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Rev. Melesin Sowles
Few churches in the United States were led by women prior to 1900. In the Freewill church, however, women took leadership roles before the Civil War.
One who served as a pastor as early as 1899 was Melesin Sowles, the 16-year-old daughter of Rev. L. L. Sowles, pastor of the New Berlin and Big Bend Freewill Baptist churches from 1895 to 1900. The younger Rev. Sowles served as pastor of the Big Bend (Waukesha County) church from 1899 to 1900 and was possibly the youngest pastor then serving in the United States (see Leslie's Weekly Illustrated,September 30, 1899).