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Betty Bone Schiess

Betty Bone Schiess (born April 2, 1923)[1] is an American Episcopal priest. She was one of the first female Episcopal priests in the United States, and a member of the Philadelphia Eleven: leaders of the movement to allow the ordination of women in the American Episcopal Church.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Ordination 2
  • Later career 3
  • Works 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7

Early life and education

Betty Bone was born on April 2, 1923 in Cincinnati, Ohio to Leah and Evan Bone. She attended Hillsdale College Preparatory School where she was president of the student body in her senior year.[2]p. 7 She then attended the University of Cincinnati and was the chaplain for Tri Delta.[2]p. 8 Bone earned her BA in 1945. After graduating, she worked in the personnel department at Wright-Patterson Field.[2]pp. 8–9

Bone earned her master's degree in 1947 from Syracuse University. She married William A. Schiess the same year and lived with him in Algiers for several weeks. She later wrote that they returned from their travels determined to "do something about the plight of the Negro." They took part in demonstrations and marches in the Southern United States.[3]pp. 158–159

During the late 1960s, Schiess worked with the Syracuse

  • Guide to the Betty Bone Schiess Papers, 1965-2012, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
  • Sumner, David E. The Episcopal Church's History: 1945-1985, Morehouse-Barlow, 1987.
  • New York Times, July 31, 1974; August 19, 1974; March 8, 1976, p. 28; November 14, 1976, p. 51.
  • Schmidt, Frederick W.; with a forward by the Reverend Betty Bone Schiess. A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church. Syracuse, NY.: Syracuse University Press, 1996.
  • Agonito, Joseph, PH.D.; producer and director. WomanPriest: A Portrait of the Reverend Betty Bone Schiess. New Futures Enterprises, 1986.
  • Betty Bone Schiess, National Women's Hall of Fame.
  • Betty Bone Schiess, Gale Encyclopedia of Biography
  • Rev. Ned Cole (1975) "Why I will not ordain a woman/until General Convention authorizes me," The Ordination of Women: Pro and Con, Morehouse Barlow Co., pp. 70–80.
  • A Religious Feminist—Who Can Find Her? Historiographical Challenges from the National Organization for Women

Further reading

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  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Schiess, Betty Bone (2003). Why Me, Lord: The Story of One Woman’s Ordination (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press).
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis. "Constance E. Cook, 89, Who Wrote Abortion Law, Is Dead ", The New York Times, January 24, 2009. Accessed January 24, 2009.
  9. ^ via Associated Press. "An Episcopal Bishop Will Ordain The Woman Who Sparked Dispute", November 4, 1976. Accessed January 24, 2009.
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  17. ^ (subscription required)


See also

  • Take Back the Church, Indeed the Witness (1982)
  • Creativity and Procreativity: Some Thoughts on Eve and the Opposition and How Episcopalians Make Ethical Decisions (1988)


Schiess lives in Cicero, New York.

She is the author of the 2003 book Why Me, Lord?: One Woman's Ordination to the Priesthood With Commentary and Complaint.[2][17]

In 2002 Schiess and tax resistor Margaret Rusk received the inaugural In the Spirit of Gage awards presented by the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.[16]

In 1994 she served on the Governor of New York's task force on bioethical issues.[15] That same year she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

She is past president of the International Association of Women Ministers.[14]

In 1985, Joseph Agonito portrayed her story in the documentary film Woman Priest: A Portrait of the Rev. Betty Bone Schiess.[13]p. 21

She later became rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Mexico, New York[12] and was a member of the New York Task Force on Life and Law.

Schiess continued to advocate for change in the church.[11] In 1983, she stated "the churches still aren't thinking twice about women's well being."[4]

Later career

In November 1976, Ned Cole, the bishop who had blocked Schiess' ordination, indicated that he would have her ordained in ceremonies to be held in January 1977.[9] and in 1977, the church voted to permit the ordination of women. Schiess was chaplain at Syracuse from 1976 to 1978 and at Cornell from 1978 to 1979. One of the first weddings where Schiess officiated as priest was that of James Brule and Jill Woiler in 1975.[10]

The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York refused to grant Schiess a license to perform priestly duties. In 1976, lawyer and New York State Assembly member Constance Cook acted as Schiess's advocate in filing a suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC/EEO), who issued a decision favoring Schiess.[7][8] The General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America passed a resolution in July 1976 that "no one shall be denied access" to ordination in the church based on gender.[8]

Schiess and 10 other women, later known as the Philadelphia Eleven, were ordained in Pennsylvania by a group of retired bishops on July 29, 1974.[6] Emily Hewitt, a friend of Schiess's from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship had asked her to join the group.[3]p. 145 The ordainments were "irregular", meaning that they would need to be approved. They were later charged in ecclesiastical court.



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