The Women's Foreign Missionary Society.
Until the present century but
little organized work had done by the modern church in the may of systematic
However so far as the M. E. Church was concerned, almost
all of its work was of the nature of Missionary labor. It was made a regularly
organized body only in December 1784. Its first sermon in America was preached
in New York City by Philip Embury in 1766. And as the country was largely
new and older settled parts were already largely dominated by Calvanism and
Episcopalianism, Methodism hunted a home in the newer fields on the borders.
In 1816 a Methodist local preacher named Marcus Lindsay
was delivering a sermon in Marietta, Ohio. A drunken colored man, named John
Stewart, who was passing by was attracted by the earnest words of the minister,
dropped into the rear of the house, and there so received the Truth into
his heart as to be made a new man. He soon felt that he must preach the same
Truth which had saved him. Soon he wandered off to the central part of the
state and finding some Indians, preached to them. He then went to Sandusky
where he preached to other Indians. His work attracted the attention of some
consecrated whites, and they began to help him. Word of this reaching the
more remote east so stirred the sluggish hearts of the church, that out of
it grew the now famous organization of the Missionary Society of the M. E.
church. In all of this, woman bore her full share of the burden.
At length finding that they might be able to do more and
better work if in a separate body, a number of earnest ladies met at Boston,
March 23, 1869, and organized the W. F. M. S. This body was approved by the
General Conference of 1872 and was incorporated December 27, 1884.
It consists at present of eleven co-ordinate branches
named respectively, New England Branch, New York Branch, Philadelphia Branch,
Baltimore Branch, Cincinnati Branch, Northwestern Branch, Des Moines Branch,
Minneapolis Branch. Topeka Branch, Pacific Branch, and Columbia River Branch.
Each branch is further divided into sections corresponding
to the Annual Conference, and these into parts according to presiding elder districts,
and these into smaller bodies at any separate preaching places, the last being
known as auxiliary societies.
It now numbers 4,925 auxiliaries having 121,814 members;
548 young women’s societies having 12,268 members; 447 children’s
bands having 17,963 members; and 156 Light-Bearers. During 1895 it raised
$328,488.75, which was expended in its work in Japan. Korea, China, Malaysia,
India, Burma, Bulgaria, South America and Mexico. To do this it employs 175
missionaries, and 700 Bible readers, who have
charge of 63 boarding
schools, 454 day schools, 17 training schools, and 12 hospitals and dispensaries.
As additional helpers it issues the following publications: Woman’s
Missionary Friend, Children’s
Friend, German Friend and The Study, having a total circulation of near
To this wonderful work the good sisters of Clay Chapel early
gave their time, their prayers and their means. The auxiliary here was organized
in 1872 by Mrs. Barton Lowe. The nine charter members were: Mrs. Barton Lowe,
President, Mrs. Laura Graham, Vice President, Mrs. Celicia Davis, Treasurers
Mrs. America Marshall, Secretary, and Mrs. Mary Riggs, Mrs. Diana Guthrie, Mrs.
E. M. Riggs, Mrs. Mary C. Pierce and Mrs. S. C. Cole. Of this number only four
remain. They are Mrs. Marshall, Mrs. E. M. Riggs, Mrs. Pierce, and Mrs. Cole.
The others have gone to join some whom their efforts led to the safe destination
reached by themselves.
At the second meeting quite a number joined. Since then the
organization has been helped by almost every woman in the community, and even
now the chief event of each month is the regular meeting of the W. F. M. S.
It now numbers about 30 members, part of whom reside at Clipper
Mill and part at Chambersburg. Its officers are Mrs. J. W. Smith, President,
Mrs. Jacob Riggs, Treasurer, and Mrs. S. C. Cole, Secretary. It has a large roll
of “honored dead,” list including Mrs. Fannie Riggs Clark, Mrs. Sallie
Thornily, Mrs. Galbraith, Mrs. Maggie Lorrimer, Mrs. Henrietta Williams, Mrs.
Jessie Riggs Gilman, Mrs. Lena Martindill, Mrs. Mary Coffman, Mrs. Mary King,
and Mrs. Mary C. Montgomery.
Unfortunately the early records of the society were lost or
destroyed, hence but little exact information as to its progress can be given.
But it will suffice to say, that it has been a source of much social, intellectual
and spiritual good, not only to its members, but indirectly to the whole circle
of its influence both at home and abroad. And its work is not by word only, for
it contributes annually about $30, and sometimes even more, to the work of the
parent society of which it is an auxiliary.
May its dinners continue to be famous, may its home influence
never be less, may its numbers increase, may its contributions grow, and may
it thus continue to be a power for good when all of its founders are sleeping
the sleep that knows no waking till the trumpet of God shall call them from the
graves to enjoy with those they’ve saved the glories of the harvest home.
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