Woman of the Century/Ella May Bennett
BENNETT, Mrs. Ella May, Universalist minister, born in Stony Brook, N. Y., 21st April. 1855 She was the twelfth child of a family of fourteen, of whom all save two grew to manhood and womanhood. Her father's name was Daniel Shaloe Hawkins, and her mother's maiden name was Harriet Atwood Terry. Two of her brothers have been very prominent in political life. When a very small child, Mrs. Bennett thought deeply upon religious matters. She would often ask her mother to go and pray, especially when her mother seemed troubled in any way. From the very first God seemed to her a friend and comforter. When the doctrines of the church which she had always attended were explained to her, she rejected them. When about thirteen years of age, she visited a cousin in northern Pennsylvania, and for the first time listened to a sermon by a Universalist minister. She recognized her early ideas of God and heaven. On her return home she was told the Bible gave no authority for such a doctrine. She accepted that statement, gave up all interest in religious matters, and would not open a Bible, and tried to become an atheist For years she groped in a mental darkness that at times threatened her reason. When about thirty years of age, Mrs. Bennett's mother, a devout woman, who had long been deeply concerned about her daughter's state of mind, presented her a Bible, begging her for her sake to read it. She gave the book with an earnest prayer that the true light from its pages might shine upon her mind. Mrs. Bennett reluctantly promised. She had only read a few pages when, to her surprise, she found authority for the Universalist faith. The Bible became her constant companion, and for months she read nothing else. Mrs. Bennett became anxious for others to know the faith which had so brightened her own life and readily consented, at the request of Edward Oaks. ELLA MAY BENNETT. to read sermons afternoons in Union Hall in Stony Brook. The sermon reading gradually changed to original essays, and finally Mrs Bennett found herself conducting regular and popular sermons. Rev. L. B. Fisher, of Bridgeport, Conn., became interested in her work She united with his church in May, 1889. Her pastor presented her a library of books and assisted in procuring her a license to preach. On 25th September, 1890, she was ordained in Stony Brook. Mrs. Bennett entered the ministry with the determination never to accept a good position and stated salary, but to labor where the faith was new and for the free-will offering of the people, and, although tempted by large salaries, she has never wavered in that determination. Mrs. Bennett published verses at the age of eleven years, and she has through life given a portion of her time to literary work. In 1875 she was married to William Bennett, and they have three children. She divides her time between her home duties and her ministerial labor, doing full justice to both.