McPherson, Aimee Semple

McPherson, Aimee Semple ĕmāˈ, məkfûrˈsən [key], 1890–1944, U.S. evangelist, founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and, in the 1920s and 30s, one of the most famous women in America, b. near Ingersoll, Ont. Born Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy, she was converted to Pentecostalism as a young girl and married a preacher, Robert Semple. The couple went as missionaries to China, and when he died a year later, she returned to the United States. Not long afterward she married Harold McPherson, but she left him in 1915 to take up a life of itinerant preaching, holding revival meetings along the Atlantic coast. With her mother, Minnie Kennedy, as business manager, she went to Los Angeles in 1918. There she became phenomenally successful and was noted for her healing sessions. In 1923, she opened Angelus Temple in Los Angeles and began to preach the foursquare gospel (see Foursquare Gospel, International Church of the) at the temple, in an evangelical newspaper, and on her own radio station. Her disappearance in May, 1926, while swimming in the Pacific, and then reappearance in June with a bizarre tale of kidnapping caused a huge uproar that resulted in a trial for fraud. Although she was acquitted, her business activities as head of Angelus Temple resulted in numerous other legal actions. She died as a result of an allegedly accidental overdose of sleeping pills.

See biographies by R. Bahr (1979, repr. 2001), E. L. Blumhofer (1993), D. M. Epstein (1993), and M. A. Sutton (2007).

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