First Unitarian Church of Omaha
Rowena Morse Mann
In 1912 Reverend Newton Mann married Rowena Morse, a woman who was a member of the congregation. In 1898 she was teaching science at Omaha High School, which later became Omaha Central High School. A close look at the 1898 quilt reveals that her name is embroidered on the upper right hand border as a donor and benefactress of the church.
Reverend Mann, recognizing her intellect and talents, encouraged her to go into the ministry, which she did. She completed her ministerial degree at the University of Chicago’s Meadville-Lombard Divinity School in 1902. She then earned a doctoral degree at the prestigious University of Jena in Germany in 1904, but not without having to overcome some barriers. She persisted in her attempt to enroll which was initially denied her solely based on her gender. She became the first woman to earn a doctoral degree at a German university.
Her career as a Unitarian minister and as a scholar was as illustrious as her spouse’s. In addition to serving as minister to several large congregations in the Midwest, she became a strong proponent of progressive causes. In 1919 at the invitation of President Wilson she embarked on a lecture tour in support of The League of Nations. In 1921 she became the first woman to lecture at the Harvard Divinity School. In the early 1930s she lectured at several German universities. She became very aware of the evils inherent in the rise of fascism, which she witnessed firsthand. Upon her return to the US she was asked by Eleanor Roosevelt to do a US lecture tour to inform audiences of the dangers of the rise of fascism in Europe.
Her husband, the Reverend Newton Mann, died in 1926. She made a return visit to Omaha and First Unitarian in 1929 for the dedication of the bas-relief plaque of her late husband which hangs on the west side of the south wall of the church sanctuary.
[more about Rowena Morse Mann at: HarvardSquareLibrary.org]