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Susanna Wesley: The Strongest Woman You’ve Never Met

10 Interesting Facts About the "Mother of Methodism"

by a Friend of Bibles.net
Time: 8 Minutes

Here at Bibles.net, we believe that we can learn a lot about ourselves and our faith by looking at Christians who lived before us. One woman we find to be an excellent teacher is Susanna Wesley.

Susanna Wesley led an incredible life. She’s best known as the mother of John and Charles Wesley, the brothers who began the movement which became known as Methodism. However, this stay-at-home mother was an extraordinary person and Christian in her own right.

Here are 10 little known facts about Susanna Wesley, the “Mother of Methodism. 

1

Susanna Wesley came from a large family.

Born in the year 1669, Susanna was the last of 25 children born to parents Samuel and Mary Annesley. One biographer wrote that the Annesleys needed to be counted by the dozen!  

Susanna’s father, Samuel Annesley, was the pastor of a Puritan church in the town of Little St. Helen’s. The family lived in a home attached to the church. Susanna enjoyed a happy childhood. 

2

She was a brilliant and independent thinker.

Susanna, unlike many women in her day, was taught how to read. Either through formal education or family tutoring, Susanna was educated and quite brilliant. She quickly formed her own opinions. Before her teenage years, Susanna had already decided to become a member of a different church denomination than the one in which her father pastored. 

3

She was an early advocate for educating women.

Susanna thought that it was important for her daughters (as well as her sons) to receive a good education, so they might make sense of their faith and their world. When she found no proper textbooks for teaching her children, Susanna wrote her own. 

4

She had a large family of her own.

Susanna Wesley gave birth to 19 children. Sadly, 9 of her children died in infancy and she lived to see the death of three more children in their adulthood. Two of Susanna’s sons, John and Charles, would become some of the most influential men in Christian history. 

5

She had a difficult marriage.

Samuel Wesley Sr. was an impulsive man who routinely made unwise decisions. His actions would often land the Wesley’s in debt, poverty, and, sometimes, danger. Once, Samuel abandoned his family for an entire year because of political disagreement with Susanna. He later returned to help the family recover from a house fire. Even into their children’s adulthood, Samuel Sr. made decisions that inspired the resentment of the entire family.  

Despite her difficult marriage, Susanna Wesley remained a faithful wife and mother. She constantly spent herself for her husband and children. 

6

She had firm political opinions.

In 1689, William III took the throne as the King of England. The Wesley household was divided in their opinions about him. Once, Samuel Sr. offered a prayer for King William and Susanna refused to say amen. This was the political disagreement that caused Samuel Sr. to abandon his family. By the time Samuel returned, a new ruler sat on the throne. The family was able to put the political tension to rest. 

7

She loved routine.

Susanna was known for her meticulous and disciplined personality. She kept a regular educational routine for her children as they were growing up. John Wesley followed the example of his mother, and methodically approached the lifelong task of following Jesus, which is how the Methodist movement got its name.

Susanna was such a creature of habit that she kept the same time of prayer for over 50 years! John once wrote, For many years my mother was employed in an abundance of temporal business. Yet she never suffered anything to break in upon her stated hours of retirement, which she sacredly observed from the age of 17 or 18 to 72″ (cited in Metaxas, 45). 

8

Susanna Wesley endured diverse hardships.

Susanna’s life was not an easy one. In addition to the tragic loss of 9 children in infancy, Susanna Wesley also endured two major housefires, the loss of home and belongings, personal threats, physical attacks, and poverty. After her husband’s death, Susanna was once arrested because of the debt he left behind. 

9

She may have lived in a haunted house.

For three months from December of 1715 through February of 1716, the Wesleys experienced strange and possibly supernatural activity in their home. They heard knockings, footsteps, wailing and groaning, felt sudden winds indoors, and experienced many other events of this sort.  

When the children initially told their parents, Susanna and Samuel assumed there were reasonable explanations for these activities—until they experienced them firsthand. They could never explain what was happening, but the strange activity stopped suddenly after three months.

10

She was a devoted follower of Jesus.

Above everything else, Susanna Wesley was committed to Jesus. This enabled her to endure tragedy, poverty, and marital strife.  

Just two years before she died Susanna attended a church service where she heard the words: “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for me.” Even after decades of faithfully following Jesus and teaching her children to do the same, Susanna was moved by those words. She said, “These words struck through my heart, and I knew that God for Christ’s sake had forgiven me all my sins.”  

The woman who kept a regular Bible study and time of prayer for over 50 years was struck anew by the truth of the gospel even in her old age!  

Susanna’s life and legacy speak to the life-changing power of the God of the Bible! 

 Bibliography
1. Metaxas, Eric. Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness. Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, an Imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2015.
2. Harmon, Rebecca Lamar. Susanna, Mother of the Wesleys. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1968
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