Aimee McPherson: Most prominent Pentecostal woman

Aimee McPherson: Most prominent Pentecostal woman

Glamorous thrice-married Aimee Semple McPherson was a 1920s sensation who founded America’s first megachurch and faked her own kidnapping – now she’s the inspiration for evangelical preachers in Perry Mason and Penny Dreadful

  • ‘Sister’ Aimee Semple McPherson was  a popular and controversial Pentecostal evangelical preacher in the 1920s; who established America’s first megachurch in Los Angeles that seated 5,300 people in the audience
  • Now Sister Aimee is the inspiration behind two fictional characters in the television shows, Perry Mason and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels
  • McPherson skyrocketed to fame between 1913 through 1922 as a travelling preacher in revival meetings across the USA; she toured the country in a Packard convertible that said ‘Jesus Is Coming Soon- Get Ready’ 
  • Thousands were drawn to her theatrical sermons where she spoke in tongues and performed healing miracles; famous parishioners were Jean Harlow, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin
  •  In 1923 she founded the Foursquare Church denomination and built the colossal white-domed Angelus Temple for her followers, it had 40 million visitors within its first seven years  
  • In 1926, McPherson was accused of faking her own kidnapping for publicity when investigators discovered that she instead had taken a lover and sequestered herself for weeks in a secret love-cabin
  • Foursquare Church still exists today with 90,000 congregations and 8.8 million followers 

Almost six decades after her death, ‘Sister’ Aimee Sempel McPherson – the legendary Pentecostal phenomenon of the 1920s and founder of America’s first megachurch is making a comeback in Hollywood. This time she is the inspiration behind two characters in the television series, ‘Perry Mason’ on HBO and ‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angel’ on Showtime.

In HBO’s film-noir reboot of Perry Mason, Sister Aimee is rendered in Tatiana Maslany’s role as ‘Sister Alice’- a celebrity preacher who completes miracle healings, speaks in tongues and delivers powerful, theatrical sermons to the fictional ‘Radiant Assembly of God’ assembly.

Likewise, in Showtime’s Great Depression-era detective series, ‘City of Angels’ –  Kerry Bishé evokes the evangelical powerhouse with her role as ‘Sister Molly,’ a radical preacher who broadcasts the gospel with her fictional radio program, ‘Joyful Voices.’ In real life, Sister Aimee became the first evangelist to pioneer radio as a means of drawing new sheep to her flock.

Aimee Semple McPherson became an American sensation in the 1920s as a glamorous and charismatic, evangelical firebrand. She skyrocketed to fame after performing a series of public faith ‘healings’ and rollicking sermons at revival meetings across the nation that drew in massive crowds.

Later, she went on to establish the country’s first megachurch in Los Angeles, that seated 5,300 spectators in the audience and drew 40 million visitors within the first seven years of opening.


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