University of Maryland Memorial Chapel, College Park. Source: Phil Teigen

Memorial Chapel,
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland 20742

The Maryland Synod of the Lutheran Church in America ordained Elizabeth A. Platz in the University of Maryland Memorial Chapel on Nov. 22, 1970. The first Lutheran woman ordained in the western hemisphere, Pastor Platz’s consecration represents a landmark in gender equality and in the century-long effort to include women more fully in the life and practice of American Lutheran churches.

1849: William A. Passavant secures German deaconesses for work in the United States.
1877: Women’s Foreign Mission Society established (General Synod).
1883: Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society (Maryland Synod) formed.
1883: Anna Sarah Kugler begins service at Guntur, India.
1884: Lutheran Deaconess mother house founded in Philadelphia.
1889: Lutheran deaconesses in the United States number 197.

The Lutheran cover, Jan. 6, 1971. Source: ELCA Archives on Flicker.

1900: General Synod extends voting membership to women.
1920: Nineteenth Amendment to United States Constitution (women’s suffrage) ratified.
1940: Lutheran deaconesses number 480.
1946: Lutheran School of Theology, Gettysburg, calls Bertha Paulssen to its faculty.
1960: American Lutheran Church Women established.
1962: Lutheran Church Women established.
1965: Elizabeth Platz graduates from Lutheran School of Theology, Gettysburg and becomes a Lutheran Chaplain at the University of Maryland—College Park.
1970: The Lutheran Council completes a historical and doctrinal study of women’s ordination.
1970: Lutheran Church in American Commission presents a position paper on role of women in life of the church (June).
1970: Maryland Synod (Lutheran Church in America) ordains Rev. Elizabeth Platz (Nov. 22).
1991: 1,400 ordained women pastors now serve in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

1992: April Larson elected bishop of the LaCrosse Area Synod.
2013: Elizabeth Eaton elected Presiding Bishop of ELCA.
2013: 3,849 ordained women pastors rostered in ELCA.

Program cover from Pastor Platz’s ordination service. Source: Pastor Elizabeth A. Platz

2016: Thirteen percent of ELCA bishops (9 of 69) are women.

Sources: Mark A. Granquist, Lutherans in America: A New History (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015); Mary Todd, “Women and Lutheranism” in Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, 1:307-319 (2006); L. DeAne Lagerquist, The Lutherans (1999); Raymond Tiemeyer (ed.), The Ordination of Women: A Report Distributed by Authorization of the Church Body Presidents as a Contribution to Further Study (1970); LCA Board of Publication. A Position Paper on the Role of Women in the Life of the Church (1970); “Lutherans Ordain 1st Woman Cleric,” Washington Post, 11/23/1970; “Woman Is Ordained As Lutheran Minister,” Washington Evening Star,  11/23/70;  “First Woman Lutheran Pastor in the U.S. Is Ordained,” New York Times, 11/23/1970; “Pastor: Elizabeth Platz is Ordained,” The Lutheran, Jan. 6, 1971, pp. 6-12; “A Lamp unto my Feet: The Ordination of Elizabeth Platz,” CBS Reports documentary 1971;  J. Gordon Melton, The Churches Speak on Women’s Ordination (1991); Mark Chaves, Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations (1997); Erin Strybis, “Women Clergy Thankful for Gains, Frustrated by Leadership Gap,” The Lutheran, March 2016 pp. 30-32; University of Maryland Archives.