Ryan, Mrs Sarah

Born on 20 October 1724, of humble origins she began her working life in domestic service. Having been married at the age of 20 to a man who turned out to be a bigamist and deserted her, she married an Irish sailor who treated her cruelly before returning to sea.. After further misfortunes she found a spiritual home at the Foundery in London and a spiritual friend in Sarah Crosby. She became a confidant and correspondent of John Wesley's, and the object of his wife's jealous suspicion. He appointed her housekeeper (1757-61) at the New Room, Bristol. Back in London because of ill-health, in 1763 she joined Mary Bosanquet and Sarah Crosby at their school for orphans at Leytonstone. This moved to Cross Hall, near Leeds in 1768 in the hope that country air would improve her health, but she died shortly afterwards. The simple inscription on her tombstone was: 'She lived and died a Christian'.

  • Sarah Ryan, An Account of the Work of God in Leytonstone (1763)
  • Arminian Magazine, 1779, 1781, 1782
  • E. Ralph Bates, 'Sarah Ryan and Kingswood School', in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.110-14
  • Letters of John Wesley, ed. John Telford, vols. 3-5
  • Janet Burge, Women Preachers in Community (Peterborough, 1996)