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Collection 379 Records of the Woman's Union Missionary Society

Identifier: CN 379

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, reports, personnel files, legal documents, financial files, scrapbooks, almost 3,000 photographs.

Topics documented include the creation and activity of the mission work in Burma, China, India, Pakistan, and Japan, its work among orphans and women.


  • Created: 1860-1983

Conditions Governing Access

The contents of Boxes 29 and 30 have been microfilmed and researchers must use the microfilm instead of the fragile originals.

Biographical or Historical Information

Nondenominational mission agency; founded in 1860 by Mrs. Sarah Platt Doremus as the Woman's Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands as a vehicle for sending single women as missionaries to China, Burma, Japan, India and what was later Pakistan; they sponsored orphanages, schools and hospitals as well as evangelistic work among women and children; after 1972, known as the United Fellowship For Christian Service; dissolved in 1975 due to financial difficulties, and merged into Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship.

Historical Background:

Sarah Platt Doremus (Mrs. Thomas C. Doremus) founded the Woman's Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands (commonly referred to as Woman's Union Missionary Society, WUMS) in November, 1860; the name was later changed to Woman's Union Missionary Society of America. She and the other women who began the organization were concerned for the spiritual welfare of women in Asia, who lived in societies in which women were so completely segregated from men that they were inaccessible to male missionaries. The existing mission agencies of the time would not send single women to the field, and they did not think it wise for missionary wives to attempt any other work than the already considerable tasks of caring for their husbands and children. WUMS was founded to provide a way for single women to be sent to Asia to address the physical, educational, and spiritual needs of the women there. They were the first American organization to send single women to the mission field. Mrs. Doremus acted as President of the Society until her death in 1877. Her daughter, Miss Sarah D. Doremus, was also active in the organization and served as Corresponding Secretary.

WUMS began publishing a periodical in 1861, Missionary Crumbs. With the July, 1864, issue, the name was changed to The Missionary Link. It served as a means of communication with members of the Society, as well as missionaries and the general public. Letters and reports from the missionaries formed the greater part of the text.

The headquarters for WUMS were in New York City until 1971, when it was relocated to Tenafly, New Jersey. In the early years of the organization, there were branches in several cities throughout the country, such as Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Branches were formed by groups of women in those and other cities, to lend prayer and financial support to WUMS. The Boston Branch counted itself as older than the national organization by a few months. There were also Pioneer Bands for children in several cities. The branches were major sources of funds and recruitment until WUMS began to rely more heavily on investment income from bequests.

In 1971, responding to changes in society both in Asia and in the United States, WUMS changed its policy of sending only single women missionaries, and decided to admit men and married couples for the first time. The name was also changed to United Fellowship for Christian Service (UFCS). The organization experienced financial difficulties, and in 1972 began consideration of a merger with another mission agency, eventually choosing to join with Bible and Medical Missionary Fellowship (BMMF). The merger was accomplished in 1974.

Burma: Miss Sarah Marston was the first missionary sent out under WUMS. Sponsored by the Boston Branch, she went to Toungoo, Burma, in 1862 and established a girls day school there. Deteriorating health forced her to leave in 1865. There were two other WUMS workers in Burma following Miss Marston, but the work there apparently had ceased by 1880.

India: Miss Harriette Brittan began WUMS work in India in 1863, starting a day school for girls in Calcutta, and later an orphanage and a high school. In 1868, a zenana ministry was begun in Allahabad, and Central Girls School was founded there. (A "zenana" was the name for the women's section in Indian homes, both Moslem and Hindu. WUMS missionaries and native Bible women would visit zenanas on a regular basis, reading Scripture to the women and children who lived there, and sometimes leading Bible studies.)

Two medical missionaries, Dr. Sara Seward and Dr. Mary Seelye, established a children's hospital in Calcutta in 1871. Work began in Kanpur in 1880 with day schools and more zenana work, and later a boarding school and an orphanage. Two hospitals were opened after the turn of the century, the Mary Ackerman Hoyt Memorial Hospital in Jhansi in 1900, and the Lily Lytle Broadwell Memorial Hospital in Fatehpur in 1905. A women's home was also established in Fatehpur, and the Ann Murray Dispensary began in Jahanabad in 1917. Following World War II, WUMS began work with Tibetan refugees in Rajpur, and in 1948 Kalvari Bible School was begun.

China: Work began in China in 1869 with the opening of a girl's boarding school in Peking. This school merged with the Bridgman Memorial School in Shanghai in 1880. Dr. Elizabeth Reifsnyder established the Margaret Williamson Hospital in Shanghai in 1891, which later sponsored the Women's Christian Medical College. The Misses Mary J. and Elizabeth Irvine began a Bible Training School in Shanghai also. Work continued in China until the Communist take-over following World War II, when all missionaries were evacuated.

Japan: Louise H. Pierson started the Doremus School in Yokohama, Japan in 1871 (which was renamed Kyoritsu High School during World War II), and Susan Pratt began a Bible Training School for older girls there in 1894. The work flourished, and although it had to be suspended during World War II, it was resumed immediately during the American occupation of Japan, and even expanded. In 1963, WUMS acquired Nozomi Christian School, an elementary and junior high school in Tsujido, and in 1964 WUMS added a student ministry at Takasaki University.

Pakistan and Nepal: WUMS acquired the 65-year-old Mahabbat Hospital in Multan, West Pakistan in 1956 and transferred some of their India workers up there. There was a nursing school connected with the hospital, and WUMS started a girls' school in Gujranwala. WUMS also became a cooperating member of the United Missions to Nepal in 1966.

WUMS had educational work in Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece in the 1860's and 1870's, but there is very little documentation of that work in the collection, although there is a bit more in the WUMS periodical, The Missionary Link.

For more historical information on the Woman's Union Missionary Society, see Box 45, Folders 5 and 6, which contain historical pamphlets and periodical articles about WUMS. Collection 44 includes a manuscript history of WUMS by Helen Jaderquist Tenney, No Higher Honor. See the guide to Collection 44 for further information.


21.60 Cubic Feet

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Collection 379 Records of the Woman's Union Missionary Society
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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Wheaton IL 60187 US