Olive Winchester, A Pioneering Female Biblical Scholar & Theologian

Olive May Winchester, born on 22 November  1879 in Monson, Maine, USA, was the first woman to be admitted to study for and to graduate with a Bachelor of Divinity degree at the University of Glasgow from 1909-1912; she was also the first woman ordained by any Christian denomination in Scotland in 1912; and on her return to the USA, she became the first woman to complete a Doctor of Theology degree from the Divinity School of Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, in 1925.

A clearly outstanding student, Olive was awarded several prizes while at the University of Glasgow, including the ‘Jamieson Prize of £10 for examination in subjects BD’ in the session 1911-12 and also the Cleland and Rae-Wilson gold medal for Church History in the same year. At a time when Queen Margaret College was the institution responsible for the education of women within the University of Glasgow and women were educated in separate classes from men, Olive appears as the only female in Professor Henry Reid’s Divinity Class of 16 students . She was also the only female in the Church History class of 14 students.

A pioneering female minister, biblical scholar, and theologian, Olive served as professor of religion, vice-president, and academic dean at Northwest Nazarene College in Idaho, and as chair of the Department of Religion at Pasadena College in California. An heiress of the inventor of the Winchester Rifle and unmarried, Olive left her estate to Pasadena College upon her death in 1947.

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