VICKERY, ANN (Robins), Bible Christian preacher; b. 1799 or 1800, probably in Luxulion (Luxulyan), Cornwall, England; m. 1831 Paul Robins, and they had two sons; d. 18 Sept. 1853 in Bowmanville, Upper Canada.
Ann Vickery experienced a religious conversion at Luxulion in 1819 during an evangelical revival in Devon and Cornwall brought about by the preaching of the Bible Christians, a Methodist sect founded in 1815. It was Bible Christian practice to involve young converts in witness and service, and Ann, after being encouraged to respond to a call to preach, “threw all the powers of her earnest nature into the service of her new Master.” At the second Bible Christian conference, held in 1820, she was appointed an itinerant preacher and given several one-year assignments in the region. The church posted her to London in 1826 where she did evangelistic work for two years. She was afterwards in Portsea until 1831 when she married Paul Robins, a Bible Christian minister. The sect had long encouraged unions between its ministers and women itinerants and promised that such couples “shall be entituled to the first support from the connexion.” Following her marriage she faithfully assisted her husband on all the preaching circuits he was appointed to serve.
Ann and Paul Robins and their colleagues in the Bible Christian ministry worked chiefly in the southwestern counties of England where the sect originated and where most of its adherents resided. In 1831, following the immigration of West Countrymen to British North America, the church began assigning clergymen to meet the needs of its followers living there. The efforts of missionaries such as Francis Metherall*, Philip James, John Hicks Eynon*, and his wife, Elizabeth [Dart], were not sufficient, and in 1846 Ann and Paul Robins were appointed to serve on the Peterborough circuit in Upper Canada. She and her family set sail on 14 April, arriving in Cobourg in early June. She had always been zealous in the service of her church, and Canada was to provide additional scope for demonstrating her commitment.
Ann Robins never considered that marriage excused her from the obligation to continue her ministry as opportunity permitted, and she was quick to respond to the demands of her new setting. Except for a brief period after the birth of her second child, when she had some help in the house, she did almost all her own housework “by her own choice” while leading fellowship classes, assisting in prayer meetings, visiting the sick, and preaching the gospel. Often she walked with a child in her arms to a distant appointment, handed “the precious burden” to a member of the congregation, conducted the service, and then returned as she had come, on foot. Needless to say, she had little patience with preachers who neglected to carry out their duties because of inclement weather or some similar difficulty. She encouraged her husband to fulfil his responsibilities however painful or hazardous. As he described it, “a coward husband . . . would lead but a sorry life with such a partner.” She also had a great concern for sabbath observance, regarding it as “a delight, holy of the Lord and honourable.” She made a point of preparing food and getting changes of clothing ready the preceding day so that the family could quickly respond to Sunday’s sacred duties, and was grieved when Christian believers disregarded the Lord’s day by using it merely as a time for visiting. She also organized her family responsibilities so that in an emergency she could take the place of a regular itinerant preacher who was sick. Among the first to call on her for this service was her husband, who became so ill after arriving in the province that “his life was despaired of.”
In 1849 the family left the Peterborough circuit for Cobourg, and in 1852 moved to the Darlington station in the Bowmanville area. There, on 5 Sept. 1853, she was “much struck” by the news of a brother’s death. Eight days later, while her husband was travelling the circuit and her sons were in Toronto, she was taken seriously ill. After exhorting several members of her class meeting to seek holiness and counselling her husband and family on spiritual matters, she died on 18 September at the age of 53.
Ann Robins and other female preachers, although an early feature of the Bible Christian Church in England, were not widely accepted in pioneer Canada despite their zeal and commitment. As her husband had noted in 1848, “there appears to be a prejudice in the minds of the people against female preaching.” Perhaps these women were ahead of their time, but in some fashion they helped to prepare the way for the emergence of professional women workers in the 20th-century church.
Bible Christian Magazine (Shebbear, Eng.), 25 (1846): 357–63; 27 (1848): 123; 32 (1853): 474–76. Methodist Church (Canada, Newfoundland, Bermuda), Toronto Conference, Minutes (Toronto), 1890: 75–76. Cornish, Cyclopædia of Methodism, 2: 255. United Methodist ministers and their circuits . . . 1797–1932, comp. O. A. Beckerlegge (London, 1968), 199, 245. Albert Burnside, “The Bible Christians in Canada, 1832–1884 . . .” (thd thesis, Emmanuel College, Victoria Univ., Toronto, 1969), 375. Thomas Shaw, The Bible Christians, 1815–1907 (London, 1965), 33.