Girl  Evangelists
Oreitta Stoddard

Oreitta (or Oreita or Ora) Stoddard was the youngest of eleven children, or the fifth of twelve children, according to newspaper reports. She started preaching at age 12 in 1921 in Oklahoma. [One account has her beginning her preaching at age ten.] The year following, she was granted a licence by the Methodist Episcopal Church, making her the youngest ordained preacher in the United States, according to press reports. She was even offered to position of pastor of a church in the small coal-mining town of Baxter Springs, Kansas, at age thirteen. She turned it down.

Her sermons were marked by a stream of condemnations of aspects of modern flapper culture, from dancing, petting parties, jazz, card playing, and short dresses. As she said: “I’ll devote my life to denouncing what I believe to be wrong.” Most girl evangelists would have objected to the same things. In one way, Oreita was not typical of girl evangelists. Most of the girls objected to movies. Oreita did not.

At age fifteen, Oreita indicated that she was giving up preaching to concentrate on studies that would permit her to become a missionary to China. She would have preferred to pastor a church in the States, but she said that women would not stand for a woman preaching at them or about them.

One newspaper reported Oreita’s kidnapping in 1928 in Missouri, when she was nineteen. She was still preaching at that time.

Oreita Stoddard
Age 13
Logansport Pharos-Tribune
(6 March 1922), 2.