The Philadelphia 11 – women deacons who had been barred from becoming priests – kneel to be ordained in an irregular service on July 29, 1974. File photo / Episcopal Church Archives

[The Episcopal News] The Episcopal Church will mark the forty-ninth anniversary on July 29 of the stained-glass ceiling-shattering ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 – the first women ordained to the priesthood in the U.S.-based Church.

Women were admitted to the diaconate by act of General Convention in 1970, but still by custom were not allowed to be priests. On July 29, 1974, at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, Penn., Daniel Corrigan, retired bishop suffragan of Colorado; Robert L. DeWitt, former bishop of Pennsylvania; and Edward R. Welles II, retired bishop of West Missouri, ordained deacons Merrill Bittner, Alla Bozarth-Campbell, Alison Cheek, Emily Hewitt, Carter Heyward, Suzanne Hiatt, Marie Moorefield, Jeannette Piccard, Betty Bone Schiess, Katrina Swanson, and Nancy Wittig as priests.

Two years later, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church authorized the ordination of women as priests and the status of the Philadelphia 11 was regularized. (Read more here.)

Today the Philadelphia 11, those living and those who have died, are considered trailblazers who facilitated the vocations of hundreds of women now serving as deacons, priests and bishops in The Episcopal Church.

According to the Rev. Canon Susan Russell, the Diocese of Los Angeles’ canon for engagement across difference and staff officer for the Bishop’s Commission on Liturgy & Music, the diocese will join others around the church to mark this 49th anniversary with local commemorations in preparation for the 50th anniversary in 2024 and a movement to officially add the Philadelphia Eleven to the Episcopal Church’s liturgical calendar.

“In preparation for that anniversary, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is offering resources for liturgical commemorations of that historic moment in our church and in celebration of those who helped us take that step closer to becoming Beloved Community,” said Russell.

A description of the commemoration along with suggested prayers and lessons is available on the Liturgy & Music Commission’s resources page on the diocesan website. For more information, contact Russell at

Russell will celebrate and preach at a commemorative service at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 27 at the regular community Eucharist at St. Paul’s Commons, 840 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles. All are welcome.