SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine -- The Rev. Katrina Swanson, one of the first women to be ordained as an Episcopal priest, died yesterday at her home in Manset village. She was 70.
The Rev. George Swanson, her husband and also an Episcopal priest, said she died of colon cancer.
The fourth generation of her family to enter the ministry, the Rev. Swanson was one of the ''Philadelphia 11," a group of women ordained in an irregular and controversial ceremony in that city on July 29, 1974.
The Radcliffe graduate was ordained by her father, the late Right Rev. Edward Welles II, who had advocated ordination of women in a book published in England in 1928.
Rev. Swanson's awareness of the role of women in the church blossomed during the year she and her husband spent in an exchange pastorate in Botswana during the 1960s.
In the villages, the Rev. Swanson saw that capable women, barred from any leadership roles, had to hire alcoholic and abusive men to read morning and evening prayers in the mud and thatch schoolrooms that became church on Sunday.
Rev. Swanson's status as a priest became official after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women in 1976.
Two years later, she became a rector of St. John's Parish in Union City, N.J., where she instituted bilingual Spanish and English services and established an after-school program for children.
Until then, the Rev. Swanson's path was not simple. When she returned home to Kansas City, Mo., after the Philadelphia ordination, her husband, who was rector of a church there, had to fire her as his unpaid assistant priest to keep his job.
Subsequently, Katrina Swanson was hired for $1 a year as assistant priest at the Church of the Liberation in St. Louis.
In 1975, the Rev. Swanson signed a three-month suspension from her deacon's ministry under the threat of an ecclesiastical trial. She was the only one of the Philadelphia 11 and the ordaining bishops to receive ecclesiastical punishment.
Rev. Swanson retired to Manset in 1996.
During her 16-month illness, friends made a cedar bench in the Rev. Swanson's name on the grounds of St. Saviour's Church in Bar Harbor.
At the dedication this year, the Right Rev. Chilton Knudsen, the first female Episcopal bishop of Maine, thanked Rev. Swanson ''for being a pioneer. Without you, I wouldn't be here."
In addition to her husband, Rev. Swanson leaves three children, Olof, William, and HDelGene; and a brother, Peter Welles.
A requiem Eucharist will be held on a date to be announced.