Even before the greatest revival in America’s history broke out at Azusa Street in California in 1906, God chose Jennie Evans Moore Seymour to be a participant in it.
Jennie is reportedly the first woman in Los Angeles to speak in tongues. Born in Austin, Texas, on March 10, 1874, she was the daughter of Jackson and Eliza Moore.
Jennie left her native state and found work in Los Angeles as a servant. Later she became a cook for an influential white family and lived at 217 North Bonnie Brae St.
William J. Seymour arrived in Los Angeles in February 1906 and was locked out of the holiness church where he had been invited to speak. He then began ministering to a small group of believers in the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry at 214 North Bonnie Brae St. Most of these worshipers were African American, though occasionally whites participated as well.
Jennie lived across the street and regularly attended the meetings. She had received a vision of three cards. Each one had two languages written on it. The six languages were French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Hindustani.
On April 6, 1906, a man named Edward Lee spontaneously burst forth in an unknown tongue after Seymour prayed with him. That evening as Seymour testified, Lee spoke in tongues again, and the believers were swept to their knees.
Jennie fell to the floor and immediately began speaking in all six languages she had seen on the cards in her vision. Each message in tongues was interpreted in English. After this, Jennie, who had never played the piano before, went to the keyboard and played the instrument while singing in tongues.
The revival continued, and William Seymour rented an abandoned warehouse at 312 Azusa St. and started the Apostolic Faith Mission. Services ran continually seven days a week for more than three years.
Jennie continued to play the piano for services and became an evangelist, city missionary and song leader. She married Seymour on May 13, 1908.
The congregation at Azusa Street continued meeting until William Seymour’s death on September 28, 1922. Jennie, who was herself “an evangelist of power and note greatly loved by all,” took over the leadership of the church.
She continued meetings with the faithful in her home on Bonnie Brae Street until her health deteriorated. She died on July 2, 1936.
The house in which Jennie lived and held services is now a museum owned by the Church of God in Christ. The piano she played under the anointing of the Spirit can still be seen.
Glenn Gohr is an archivist for the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Missouri.