Sister Aimee © wood engraving (ed. 40) image: 7 x 5 in. $100.00 (go to "Hi There" for purchase information)
Aimee Semple McPherson was born in Canada to parents who were active Salvation Army members. She married young and she and Mr. Semple were posted as missionaries to China in 1910, where he died of typhoid fever. Aimee had a daughter by this time and she moved to New York where her mother was working for the Salvation Army. A second marriage to a Mr. McPherson resulted in a son but ended in divorce when Aimee joined her mother on a preaching tour across the U.S. Aimee, her children and her mother finally settled in Los Angeles where she started a church which she called the Lighthouse of International Foursquare Evangelism. Aimee became the first woman to preach on the radio and also spent a lot of time on the road in her "Gospel Car", holding revival meetings around the country. She was a spellbinding orator and used the media to her advantage. Her popularity and notoriety during this period raised her to celebrity status and there was a constant fear of kidnapping, which added credibility to what followed.

She went for a swim on a beach in southern California in 1926 and didn't return; it was feared she had drowned. Her mother preached in her place at a service she was scheduled to conduct, and mentioned Aimee was in heaven, which sent the congregation into a frenzy of grief. A search for her body was unsuccessful and a month after her disappearance her mother received a ransom note demanding a million dollars (her mother claims she threw the note away). Shortly after that Aimee was found in Mexico near a desert town, unharmed. She claimed she had been kidnapped and had walked for over ten hours in the desert to escape. There were just too many weak spots in her kidnapping story, including numerous people who testified they had seen her at hotels during the month she was missing, and the fact that an engineer who worked for her radio station went missing at the same time as she... and who reappeared about the same time she did. She refused to explain that last one.

After her "kidnapping" her ministry couldn't shake the cloud of controversy hovering over it. She married again (she had a reputation for liking men around her and never had a problem attracting them) and this one didn't last long either. One of the tenants of her church (created by Aimee) was that remarriage was impossible while the divorced spouse was still living (her second and third husbands survived her marriages). Aimee Semple McPherson died of an overdose of prescription drugs in 1944.

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