Women’s Lives: Series 4: Presbyterian Church in the USA: Women’s Board of Home Missions Records, 1866-1958

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From the holdings of the Presbyterian Historical Society

The records of the Women’s Board of Home Missions provide a unique window into the lives and problems of immigrants in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the missionary work of women who worked among them. In the years prior to government programs to assist people in need, the churches, in this case the PCUSA, played a crucial role in assisting these groups. As one of the larger, mainstream Protestant churches, the PCUSA was active in many areas of the country and drew its support from women in churches in many states. Women’s home missions carried out field work in the rural South, Southwest, and West. In California during the years of heavy Asian immigration from 1919 to 1924, women’s missions played a crucial role in assisting immigrant families. Eventually the work of women’s missions was extended to the Appalachians, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

This collection contains administrative records, case studies, reports, correspondence, and publications. It is a rich source of information on changing attitudes toward African Americans, native Americans, and immigrants over the years. Among the dominant themes in these records are the development of colleges for African Americans. The records also contain specific information about well-known women who worked in the missionary field such as Donaldina Cameron, who did rescue work in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and Mabel Roys, who for many years was the only woman to serve on the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church.

The documents in this collection are a rich source of information for researchers studying the work of women missionaries in solving some of the difficult problems of the nation, as well as the role of women in public affairs in the years when many thought a woman’s place was in the home.