Hester Ann Roe was born in Macclesfield at the end of January in 1756. She was the niece of Charles Roe, famous for bringing silk throwing/spinning to Macclesfield. Her father was James Roe, vicar of Macclesfield and a friend of John Wesley. She had a strict but caring upbringing. She was confirmed in 1769 by the Bishop of Chester, Edmund Keene, into the Church of England. She dated her conversion to Methodism to 11 November 1774 after hearing Samuel Bardsley preach, a Methodist itinerant preacher.
Hester began a lifelong correspondence with the Methodist founder John Wesley after meeting him in 1776. She became a Methodist class leader.
This wasn’t an easy path for Hester to take, since her family was Church of England. Charles Roe, her uncle, threw out two of his sons for being Methodists! However Hester was allowed to remain in her own house — as a servant.
‘Hester told her mother, “I must seek the salvation of my soul, whatever the consequences. I am therefore determined to leave you, and go be a servant, rather than be kept from the Methodists. Yet, if you will consent to it, I should greatly prefer continuing in your house, though it should be as your servant, and I am willing to undertake all the work of the house if you will only suffer me to attend preaching.” Her mother listened to her daughter’s proposals, fully believing the housework, to which her delicate from was unaccustomed, would soon outdo her zeal, and she would give up all her resolutions. But not so.’
Hester married a fellow Methodist, a widower, and became mother to his children as well as children they had. She died in Birmingham in 1794 after giving birth to a baby boy.
After her death, a sermon entitled The Character and Death of Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers was published which presents Hester Rogers' life as a role model for female Methodistsby rewriting her story.
John Wesley's Methodism had made a space for women to speak in public. Wesley respected women and encouraged them to voice their opinion publicly; many women led Methodist groups; a few Methodist women interpreted the Bible themselves and preached. Women preachers did face criticism, but with the support of their leader, they became more active and visible in the 1770s and 1780s.
However, after Wesley died, preaching women were silenced under the new authority of a group of men. In the tract ‘The Character and Death of Mrs Hester Ann Rogers’ Hester was idealized as a wife and mother and nonpreaching woman and therefore model Methodist:
‘her maternal care and affection shone equally bright. Though she devoted much of her time to religious duties in public and private, yet nothing seemed to be left undone which could maker her children comfortable and happy. She even prevented all their wants; and was equally, nay, if it were possible, more attentive to Mr. Roger’s children by his former wife, than to her own.’
The new Methodist authorities rewrote Hester’s stories to limit women's lives and women’s voice.