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Collection 197 Papers of Virginia Healey Asher

Identifier: CN 197

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, procedures for evangelistic work, two diaries, autograph book, memorial booklets, clippings, tracts and photographs relating to Virginia Healey Asher’s ministry.

The collection consists of a small amount of correspondence (folder 1-1), typed instruction for the Business Women's Invitation Committee (folder 1-6), two diaries and an autograph book (folders 1-3 to 1-5). Also included is a memorial booklet to J. Wilbur Chapman and clippings or tracts of other evangelists' activities (folders 1-7, 1-8). Two booklets containing a tribute to Virginia Asher and the memorial service conducted for her by an area Council are in folder 1-5. The collection also includes a number of photographs, many including well-known evangelists of the 1920s such as Billy Sunday, Homer Rodeheaver, and William Biederwolf. Two of these photographs are of groups of Rescue Mission superintendents who gathered at Winona Lake for conferences. (See Location Record for photographs and Photo File titles and the Cross Reference List, all in this guide, for evangelists' names.)

Memorial booklets are for Asher and J. Wilbur Chapman.  Photographs depict Asher and her ministry among women, her husband, rescue mission leaders, and wll known evangelists including Billy Sunday, Homer Rodeheaver, Charles Fuller and his OLD FASHIONED REVIVAL HOUR, and William Biederwolf.  The diaries (1919 and 1927) record Asher's observations during Billy Sunday evangelistic tours around the country.

The two diaries were kept while Mrs. Asher was on extended evangelistic tours around the country. They describe the crowds, meetings with girls, nurses, and businesswomen meetings in churches and tents, and planning meetings with Councils and committees. Entries in the diary of 1919 records Mrs. Asher's participation in the Billy Sunday campaigns in Fort Worth, Texas; Richmond, Virginia; and St. Augustine, Florida. Entries of 1927 record her part in the campaigns of Mobile, Alabama; Tampa, Florida; and Aurora, Illinois. The entries are short and factual, revealing the fatigue of continual travel, but also the affection and esteem of those with whom she was dealing and their gifts to her. The autograph book, owned by Edna Asher Case, includes autographs of Homer Rodeheaver and his wife, Billy and Ma Sunday, Homer Hammontree, Paul Rader, and William Jennings Bryan.


  • Created: 1903-1941

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Virginia Healey was born December 18, 1869, in Chicago, Illinois, to Irish Catholic parents. When eleven years old, she was convinced to consecrate her life to Christ by evangelist George Williams at Moody Church, then under the pastorate of Dr. R. A. Torrey. She became involved with the Sunday school program at Moody after becoming a member of the church, and in the process her fine contralto voice was recognized. She studied under Gottschalk and Frederick Root, and continued to use this talent throughout her career.

Responding to a call by Dwight L. Moody for volunteer workers, Virginia was assigned to evangelistic work. William Asher was also involved with the programs at Moody, having been converted at the same meeting as Virginia. The two became acquainted as they worked individually within the church and attended the Institute taught by Dr. Torrey. They were married on December 14, 1887. Their only child died at birth. As a couple, they began to hold open-air meetings near the Ferris wheel in Chicago. Their success led to William Asher's being invited to become assistant pastor at the Jefferson Park Presbyterian Church, then led by the son of T. DeWitt Talmadge, Dr. Frank Talmadge. Both Ashers worked for five years at this church.

From there they moved to evangelism in the slums of Duluth, Minnesota, at Duluth Bethel, a national Sailor's Rest. Their ministry included services, home visits, tent meetings, and other pastoral activities. Following this period, the Ashers were asked to assist Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, Presbyterian evangelist. This activity continued for seven years in American cities and later around the world in eighteen countries. The group worked in prisons, seaports, soldiers' and sailors' homes, and churches.

Virginia Asher's illness put an end to these years after which the Ashers renewed a friendship with Billy and Ma Sunday. She was asked to take Mrs. Sunday's place at a meeting in Canton, Ohio, when the latter was unable to go. This began seventeen years of association with the Sunday evangelistic work which included singing, both as a soloist and with Homer Rodeheaver. Virginia Asher was given free choice of her work in cities where the revivals were held, and she became concerned with women in industry and business. As a result, she held services at convenient times for these women, as well as leading meetings for Billy Sunday during the campaigns.

The main thrust of her work was the formation of Bible classes for women involved in the business world. Gradually these groups came to be known as the Virginia Asher Councils, formed to perpetuate the work after the Sunday party had left the city. At the suggestion of a member in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Asher formed a National Council to create a permanent organization. The first meeting was held at Winona Lake, Indiana, in 1922. In 1923 Mrs. Asher was elected honorary president and chaplain of the National Federation of the Virginia Asher Business Women's Councils. The National Council grew rapidly. In 1925 it voted to build a hospital for lepers in Soonchun, Korea. Other interests of the Council included the Pocket Testament League, work with Jews in Warsaw, Poland, and support of a camp cottage, the Villa, at Winona Lake for rest and recreation of business girls. Emphasis continued to be on Bible study as the primary activity of the groups.

Ill health forced Virginia Asher's retirement, and she died in May 1937, at Winona Lake, Indiana, where the Ashers had lived since the early 1920s.


1 Box

1 Negative File

8 Photograph Files

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The material in this collection was given to the Billy Graham Center Archives in November 1981 from Edna Asher Case.

Accession 81-140

January 15, 1982

Frances L. Brocker

J. Nasgowitz

Separated Materials

The following books have been given to the Evangelism and Missions Collection, Buswell Library.

Accession: 81-140

Alexander, Charles M., ed. Alexander's Gospel Songs (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1908).

Clarke, Sarah D. The Founding of the Pacific Garden Mission (Chicago, IL: Bronson Canode Printing Company, 1914).

Sunday, William Ashley. Autobiography of Billy Sunday (Winona Lake, IN: Mrs. W. A. Sunday, undated).

Collection 197 Papers of Virginia Healey Asher
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US