The writer counts himself fortunate in securing from the president of the W. H. M. U. of Nebraska, the Rev. Laura H. Wild, recently pastor Butler Avenue Church, Lincoln, the following account of the organized work of the women in Nebraska. A woman's pen can best describe women's work.
Miss Wild writes:
"The women of Nebraska have not been slow to help. In the Year Book of 1904, out of the 196 church clerks reported 91 are women, and 35 of the 181 Sunday school superintendents. The ladies' aid society' in almost all the churches is an indispensable assistant to local interests, financial and otherwise, and in the missionary work it is the women who have kept things stirring outside the annual Sunday morning offering.
"The women's annual missionary meeting occurs in October, usually before the State Association meeting. One day is devoted to the home work and one day to the foreign. From forty to sixty delegates are present, not a large attendance, but made up of some of the most consecrated and earnest women of the state.
"The interest in foreign fields is centered about workers who have gone from our own number, Miss Wainwright in Japan and Miss Stella Loughridge (of Vine Street Church, Lincoln) in western Turkey. A Bible woman is also supported in central Turkey, and the children are working for an industrial school in Africa.
"The home work is concentrated upon the missionary fields we have within the boundaries of our own state, missionaries in the sandhills; two Indian children attending the Santee school, our four academies, and the churches and Sunday schools that are being built. The money raised is nearly equal--$1,700 in 1903 for foreign work, $1,600 for the home.
"Certain distinctive points in the development of the work stand out clearly. The first gift from the state to the Woman's Board of the Interior was $5 from Mrs. Reuben Gaylord in 1871. The first contribution to the Home Missionary Society was from Nebraska City in 1876. The first contribution from a local society was from the Ashland 'Little Workers' in 1874.
"The oldest auxiliary is the one at Weeping Water. In 1873 at the State Association meeting held in Weeping Water the women got together and organized the Woman's Board of Missions for the State of Nebraska, its object being both foreign and home work. The next year, that this double end might be clearly understood, the name was changed to the Ladies' Association of Nebraska for Home and Foreign Missions, and Mrs. Asa Farwell of Ashland was made the president. Mrs. A. E. Dean became president in 1876,--the wife of one of the pastors, who herself was born in India, who had labored there after her marriage, and who went back there in July 1901, after her husband's death, to give still further missionary service. The meetings were held up to 1887 in connection with the State Association meetings, not as a part of them but in some neighboring church. 'Many times,' as Mrs. Sherrill said in one of her reports, 'by overcoming great obstacles, leaving the pleasant gathering of our brethren, who, we know, thought us much more zealous than wise, and retiring to some cold, neighboring church.'
WOMEN'S WORK IN NEBRASKA
"In 1877 a paper on 'Woman's Work for Woman' by Mrs. Farwell, read before the State Association itself, was so well received that it had the honor of being incorporated in the minutes of that body. There were twelve auxiliaries then. In 1879 a milestone was passed when the women decided to attempt the support of a missionary, Miss Van Duzee of Turkey.
"In 1880 it was resolved to raise an equal sum for home missions. The report of this year says, 'Our infancy is past, and we enter upon our next stage with great promise.' Four hundred and sixty-two dollars were raised that year, three-fourths going to foreign work and one-fourth to home. It has taken Christian people longer to realize that there is as much of a responsibility upon us for home missions as for foreign.
"The Nebraska Woman's Board of Missions was organized with that fact in view. It was to be a union effort, one society working for the entire missionary field. But owing to the tardiness of the home missionary consciousness and urgent foreign missionary pressure from the Woman's Board of the Interior, which had been organized in 1868, it was the foreign work which received the lion's share of the gifts. Mrs. Sherrill writes in 1880: 'The proposition to change our name and constitution, and limit our work to foreign missions so as to become auxiliary to the W. B. M. I., has been discussed every year, but the feeling prevails that we can not exclude from our thought and prayers and gifts the society that is working to Christianize our own land, both because that society needs our allegiance, and because we need that our intelligence and activities be stimulated by connection with it.'
"Nevertheless the receipts fell off, and because the society had pledged a definite amount for the support of their foreign workers, it was the home cause which suffered.
"In 1883 two treasurers were appointed. In 1884 the W B. M. I. called for $750. That year there was raised for foreign missions $892.66, for home missions $313.89, for the Educational Commission $2, for the A. M. A. $22, for the American Congregational Union--our present Church Building Society--$5. These sums show the relative importance, in the eyes of the women, of these various societies.
"While the amounts increased and home missions gained as the years went by, and many of the founders and strong supporters of the society believed most earnestly in union, it was voted in 1887 at the meeting held in Lincoln that 'the Woman's Missionary Association limit its work to foreign missions, being auxiliary to the W. B. M. I., and that we form a Woman's Home Missionary Society of Nebraska.' This accounts for the fact that the Branch (the foreign work) reports date of their meetings from the very beginning, 1873, and the Union (the home work) from 1888. That is, the annual report of 1904 is the thirty-first of the Branch and the seventeenth of the Union.
From that time to the present there have been two sets of officers and two state headquarters, but the meetings are always held together at the same place, and the local societies have never divided. There is the utmost harmony in the work, a mid-winter fellowship and consultation of the officers of both societies having been held in 1888 and 1904. The first reports after the division were published together; then each pursued her own way until 1903, when they were published together once more.
"After the division there were more active efforts put forth for the home missionary cause. Special circular letters were sent to every pastor, and there were added thirty-three new auxiliaries during the year. The church in Kensington, Connecticut, sent $100 to encourage the new-born
WOMEN'S WORK IN NEBRASKA
child. At the close of the year there were fifteen junior and juvenile societies, one of them being a boys' club in South Bend. Boxes for the home missionaries were prepared. There was raised for the home work $1,105.82, including the $100 from Connecticut, against $513 the year before. The foreign work saw quite an increase also, $1,000 coming into its treasury.
"There was a steady increase in gifts, with some fluctuations, until the year 1892, when. the high-water mark was reached for the Union--$2,002.43, the Branch that year raising $2,185.34, and the next more still, $2,345.
"Then came on the hard times and a most discouraging drop, falling down in 1897 to $1,280 for the Branch and in 1899 to $1,091 for the Union.
"Again prosperity is making itself felt throughout the state, and this time of a more solid character. Receipts are rising. But just as business men are more cautious in their ventures the women are not as liberal accordingly as they were in earlier days. But each year a higher goal is set, and it is hoped soon not only to reach but to pass our former high-water mark.
"During the last two years there has been broader intelligence concerning foreign missions owing to the systematic study of the most admirable books prepared by the national boards, and consequently a more real interest in those auxiliaries where such study is carried on. Mention should be made of the special library fund raised by the Union, by the publishing of a serial story called 'Inasmuch.' Twelve chapters were written by well-known women, including Mrs. Caswell and Mrs. Sangster. The sale of these books at twenty-five cents has brought in enough money to buy and circulate a library of forty home missionary volumes. The Branch also has a half dozen books in this collection.
"Nebraska has two young ladies' missionary societies, one at Vine Street Church, Lincoln, and one at Weeping Water. These have a splendid record, but for the most part the young ladies' work has been merged in that of the C. E. S. The children's department has been quite successful, with special objects to work for. Of late years in some of the larger churches the departmental plan has been adopted, all the women in the church being united in one association with various departments, chosen according to individual preference. The missionary department of such associations is counted as an auxiliary. In 1894 there was one German auxiliary organized by the pastor at Princeton. The same year Mrs. Caswell spent several weeks in the state visiting the local societies in the interest of home missions, and in 1898 Miss Wright, Field Secretary of the W. B. M. I., did the same.
"The women's work in Nebraska has had in the past most faithful women at the helm, pouring into it effort, strength, and patience of which few will ever know. The result has been not a brilliant record, but a creditable one in its breadth of view, practical methods, financial fruitage, and warm Christian fellowship."
The following list of presidents and secretaries of the women's work in Nebraska has been compiled by Mrs. H. Bross, and is of no little interest:
|Mrs. Asa Farwell, 1875-76.
|Mrs. S. C. Dean, 1876-87.
|Mrs. S. C. Dean, 1887-88.
|Mrs. F. L. Fitchett, 1894-99.
|Mrs. G. W. Hall, 1888-93.
|Mrs. J. G. Haines, 1893-94.
|Mrs. E. H. Wood, 1900-.
WOMEN'S WORK IN NEBRASKA
|Mrs. S. H. Leavitt, 1887-91.
|Mrs. J. T. Duryea, 1893-95.
|Mrs. Whitfield Sanford,
|Mrs. D. B. Perry, 1895-1901.
|Mrs. M. A. Bullock, 1901-03
|Mrs. S. H. Leavitt, 1892-93.
|Rev. Laura H. Wild, 1905-.
|Mrs. J. E. Elliott, 1873-74.
|Mrs. A. F. Sherrill, 1879-83-
|Mrs. G. W. Hall, 1874-75.
|Mrs. H. A. Leavitt, 1883-84.
|Mrs. H. Bates, 1875-79.
|Mrs. E. L. Childs, 1884-87.
|Mrs. N. C. Bosworth, 1887-90.
|Mrs. W. H. Russell, 1894-1900.
|Mrs. A. R. Thain, 1890-94.
|Mrs. W. A. Higgin, 1900-.
|Mrs. L. F. Berry, 1887-90.
|Mrs. S. C. Dean, 1893-94-
|Mrs. E. S. Smith, 1890-92.
|Mrs. H. Bross, 1894
|Mrs. W. R. Dawes, 1892-93.
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