Aimee Semple McPherson
Faith healing Pentecostal evangelist, radio preacher, denominational founder
Born on a farm in rural Ontario, she was converted as a teenager and called to evangelistic work at a Pentecostal revival led by Robert Semple, whom she would shortly marry. Their mission to China was brief due to Robert’s death from malaria. She returned to the U.S.A. with their daughter, Roberta, then married Harold Stewart McPherson, with whom she had a son, Rolf. Discontented with her domestic life, she vowed, against Harold’s wishes, to follow the call to evangelism. For several years, she traveled up and down the East Coast holding evangelistic meetings in a portable tent. In 1918, she settled in Los Angeles with her two children and her mother. Within several years, she built a monumental church building, Angelus Temple, the epicenter of her million-dollar evangelistic enterprise and headquarters for her denomination, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. In addition to nine worship services a week, Angelus Temple hosted a Commissary, prayer tower, radio station, and Bible College. Her disappearance for six weeks beginning May 18, 1926, remains a mystery. She steadfastly maintained that she was kidnapped and was acquitted in court of the charge of obstructing justice. For nearly two more decades, she held expansive evangelistic meetings in many cities and solidified her denomination. Her health began to deteriorate, as did her personal relationships, including another brief marriage and divorce and irreparable quarrels with her mother and daughter. Her death in a hotel room from an overdose of sleeping pills was deemed accidental by the autopsy report. An estimated 50,000 people filed by her casket in Angelus Temple.