THE HISTORY OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY
Someone has commented, "He who carries a lantern on a dark road at night sees only one step ahead. When he takes that one, the lamp moves forward and another is made plain. He finally reaches his destination in safety without once walking in darkness. All the way is lightened, but only a single step at a time. This is the method of God’s guidance." (Excerpts from history written during the centennial celebration of the WMS.)
In 1816 the African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized under the leadership of Richard Allen. The first missionary activities with the women began with the organizing of the Dorcas Society by Richard Allen in 1824. They worked together caring for the ministers who were helping to establish the A. M. E. Church. Sarah Allen organized the Daughters of the Conference to sew, mend, and patch coats, pants and underwear and raise money so that the pastors, with their tattered clothes, might be presentable at the opening of the Conference, after having traveled and worked hard during the year.
Rev. William Paul Quinn was appointed missionary to the West by the General Conference in 1840, the missionary interest increased. In 1874 a plea came for the women to organize a missionary society to give assistance in Haiti. Mrs. Mary Campbell was chosen to be the first President. The Women’s Parent Mite Missionary Society was formed. This Society was supported largely by the southern areas.
Meanwhile in September of 1893 in South Bend, IN a delegation of women asked permission of Bishop Henry Neil Turner for the organization of a Connectional Missionary Society as there were thousands of women desiring to work in missions. The request was granted and it was called the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society. The function of this society was to support and supervise the work in South Africa and help mission preachers and churches at home. This society drew members mainly from northern areas.
Whenever General Conference met, reports from the Missionary Department usually blended commentaries about the two societies. In the 1930's, for example, documents refer to Mrs. Christine S. Smith, President of the Women’s Parent Mite Missionary Society and Mrs. Lucy Hughes, President of the Women’s Home & Foreign Missionary Society as equals and partners in mission.
Finally in 1944 at the General Conference in Philadelphia, PA for the purpose of doing missionary work at home and abroad, the two merged and Lucy Hughes became the president. The Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church has now become connectional, international, operating all over the church and the world. It has become a corporate body, a channel through which all women of the church have an opportunity to participate and broaden their scope of missions; to use their skills, knowledge, insight and leadership while touching the lives of many people all over the world. Those serving as President of this organization have been: Lucy Hughes, Anne E. Heath, Mary Frizzell, Whilhemina Lawrence, Delores Kennedy Williams, Dorothy Adams Peck, and the incumbent President, Jamesina Evans.