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Women’s Missionary Society Work in the 1920s

For Women’s History Month, I decided to take a look at the Advocate from 100 years ago this month to see what the Woman’s Missionary Society pages were discussing. 

A note on the Society page announced the meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Council for the denomination in April 1921 at Centenary Methodist Church in Richmond, VA.  The announcement explained that the Council’s committees, on work in Asia, Latin America, the “home fields” and “home educational institutions” would meet first.  Attendees could contact the local arrangements chair for a list of hotels or boarding houses.  A later article noted that “The Richmond” was the headquarters hotel, and rooms with baths could be had for $3 to $5 per night.  If you didn’t need a bathroom, you could get a room for $2.  The article promised nearby cafeterias and cafes for those who wanted to take their meals outside the hotel. 

The page reported on a meeting of the executive committee of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Upper South Carolina Conference.  The article noted that the all-day meeting mostly heard routine reports, but did celebrate that the society had contributed over $31,000 to mission work in the past year. The group decided that it needed to put an increased focus on work with young people, and planned a one-day institute in each district.  In celebrating a success, the committee learned that 21 women in the conference were currently preparing for missionary service, either in high school, college, or attending Scarritt. 

This may have led to a question in a later issue about how many churches had supplied members for ministry.  “Has your church during recent years furnished a young man for the work of the ministry, a young woman for missionary service in the foreign field or in the home land? If not, it is time for serious thought, for heart searching, for prayer. There are congregations out of which have come large numbers of young men and women who have dedicated their lives to Christian life work; there are other congregations that for years gone have furnished no such workers. Why this difference? Let’s face that question during this month.” 

The work of local church societies frequently made the Woman’s Missionary Society page.  In March 1921, readers would have learned about the meetings of women’s societies at Rowesville, at Duncan Memorial in Georgetown, and at St. John’s in Anderson.  The latter two reported significant growth, and at St. John’s, every woman in the church was part of a circle.  The society committees all came from the circles, and the women were so faithful in their contributions to mission work that the society no longer needed to have bazaars, teas, and suppers as fund-raisers.  

In another section of a March issue, the Advocate also talked about prohibition and the forces that had tried to keep it from happening.  The editor was especially critical of public officials in other parts of the country that were opposed to ending the sale of alcohol.  The paper noted that January 29, the anniversary of the ratification of the 18th amendment, would some day be celebrated like the 4th of July or January 1.  It predicted that some day, a child would ask the question, “Grandpa, what was a saloon?” 

By Phillip Stone

I've been the archivist of Wofford College and the South Carolina United Methodist since 1999. I'll be sharing college, Methodist, and local history, documents, photographs, and other interesting stories on this blog, which I've been keeping since December 2007.

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