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Missionary Society

The Missionary Society of Smith College began in 1876 (1). Its aim was “to promote a broad and intelligent interest in missions, and to contribute directly to missions at home and abroad” (2). As recorded in 1903, it was “the oldest of the college organizations” (3). Regular meetings were held about once per month during the academic year, and generally included singing, prayer, and discussion of contemporary destinations of mission work (e.g., China, India, and Turkey) (4). Business meetings were held annually in order to elect officers and allot Society funds (5). It paid the $600 salary of Dr. Angie Myers, a Vassar graduate and medical doctor sent as the Smith College Missionary in Amoy, China from 1899 to 1904 (6). Myers worked to improve health and living standards of women and children. From 1909 until 1917 the Society paid a similar figure for the salary of Delia Leavens(7), the second and final Smith College Missionary to North China, whose Commission Service at Vespers, October 3, 1909, was overseen by President L. Clark Seelye (8). Leavens was a graduate of the class of 1901(9). By the fall of 1908 (10), the Missionary Society had come under the auspices of the Smith College Association for Christian Work (SCACW), and was known as the Missionary Department (11). In addition to supporting Delia Leavens, the Missionary Department also regularly contributed monies to “Bible Women” in India and Ceylon, as well as overseeing other small contributions and named scholarships (12). From 1901 until 1917 the Society also held mission study classes, in order “to arouse a more sympathetic and vital interest in the missionary enterprise, and, through a broader outlook and knowledge, to develop higher spirituality” (13). Classes, while open to all Smith students, were led by juniors and seniors (14) and were divided by topic. For the 1901-02 academic year, these included eight classes whose subjects were mostly geographical areas, but also included topics such as “Missionary Biography” and “Home Missions.” A section on “Catholic Missions” was led by Mary Rogers, class of 1905, who continued to teach mission study classes for three years after graduating (15), while working as an assistant in the Biology department. Within a decade Rogers would go on to found the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, a Roman Catholic religious community for international missionary work (16). By 1911-12, at its height, the society offered seventeen different topics, organized under the broader categories of “Home Missions,” “Foreign Missions,” and “General Courses” (17). The College also hosted a Student Missionary Conference in November, 1908, where Smith students were joined by peers from, among others, Amherst, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke, Wesleyan, and Yale (18). Similarly, in the autumn of 1914, Smith hosted the Twelfth Annual Conference of the Connecticut Valley Intercollegiate Missionary Union (19). Perhaps its most enduring contribution came from Smith’s involvement with Ginling College, a women’s college established in 1915 in Nanking (now Nanjing), China. Even before its official opening, Mrs. J. Lawrence Thurston, Ginling’s first president, hoped for “a body at home composed of women representing equally the different home constituencies, who shall have the responsibility of developing the interest among women in the churches and in the colleges which we [at Ginling] must in the end count upon for support” (20). Mrs. Thurston cautioned, however, that though “[t]he plan of relating the women’s colleges at home to our college is… something to count on in future,” Smith should not be overambitious in its attempts to fund Ginling, but could start with smaller projects—such as, she suggested, funding for the Library—in tandem with other institutions. By the fall of 1914, one Smith graduate, a Miss Mead, had already been appointed to teach at Ginling and had begun studying Chinese (21). After the fall of 1916, “it was determined… that [the Department] pledge our support to Gingling [sic] College in Nanking, China”; that year the College sent $1,000 to Ginling’s English Department (22). Gradually, the Missionary Department narrowed its focus. By 1920, “Bible and Mission classes [had been] combined under the title of World Fellowship classes” (23), and were developing a more secular emphasis. As of 1922, “the chief aim of this department [was]… the raising of the yearly $3,000 for our sister college, Ginling” (24). The Department’s end came officially in 1926. In June, a conference overseen by President William Allan Neilson and various members of the faculty examined reports of the Smith College Association for Christian Work as well as account books from the Missionary Society. It was then decided that funds formerly controlled by the Missionary Department should come under the jurisdiction of the Treasurer of the S.C.A.C.W. (25).

1)      “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

2)      Consititution of the Missionary Society of Smith College, Undated, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

3)      “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

4)      The Smith College Missionary Society Secretary’s Records, 1876-1902, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

5)      The Smith College Missionary Society Secretary’s Records, 1876-1902, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

6)      “Vassar College Class of 1894 Bulletin,” June 1908, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

7)      S.C.A.C.W. Missionary Department Budget 1913-1914, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

8)      “Commission Service for Delia Leavens, 1901,” 3 October 1909, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

9)      “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

10)    “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926,  Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

11)   S.C.A.C.W. Missionary Department Budget 1913-1914, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

12)   S.C.A.C.W. Missionary Department Budget 1913-1914, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

13)   Note by Else B. Kohlbery, Chairman of the Mission Study Committee, 1910-11, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

14)   “Smith College Mission Study Classes,” 1901, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

15)   “Mission Study Classes, 1907-8,” 1907, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

16)   “About Us,” 2010 Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, <http://www.mklsisters.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=3&Itemid=3>

17)    “Mission Study Classes 19911-1912,” 1911, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

18)   ) “[Missing Words] Student Missionary Conference” pamphlet, 1908, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

19)   “Twelfth Annual Conference of the Connecticut Valley Intercollegiate Missionary Union” pamphlet, 1914, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

20)   Quoted in a letter from Robert E. Speer to Helen V. Frey, 30 October 1914, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

21)   Letter from Robert E. Speer to Helen V. Frey, 30 October 1914, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

22)   “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

23)   “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

24)   “Missionary Society” Notes by G.P.H. from annual reports of S.C.A.C.W., 17 May 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

25)   “S.C.A.C.W.—Missionary Department,” 10 June 1926, Records of the Smith College Association for Christian Work, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts.

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