June 15, 1984: First Woman Ordained at Trinity Church

On this day in 1984, Anita Louise Schell became the first woman to be ordained as a priest at Trinity Church. The Episcopal Church had been ordaining women for only 10 years when Schell was called, and many were still opposed to the idea.

“I kind of made it through a lot of hurdles in my way," she later recalled. "You tend to forget those things where you're on the other side. But it's helpful to be reminded of them so you can have more sensitivity and compassion on others who are experiencing them.”

She took these lessons with her as she returned to her native Pennsylvania to serve as assistant chaplain at The Episcopal Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania, and at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. From 2005-2010 she served as rector at St. Peter’s parish in Bennington, Vermont and is currently serving as rector at Emmanuel Church in Newport, Rhode Island.

Schell plays a vital role in the Newport community as a member of the Cathedral Chapter, the Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese of Rhode Island and as a board member of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches. She has also served for the past four years as the president of the Rhode Island Interfaith Power & Light, which works to raise awareness about the threat of climate change.