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Isadora Spies

Photo courtesy of Brazilian White Center - UNASP.

Spies, Isadora Read (1857–1937)

By The Brazilian White Center – UNASP


The Brazilian White Center – UNASP is a team of teachers and students at the Brazilian Ellen G. White Research Center – UNASP at the Brazilian Adventist University, Campus Engenheiro, Coelho, SP. The team was supervised by Drs. Adolfo Semo Suárez, Renato Stencel, and Carlos Flávio Teixeira. Bruno Sales Gomes Ferreira provided technical support. The following names are of team members: Adriane Ferrari Silva, Álan Gracioto Alexandre, Allen Jair Urcia Santa Cruz, Camila Chede Amaral Lucena, Camilla Rodrigues Seixas, Daniel Fernandes Teodoro, Danillo Alfredo Rios Junior, Danilo Fauster de Souza, Débora Arana Mayer, Elvis Eli Martins Filho, Felipe Cardoso do Nascimento, Fernanda Nascimento Oliveira, Gabriel Pilon Galvani, Giovana de Castro Vaz, Guilherme Cardoso Ricardo Martins, Gustavo Costa Vieira Novaes, Ingrid Sthéfane Santos Andrade, Isabela Pimenta Gravina, Ivo Ribeiro de Carvalho, Jhoseyr Davison Voos dos Santos, João Lucas Moraes Pereira, Kalline Meira Rocha Santos, Larissa Menegazzo Nunes, Letícia Miola Figueiredo, Luan Alves Cota Mól, Lucas Almeida dos Santos, Lucas Arteaga Aquino, Lucas Dias de Melo, Matheus Brabo Peres, Mayla Magaieski Graepp, Milena Guimarães Silva, Natália Padilha Corrêa, Rafaela Lima Gouvêa, Rogel Maio Nogueira Tavares Filho, Ryan Matheus do Ouro Medeiros, Samara Souza Santos, Sergio Henrique Micael Santos, Suelen Alves de Almeida, Talita Paim Veloso de Castro, Thais Cristina Benedetti, Thaís Caroline de Almeida Lima, Vanessa Stehling Belgd, Victor Alves Pereira, Vinicios Fernandes Alencar, Vinícius Pereira Nascimento, Vitória Regina Boita da Silva, William Edward Timm, Julio Cesar Ribeiro, Ellen Deó Bortolotte, Maria Júlia dos Santos Galvani, Giovana Souto Pereira, Victor Hugo Vaz Storch, and Dinely Luana Pereira.



First Published: July 25, 2021

Isadora Read Spies, missionary, was born on December 14, 1857, in the city of Conneautville, Pennsylvania, United States. She was daughter of Holis and Martha Read. She became an Adventist at a young age by listening to Pastor Jim Sauders' preaching around 1890. In 1892, she married Pastor Frederick W. Spies (1866-1935), from whose union was born a daughter, Mabel Spies (Gross).1

Throughout her life, Isadora served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a missionary with her husband. Her ministry in foreign lands began the day after the wedding, when they embarked for Germany in response to the call for Frederick to serve as director of the publishing department.2 In 1896, after four years of missionary experience and fluency in the German language, they responded to the invitation of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to be missionary pioneers in Brazil.

The Adventist work in the country was still beginning and the main audience was German immigrants. After traveling on a ship with 40 families of Italian immigrants, they landed in Rio de Janeiro, where the family lived most of the following years.3 Frederick's work consisted of traveling through the Brazilian territory, preaching and supporting the work, especially in the German colonies. Isadora often accompanied him on his travels, which were often made by mule on very precarious roads.4

The colonies were made up of German farmer families who came to the country due to the promises made by the Brazilian government that was interested in increasing the country's agricultural production. As a result, immigrants had a relatively low educational level and were isolated from the rest of Brazilian society due to prejudice and the immigrant’s lack of knowledge of the Portuguese language.5 While visiting groups of Adventist Germans in Minas Gerais, Isadora reported that prior to the visit of the first missionary canvassers many of the settlers were not literate and had no material to read if they were. This reality extended to both children and adults.6 With the aid of the Adventist literacy book, The Gospel Primer,7 by the time of the Spies' visit, most of the immigrants could read and had access to German journals: Herold Hausfreund and Gute Gesundheit.8

During Frederick Spies' ministry that lasted nearly 40 years in Brazil, Isadora was by his side helping him by preaching the Adventist message. Spies was one of the first female lay pastors to serve in the country. He also served as an administrator who participated in the early development of Adventism in the territory, working for many years as president of the Brazilian Union. Throughout this time, at various moments Isadora experienced God's providence.9

The Review and Herald reported that during a voyage along the Brazilian coast in 1912, she sat next to an elderly Norwegian captain. He had left his ship in Buenos Aires and was traveling home to die among his own family. The captain told her that many years previously he had bought religious books from a man in the port of Liverpool, books that taught different doctrines than most churches. Annoyed, he set them aside and, after reading them again later, threw them into the sea. Years later, he stopped at the Pitcairn Islands and found a group of people there who believed in the same teachings as those books, but he paid no attention to them either. However, ever since he became ill, he thought more and more of the knowledge he had neglected. Isadora revealed that she was part of that world church and had the opportunity to testify to that man once again about the Adventist message.10

In February 1915, when her husband was president of the Brazilian Union, Isadora attended an administrative meeting in which one of the subjects discussed was the need to build a missionary school in Brazil. However, when the committee voted no, she did not concede and said:

Brethren, we must go forward in faith. I believe the time has come to go forward and establish our school system, as in other fields. When the time comes to advance, God will find His men and also provide the money necessary for the project. So, let us not hesitate, but go forward in faith! The work is the Lord's! 11

Her enthusiasm contributed to the formation of a commission that visited the lands of Pantaleão Teisen. The property was bought the same year and it is the campus where Brazil Adventist University operates today in São Paulo State.12

Isadora’s last years were lived in Santo André, where Frederick worked as one of the directors of the Brazilian Publishing House. Even as an elderly woman, she made missionary visits preaching about Jesus' return and selling Adventist publications. At church, she was known for her missionary encouragement. Isadora Spies died on December 8, 1937, at age 80, in the city of Santo André, São Paulo State.13


Araújo, Jairo Tavares. “Parabéns, IAE!” Revista Adventista, December 1995.

“General Conference Notes,” ARH, March 14, 1893.

Guarda, Márcio Dias. “Muito Além do Ensino.” Revista Adventista, May 2015.

Johnson, J. Berger. “Frederico W. Spies.” Revista Adventista, September 1935.

Johnson, J. Berger. “Mais um Veterano que Tomba,” Revista Adventista, September 1935.

Land, Gary. The A to Z of the Seventh-day Adventists. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Santana, Nara Maria Carlos De. “Colonização alemã no Brasil: uma história de identidade, assimilação e conflito.” Dimensões, vol. 25, 2010.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1938.

“Seventh Meeting, Sunday, April 7.” General Conference Bulletin, April 8, 1901.

Spicer, W. A. “The Outlook in The Fields Abroad.” ARH, May 15, 1913.

Spies, F. W. “Brazil.” ARH, November 2, 1897.

Spies, F. W. “Germany.” The Home Missionary, May 1896.

Spies, Isadora. “A Journey to Brazil,” ARH, May 2, 1899.

Spies, Isadora. “Minas Gerais, Brasil,” The Missionary Magazine, June 1899.

Waldvogel, Luiz. “Isadora Read Spies.” Revista Adventista, January 1938.

Wilcox, E. H. “Frederick Weber Spies.” ARH, September 12, 1935.

Wilcox, F. M. “Summary of Mission Work.” ARH, September 8, 1896.


  1. J. Berger Johnson, “Frederico W. Spies,” Revista Adventista, September 1935, 16; Luiz Waldvogel, “Isadora Read Spies,” Revista Adventista, January 1938, 16.

  2. J. Berger Johnson, “Mais um Veterano que Tomba,” Revista Adventista, September 1935, 16; “General Conference Notes,” ARH, March 14, 1893, 168; F. W. Spies, “Germany,” The Home Missionary, May 1896.

  3. Waldvogel, "Isadora Read Spies," 16; Isadora Spies, “A Journey to Brazil,” ARH, May 2, 1899, 278; Isadore Spies, “Minas Gerais, Brasil,” The Missionary Magazine, June 1899, 252.

  4. Berger. “Mais um Veterano que Tomba,” 16; “Seventh Meeting, Sunday, April 7,” General Conference Bulletin, April 8, 1901, 121; F. M. Wilcox, “Summary of Mission Work,” ARH, September 8, 1896; E. H. Wilcox, “Frederick Weber Spies,” ARH, September 12, 1935, 21; F. W. Spies, “Brazil,” ARH, November 2, 1897, 699.

  5. Nara Maria Carlos De Santana, “Colonização alemã no Brasil: uma história de identidade, assimilação e conflito,” Dimensões, vol. 25, 2010, 2.

  6. Spies, “A Journey in Brazil,” 278; Spies, “Minas Gerais, Brazil,” 252.

  7. Gary Land, The A to Z of the Seventh-day Adventists (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005), 323.

  8. Spies, “A Journey to Brazil,” 278; Spies, “Minas Gerais, Brazil,” 252.

  9. Wilcox, “Frederick Weber Spies,” 21.

  10. W. A. Spicer, “The Outlook in The Fields Abroad,” ARH, May 15, 1913, 469.

  11. Jairo Tavares Araújo, “Parabéns, IAE!” Revista Adventista, December 1995, 35; Márcio Dias Guarda, “Muito Além do Ensino,” Revista Adventista, May 2015, 14-15.

  12. Araújo, “Parabéns, IAE!”, 35; Guarda, “Muito Além do Ensino,” 14, 15.

  13. Waldvogel, “Isadora Read Spies,” 16; “Obituary Record for 1937,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1938), 434.


UNASP, The Brazilian White Center –. "Spies, Isadora Read (1857–1937)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 25, 2021. Accessed June 18, 2024.

UNASP, The Brazilian White Center –. "Spies, Isadora Read (1857–1937)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 25, 2021. Date of access June 18, 2024,

UNASP, The Brazilian White Center – (2021, July 25). Spies, Isadora Read (1857–1937). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024,