Girl  Evangelists
Mary Agnes

One of the most out-spoken girls was Mary Agnes Vitchestain. Mary Agnes was not typical of girl evangelists, in that she was a Baptist and her family socially prominent and well off. But in most other regards, Mary Agnes fit the mold.

She started preaching when she was eight or nine (the accounts differ). At age ten, she was formally licensed to preach. She reserved her summers for her preaching crusades, returning to her hometown for schooling during the school year. She became famous for her caustic one-liners against modernists, evolutionists, and against professors from Harvard and other universities in the area for believing they came from monkeys. Her career carried her throughout North America and overseas.

When she finished high school, she attended Wheaton College and the University of Pittsburg. She married Paul Wagner and settled in Syracuse, New York, where her husband became a well known educator. She limited her preaching somewhat in order to raise her family. A 1942 newspaper reported that she was described “as the greatest woman preacher on the North American continent.”* Mary Agnes was in her early thirties at the time. Later in life she helped her son establish one of the first mega-churches.

* “Rev. Mary Wagner to Preach Here Beginning May 4,” The Avon Herald News (2 May 1941): 1.

Mary Agnes Vitchestain

Mary received a fair amount of press coverage. Our book cover features a photograph of Mary preaching to two disinterested young people, more interested in love than in religion. The photograph is clearly staged. Another photograph, taken on the same shoot (see photo above on the left), has Mary preaching to a line of four flappers and their male companions. Mary was then fourteen years old. (August 1922, on a Boston beach)


Mary Agnes Vitchestain
Age 15 (1923)
[Photo: Library of Congress,
# npcc 08074]

Married Name: Wagner