M.E. – Methodist Episcopal
GPS: 40 10 21.34,-084 59 01.33
Why would a “quiet, modest woman” like Rev. Amanda Way receive headlines such as this one which appeared in the March 19, 2017, Indianapolis Star?
“Indiana’s Hard-Core Anti-Booze Baroness”
Could it be because five decades before Carrie Nation wielded her hatchet, Miss Way led her “Woman’s Temperance Army” in closing saloons and taking an axe to whiskey kegs in Winchester, Indiana?
One an April day in 1854, according to the Star, forty or moree women of the town sought to correct a wrong. Outraged by the misdeeds of a saloon keeper, they demanded that the druggists and tavern owners dump their whiskey supplies. Reluctantly, all but one of them did so. William Page defiantly stood at his door with a shotgun. Amanda Way and her “Army” stormed the saloon, smashed the property, and rolled the whiskey barrels into the street, where—using an axe—they split them open and drained them onto the ground. Brought to trial, the women were found not guilty.
Born in Winchester in 1828 to Quaker parents, Amanda came naturally by her instincts for social reform from her family. For instance, a great-uncle, Henry H. Way, was an ally of Levi Coffin in the Underground Railroad and a leader of the Society of Friends who left the Indiana Yearly Meeting over slavery.
After graduating from the public schools and the Randolph Seminary in Winchester, Amanda briefly taught school. But her father, Matthew, died in 1849, and her widowed mother, Hannah, and a sister’s orphaned children needed more help, so she opened a millinery and tailor shop. Amanda never married.
Amanda Way began her remarkable career as a social reformer in1851, marking her as a true pioneer in espousing the causes of women’s rights, prohibition, and opposition to slavery. At an antislavery meeting in Greensboro, Henry County, she offered the resolution that resulted in a state women's rights convention later that year. There, in Dublin, Wayne County, the Indiana Woman's Rights Society was formed, and Way was elected vice-president. For the next nine years, she was a leading figure in the society, and in 1855 was elected president. During this time came the “whiskey riot” in Winchester.
In an era when few women were permitted to speak in public, Miss Way lectured across the state. Moreover, she teamed up with Sarah Underhill to edit a newspaper, the Woman's Tribune, in Indianapolis in 1859. She was also a lecturer and organizer for a temperance lodge, the Independent Order of Good Templars (a fraternal organization which promoted a wholesome lifestyle without alcohol and admitted men and women equally), and was the first woman to be elected Grand Worthy Chief Templar. At some point, although she was a birthright Quaker, Amanda’s became an active Methodist, joining the Winchester M.E. Church.
By 1860 war clouds were gathering, and the reform movement had to be suspended. When four of her brothers joined the Union Army in 1861, Amanda became a nurse and served on battlefields and in hospitals in the South for most of the war. Much later, she received a nodest pension for this service.
When peace returned, the pace picked up. Slavery had been defeated, but there was much work left to do. In 1869, Amanda Way issued a call for a state convention and the Indiana Woman Suffrage Association was created. In the same year, she was a delegate to the convention which organized the National Prohibition Party. In January 1871, Miss Way presented a memorial to the Indiana legislature asking for an amendment to the state constitution giving women the vote. Denied.
Now a new pioneering avenue was about to open to Amanda. The Methodist Episcopal Church had kept women from receiving even local preacher’s licenses until 1869, when Margaret Van Cott was granted the first one in that branch of Methodism. Only three years later, in 1872, Amanda’s uncle John A. Moorman, an M.E. pastor at nearby Farmland, persuaded his congregation to issue a license to his niece, the first such credential in the Indiana church.
She now launched enthusiastically into an itinerant ministry in the churches of Indiana, combining her passion for women’s rights and prohibition with a love of ministering to people’s spiritual needs. That same year, she decided to move to Kansas, where she continued to preach and lecture on her favorite causes. She even got to help pass the prohibition amendment to the Kansas constitution in 1880, and was a founder and first president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in that state. Despite her relocation, the name of Amanda M. Way continues to be shown in North Indiana Conference records as a local preacher in 1876, 1883, and 1884, with a Winchester address. But eventually the General Conference of the M.E. Church revoked all women’s licenses, and Amanda immediatelyfound her way back to the Society of Friends, which had long recognized women as preachers. In that denomination, she continued her ministry through the remainder of her life.
After ground-breaking work in Idaho (including a run for the U. S. Congress on the National Prohibition Party ticket in 1900), she settled in Whittier, California. At the age of seventy-seven, and one of the last surviving advocates for women's rights, Miss Way was honored with an invitation to address the 1905 National American Women's Suffrage Association Convention in Portland, Oregon. This “quiet, modest” woman concluded her active life of 86 years in Whittier, where she reposes in the Broadway (Founders Park) cemetery.