples. The 481-page book remains the authoritative account of the beginning and first years of Brethren in Christ missions in Africa. From her days at Ashland College she maintained a journal, detailed at times, from which she drew heavily in writing the book. The journal is a valuable source for understanding the difficulties and challenges of missionary work, especially for women.

Davidson left Macha in 1922 and returned to the United States. Following a year of practical nursing in California she joined the faculty of Messiah Bible College (Messiah College) in Grantham, PA. Here she taught English, Greek, and German, and edited and wrote for the missionary section in the Evangelical Visitor. Because of failing health she retired in 1932 at the age of 72 and moved to Abilene, KS, to live with her sister. She died in December 1935.


Sider, E. Morris. Nine Portraits. Nappanee, IN, 1978: 157­212.

Davidson, Frances. South and South Central Africa. Elgin, IL: Brethren Publishing House, 1915: 1-481.

Engle, Anna R. and Climenhaga, John A. and Buckwalter, Leoda A. There Is No Difference: God Works in Africa and India. Nappanee, IN, 1950: 10-129.

Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: The Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978: 182-184.

Evangelical Visitor (23 December 1935): 8.

Author(s) E. Morris Sider
Date Published 1988

Cite This Article

MLA style

Sider, E. Morris. "Davidson, Hannah Frances (1860-1935)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1988. Web. 13 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Davidson,_Hannah_Frances_(1860-1935)&oldid=122476.

APA style

Sider, E. Morris. (1988). Davidson, Hannah Frances (1860-1935). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Davidson,_Hannah_Frances_(1860-1935)&oldid=122476.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 216-217. All rights reserved.

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