Schedule Spotlight: Reverend Ida Bedell Manville
Willow Grove is an Adventist Christian Church located in Mount Liberty, Ohio. In 1926, the church had sixty-two members, with thirty-four women and twenty-eight men. Then as now, it was typical for more women than men to be sitting in the pews come Sunday morning. The church owned one building, spent a modest amount on expenditures, none for benevolences or charity, and operated a Sunday school with thirty students.
So far, nothing stands out in this schedule as a surprising statistic regarding Willow Grove. However, the name of the pastor listed on number 25 in the form is “Mrs. Ida Manville.” Her name, plus the title of ‘Mrs.’ in front, clearly indicates that the pastor was a woman—a married woman. What can we learn about her?
Through census and other records, events and people in the life of the Rev. Ida Manville start to emerge. Ida Carrie Bedell was the daughter of Warren Bedell and Esther Robertson Bedell.1 Warren Bedell was also a preacher, as his death certificate listed his occupation as a “Minister of Gospel.” Perhaps that was part of why Ida felt called to become a preacher too.2 Ida was married to Allen Emery Manville, a laborer.3 In the 1920 U.S. Census, Ida Bedell Manville is listed as a married white woman aged 59 years old and born around 1861, though later documents state her birth year was 1860. Her residence is listed as Clinton, Knox County, Ohio, and her husband Allen was the head of the household. She and Allen lived with one daughter, a divorced twenty-seven-year-old named Ruth Clawson, and Ruth’s daughter, Betty, who was eight.4 By the 1930 Census, when Ida was around 70 years old, she and her husband had moved in with a daughter, named Floy Cochran, and her husband Raymond, who is listed as head of household.5 Her husband died in 1932, at the age of seventy-five, leaving Ida as a widow. Rev. Manville died in 1958, aged 98 years old.6
With the name of the female preacher included in the schedule, we see the possibilities of tracing the life of a unique woman with easily-accessible online documents. Even photos of her and her family become accessible.6 With information about her family, we see that Rev. Manville had a husband who supported and encouraged, or at least allowed, her preaching career. Manville balanced motherhood with preaching and the duties of running a church. She seemed to have a close relationship with her children as well, supporting a divorced daughter and a grandchild in the 1920s, and later living with a married daughter and a son-in-law. Though her husband died at the age of 75, he still left Ida a widow for over twenty-five years, as she lived to be almost 100.
As unique as Manville was, it is significant that she preached at an Adventist church. The Adventist Church was more open to female leaders than other denominations, and there were notable female leaders, such as Ellen G. White, who founded the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination. Yet, the number of female preachers still remained smaller than male leaders. Though only snippets of her life are found here, they reveal a determined woman whose religious commitment led her to defy the gender norms of both her time period and American Protestant culture.
“Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F6LZ-HZN : 1 March 2021), Ida C Manville, 08 Dec 1958; citing Death, Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon City, Knox, Ohio, United States, source ID 303, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 2,318,778. ↩︎
“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X8NW-B3J : 8 March 2021), Warren H Bedell, 28 Apr 1916; citing Mt. Vernon, Knox, Ohio, reference fn 26083; FHL microfilm 1,983,649. ↩︎
“Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F62T-DQW : 1 March 2021), Ida Bedell Manville in entry for Allen Emery Manville, 03 Oct 1932; citing Death, Clinton, Union Township, Clinton, Ohio, United States, source ID 5135, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 2,317,767. ↩︎
“United States Census, 1920”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDYR-F2M : 3 February 2021), Ida Manville in entry for A E Manville, 1920. ↩︎
“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X63F-VT8 : 8 March 2021), Ida Bedell Manville in entry for Allen Emory Manville, 03 Oct 1932; citing Mt. Vernon, Knox, Ohio, reference fn 59583; FHL microfilm 1,992,769. ↩︎