A Strong, Charismatic and Complex Woman
Twentieth-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson was a woman ahead of her time. In an era when women were not allowed to vote, she refused to leave religion and other “important” pursuits to men.
Meet the Real Aimee
Sister Aimee Semple McPherson traveled across the United States and around the globe. She sparked revival, established a major evangelical center in Los Angeles and changed the lives of countless individuals—but behind every public life there is a deeper story. Born in 1890 in a small town in Ontario, Sister Aimee grew up in a Christian home, but during her teen years began to feel conflicted about faith. At the age of 17, however, she attended a revival led by Robert Semple. After three days of fierce uncertainty, she asked the Lord to save her. A year later, she married Robert, and not long after the two set sail for China to serve as missionaries. Tragically, soon after the newlyweds arrived in China, both contracted malaria, and Robert died, leaving Sister Aimee both pregnant and penniless. This event marked one of the major themes of Sister Aimee’s life: God’s working through her while she experienced deep pain.
After giving birth to Roberta Star Semple, Sister Aimee joined her mother who was living in New York. Sister Aimee later married Harold McPherson, a Christian businessman, and they had a son, Rolf Kennedy McPherson. Ultimately though, while she and Harold were on an evangelistic campaign in Key West, Florida, he left her. Her third marriage to David Hutton also ended in heartbreak. She had been in Europe recuperating from illness and had no idea that he had filed for divorce until a reporter told her. There was, however, more to Sister Aimee's life than heartbreak.
Overcoming the Odds
Though controversy and pain surrounded Sister Aimee’s three marriages, her love for God continued to grow. She suffered from poor health most of her life, but she overcame these trials and remarkably became the instrument through which God ministered salvation and healing to thousands. The American Medical Association launched an investigation in response to reports of astonishing physical healings, and stated that they were “genuine, beneficial and wonderful.” Notably refusing to bow to the social inequalities of her day, Sister Aimee preached to everyone: the destitute and social elite, men and women, blacks and whites, German and Japanese. She rented large auditoriums to accommodate vast crowds. At one event in San Diego, the National Guard had to be called in to control a crowd of more than 30,000. People would wait in line for hours, even hiding overnight in bathrooms and attics. In Los Angeles Sister Aimee built Angelus Temple where “illustrated sermons” brought the gospel to life in creative ways. She opened a commissary and fed more than 1.5 million people during the Great Depression. She explored new technologies and became the first woman to preach a sermon over the radio.
Aimee’s Kidnapping and Death
As Sister Aimee’s reputation grew, so did the number of threats. In 1926, she was kidnapped and held for ransom. After she escaped from the tiny shack in Mexico where she was being held captive, the media coverage went out of control. Articles circulated which insinuated that Sister Aimee faked the kidnapping to cover up an affair. A district attorney tried to indict Sister Aimee for “conspiracy to commit acts injurious to public morals.” Ultimately, the DA admitted that he couldn’t produce a single witness to testify against her. Sister Aimee’s public image took a beating, but she persevered, publicly asking everyone to forgive her antagonists. God continued to use her for the next decade. Many more thousands of people found healing and salvation in Jesus. While ministering in Mexico in 1943, Sister Aimee contracted an aggressive bacillus that attacked her intestinal tract. On September 27, 1944, a medical tube running to her kidneys ruptured and caused sleep pills, which she regularly took, to be introduced directly into her system. Sister Aimee Semple McPherson passed away as a result.But the story and legacy of Aimee Semple McPherson continue to this day. Keep reading to learn more about this strong, remarkable and complex woman.
“We rejoice in the Lord, that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
—Aimee Semple McPherson
Interested in Learning More About Aimee?
There are resources at your fingertips. We’ve compiled a list of a few we think are pretty great. Check out the following for more information on Sister Aimee.
Circa Feb., 1938
Sister Aimee captivates even now with her beloved messages. Recently released for the first time, this complete audio recording captures Sister Aimee sharing about what she calls the need for “divine healing.”
- God Goes to Washington
Dec. 10, 1939
In a time of worldwide turmoil, Sister Aimee opens her sermon with a prayer request for revival. She continues with bold statements about her hope for the US and the world.
- Heaven Can Wait
Sept. 17, 1939
Can heaven wait? Sister Aimee had a few thoughts on that. Find out what she had to say by listening to this impassioned sermon in which she recounts past events and current happenings with a great charge for all.
- Life Begins at Foursquare
Oct. 30, 1938
Sister Aimee describes what she calls the Foursquare message in this historical piece peppered with music and references to events of the time.
- The Un-Ending Trial of
Aimee Semple McPherson
This sermon, about Foursquare’s beloved founder and some of the controversy that surrounded her life, delivered by Pastor Jack Hayford, is available for purchase by visiting the Jack Hayford Ministries website.
This is That
By Aimee Semple McPherson (1996)
- Sister Aimee:
The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson
By Daniel Mark Epstein (1994)
- The Verdict Is In
By Raymond L. Cox (1983)
- Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody's Sister
By Edith L. Blumhofer (1993)
- The Story of My Life
By Aimee Semple McPherson (1951)
- Aimee—The Story of
Aimee Semple McPherson
Compiled by Raymond L. Cox (1979)
- The Verdict Is In
By Raymond L. Cox (1983)
- Aimee—La Gente Hispana Estaba en Su Corazón
By James C. Scott Jr. (2010)
Watch + Browse
Foursquare’s History Page
Recently updated and expanded to provide context for those interested in Sister Aimee, The Foursquare Church and more, this page is a great place to start an inquiry.
- Blog Entry From Doug Bursch
Doug, senior pastor of Evergreen Foursquare Church, and radio host KGNW Seattle shares a first-hand account of his experience with the musical “Scandalous.”
- American Public Media’s “On Being”
Check out this radio show from June 2011, which includes audio and video links to rare Aimee Semple McPherson footage.
- American Experience – Sister Aimee
This documentary, part of the PBS American Experience television series, aired in 2007 and is currently available on DVD. Visit their webpage for teacher’s resources and more.
- Disappearance of Aimee (1976)
This film, available used on VHS, was directed by Anthony Harvey and stars Faye Dunaway and Bette Davis.
- A Walking Tour of the Parsonage
Take a trip through the parsonage in Los Angeles by video. This 27-minute tour is narrated by Dean and Lory Jones.
The Parsonage of
Aimee Semple McPherson
The parsonage has been restored with original furniture, photographs, props, personal artifacts and displays. Modern media tools have transformed memories and memorabilia into a trip back in time, unveiling a portion of the life of Sister McPherson.
Foursquare Heritage Center
1801 Park Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Have questions about the parsonage? Email us.
Articles About and by Aimee
- How God Changed the Course of My Life
At 19, Sam Meza had just joined the Navy and was living it up in San Diego’s dance clubs. But there was a miracle in the works that would soon alter the course his young life, and he would encounter the power of God. Years later, Sam still serves as a Foursquare credentialed minister and evangelist in Southern California.
- God’s Faithfulness to an Orphan Girl
- Leg Braces Discarded As Little Boy Is Healed
- Memories of Music and Ministry at Angelus Temple
- The Kind of a Church I Like
Aimee’s Legacy Today
- Applications Open for 2015 Alabaster House Legacy Scholarships
Six Alabaster House Legacy Scholarships will be awarded this year to women preparing for Foursquare ministry. The application deadline is May 1. As Waverly Huston, one of last year’s recipients, says, her scholarship “has enabled me to focus on learning in the classroom, releasing me from the distractions that financial burdens carry.”
- Foursquare Ministry Among Soboba Indians Sees Changed Lives
- Diverse Connection 2015 Speakers Exemplify Being ‘Sent’
- Churches Gave Generously to Bless Missionaries This Christmas
- Foursquare Giving Helps Flood Victims in Sri Lanka
For more information on Aimee’s Legacy through The Foursquare Church visit our History section.