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Charlotte White (b. July 13, 1782, d. ?) was the first unmarried American woman missionary sent to a foreign country. She was sponsored by the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions and arrived in British India in 1816.

Early life[edit]

Charlotte "Susanna" Hazen Atlee was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Judge William Augustus Atlee and Esther Bowes Sayre. She married Nathaniel Hazen White in 1803. He died in 1804 and the couple's one child died in 1805. Charlotte White joined the First Baptist Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1807.[1]

Missionary to India[edit]

Charlotte White's application to become a missionary with the newly founded Baptist Board of Foreign Missions was controversial as many members of the Board believed that only ordained males should be appointed missionaries. Charlotte was accepted as a missionary in a restricted appointment as a helper and companion for the wife of George Henry Hough, a missionary printer being sent to India, and with her assurance that she would be sustained by her own resources.[2]

Charlotte remained only briefly with the Houghs on arrival in Calcutta, India, marrying a widower with three sons, Joshua Rowe, a missionary with the English Baptist Missionary Society,(BMS) shortly after her arrival in 1816. She transferred to the BMS and the couple managed missionary schools in Digah, near Patna, India and Charlotte wrote a Hindustani language spelling book for children. In 1823, a letter from Charlotte was published, without her permission, accusing four prominent missionaries at Serampore College of expropriating property belonging to the Baptist Missionary Society.[3]

Joshua and Charlotte Rowe had three children. Rowe died in 1823. Charlotte remained in India until 1826 before returning to the United States with her three children.[4]

Later life[edit]

White taught English, music, and drawing in an academy at Lowndesboro, Alabama in the 1830s.[5]


  1. ^ Barber, Edwin Atlee Genealogical Record of the Atlee Family Philadelphia: Wm. F. Fell & Co, 1884, pp. 80-81
  2. ^ Anderson, Gerald H. Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1991, p. 727; Proceedings of the Baptist Convention for Missionary Purposes, Philadelphia, 1814, pp. 65, 112
  3. ^ The Reformer, Vol. 4, April 2, 1823, pp. 73-79
  4. ^ Brackney, William H The A to Z of Baptists Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009, p. 605; Missionary Herald, 1827, p. 293
  5. ^ Anderson, p. 727

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