Sunday, August 12, 2007

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 12

Reading the minutes of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Texas Conference is a truly inspiring experience. This reader is particularly drawn to the minutes from the 1930s. Many Methodist women had cut their teeth on two successful campaigns, for woman’s suffrage and the prohibition of alcoholic beverages. They were now ten years older, more mature, and seasoned organizers. Many of them turned to the Woman’s Missionary Society as the main channel for their activism. The minutes from the annual meetings in the 1930s reveal a wonderful mix of idealism and pragmatism as they came to grips with the expanding needs and shrinking budgets brought about by the Great Depression. Here are some highlights from the minutes.

1930 Port Arthur (Temple) hosted the 1930 gathering. Mrs. Harris Masterson reported on the Cause and Cure for War. Several Japanese-American children from the Terry Mission in Orange County attended. Besides the Terry Mission, deaconesses in the Texas Conference worked at Caledonia (Rusk County), the Houston Young Woman’s Cooperative Home, and the Wesley House for Spanish speakers in Houston. The Texas Conference supported building programs at both Scarritt and Mount Sequoyah.

1931 The next meeting was held in Nacogdoches, and the effects of the Depression were becoming more severe. The Terry Mission was reduced to a part time worker and the “Young People’s work” which had been a large part of the organization’s purpose was transferred to the Board of Education as per action of the 1930 General Conference.

1932 The delegates met in St. Paul’s Houston in 1932 and heard talks by some of the most distinguished women in Texas. Mrs. Masterson again spoke on peace. Jesse Daniel Ames spoke on interracial relations, and Oveta Culp Hobby spoke on Citizenship. A young Beaumont attorney, A. D. Moore, spoke on peace. Delegates were outraged by a lynching and passed a resolution in support of law enforcement. (note: Ames was well known as an anti-lynching activist.)

1933 Navasota provided the accommodations for 1933. Paul Harris, founder of Rotary International, came from Washington, D. C. The six deaconesses serving in the Texas Conference all gave their reports. Delegates were treated to a tour of Prairie View A&M, and reported how impressed they were.

1934 When delegates met in Galveston in 1934, they had the unpleasant task of closing two institutions. The Terry Mission was discontinued as was the Galveston Port Missionary. That mission had been in operation for twenty-five years with various ministries. It had been founded to facilitate immigrant reception, especially of unaccompanied children and young women. As the U. S. government assumed more of that role, the ministry shifted to a seaman’s center. By 1934 commerce had slowed so much that fewer seamen were entering Galveston and repatriation of aliens far exceeded new immigrants.

The grand tradition of social service, education, inspiration, and fund raising shown by the Woman’s Missionary Society and its successor organizations, the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, Wesleyan Service Guild, and United Methodist Women, deserves more recognition. Readers are invited to submit items of which they have knowledge.


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