Petter, Bertha Elise Kinsinger (1872-1967)

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Bertha Elise Kinsinger Petter was a General Conference Mennonite (GCM) missionary among the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) and among the Northern Cheyenne in Montana. She served from 1896 to 1963.

Born in 1872 near Trenton, Ohio, she earned a BA degree from Wittenberg College, Springfield, Ohio, in 1896 (MA, 1910). Possibly the first Mennonite woman to earn a college degree, she had studied Latin, Greek, German, philosophy, calculus, and logic. She came to Indian Territory in 1896 as a teacher in the Cantonment school under the General Conference Foreign Mission Board (GCM). She was the first General Conference single woman to make a career as a missionary. Along with Agnes Williams, she was in charge of the Clinton mission field from 1907 to 1909. They conducted funerals, preached sermons, led worship services, and visited in Cheyenne camps.

In 1911, Kinsinger married fellow missionary Rodolphe Petter, whose first wife, Marie Gerber Petter, had died in 1910. The collaboration on linguistics and the Cheyenne language, which they had already begun, continued after their marriage. The 1,226-page Cheyenne-English Dictionary published under Rodolphe's name was the result of their joint efforts.

The Petters moved in 1916 to Montana, where they continued mission work among the Northern Cheyenne. A complete new Testament in Cheyenne, translated from the Greek, was finished in 1935.

After Rodolphe's death in 1947, Bertha remained on the Northern Cheyenne reservation until 1963, when she moved to a retirement home in Billings, Montana. She died on 7 November 1967 in Billings and was buried with her husband in the Lame Deer, Montana cemetery.


Barrett, Lois. The Vision and the Reality: The Story of Home Missions in the General Conference Mennonite Church. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1983: index.

"Death Claims Pioneer Missionary to Indians." Mennonite Weekly Review (23 November 1967): 6.

Petter, Rodolphe. "Some Reminiscences of Past Years in My Mission Service Among the Cheyenne." Mennonite 51, no. 44 (10 November 1936): 16 (also printed as a separate pamphlet).

Author(s) Lois Barrett
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Barrett, Lois. "Petter, Bertha Elise Kinsinger (1872-1967)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 22 May 2024.,_Bertha_Elise_Kinsinger_(1872-1967)&oldid=175684.

APA style

Barrett, Lois. (1987). Petter, Bertha Elise Kinsinger (1872-1967). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2024, from,_Bertha_Elise_Kinsinger_(1872-1967)&oldid=175684.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 699. All rights reserved.

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