An increasing body of evidence shows that women served as deacons, priests, and bishops in the early Christian church. Beginning in the early 20th century, the St. Joan’s Alliance campaigned in England and the USA for women’s suffrage and women’s ordination. Ludmila Javorova was secretly ordained in 1970 to serve the underground church in Czechoslovakia, then under communist rule. She ministered until communist rule ended in 1989. The Vatican refused to accept the validity of her ordination because of her gender.
To acknowledge that there are women who are called to ordination, the Women’s Ordination Conference was organized in 1976 in the U.S. The movement also grew internationally, and Women’s Ordination Worldwide was formed in the mid-1990s.
A group of women in Austria and Germany began preparing for ordination. Two Roman Catholic bishops were willing to ordain them. On June 29, 2002, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, seven brave women were ordained priests on a ship sailing international waters between Austria and Germany. The Danube Seven included Dagmar Celeste of the U.S.A. (under the pseudonym Angela White). Soon, womenbishops were ordained so that they could publicly ordain women to serve God’s people as Roman Catholic priests. Since 2002, the movement has grown, and now has members on six continents.
Additional information can be found at RCWP History and Women’s Ordination Worldwide.