Susanna Wesley Day


As the mother of John and Charles Wesley, it was arguably the influence of Susanna Wesley that gave rise to the Methodist movement.

On 23 July 1742 Susanna Wesley died, aged 73, with her son John and her surviving daughters by her side.

Susanna Wesley (nee Annesley) was born 20 January 1669, at Spital Yard, Bishopsgate, London. Susanna was the youngest and last surviving daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley, a prominent Puritan and Non-conformist pastor.

Susanna was a well-educated, determined and pious young woman. In 1681, at the age of just 12, Susanna decided to forsake her father’s nonconformity and join the Church of England. At the same time, a young theological student named Samuel Wesley, who also came from a family of nonconformist ministers, decided to part spiritual ways from his father and also join the Church of England. Susanna and Samuel first met at a wedding in 1682 and were married in 1688. Their marriage produced 19 children, of which ten survived into adulthood. Out of these children came John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism. The family lived at Epworth Old Rectory from the 1690s until 1735 when Samuel died.

Susanna is often hailed as the ‘Mother of Methodism’ due to her ‘method’ of teaching her children. Susanna was determined that her children, even the girls, reach their full potential. In her essay Educating My Family (1732) Susanna details her method of childrearing:

On the day that the children turned five, they were to start their education. On the first day “the child wherein to learn its letters, and each of them did in that time know all its letters, great and small, except Molly and Nancy, who were a day and a half before they knew perfectly; for which I then thought them very dull.”

“There was no such thing as loud talking or playing allowed of.”

“Every signal act of obedience, especially when it crossed upon their own inclinations, should always be commended and frequently rewarded.”

“They were quickly made to understand they might have nothing they cried for, and instructed to speak handsomely for what they wanted.”

“No girl be taught to work till she can read well… for putting children to learn sewing before they can read perfectly is the very reason why so few women can read fit to be heard, and never to be well understood.”

Susanna’s husband regularly worked in London so was often absent from the family home in Epworth, sometimes for months at a time. On one occasion, Samuel left the home for a whole year because Susanna refused to pray for King William III.

During one of Samuel’s absences, Susanna conversed about religious and devotional matters and read prayers and sermons to her neighbours. Word spread of the meetings and they became regular, at one meeting around 200 people gathered at the Rectory to listen to Susanna. Susanna, not wanting to continue the meetings without her husband’s knowledge, wrote to Samuel. Samuel respected her zeal but had objections to the meetings.

Susanna begins her response..."The main of your objections against our Sunday evening meetings are, first, that it will look particular; secondly, my sex; and lastly, your being at present in a public station and character. To all which I shall answer briefly..." Susanna listed her response to Samuel's objections with such power and wisdom that Samuel gave her permission to continue.