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United Society of Friends Women Records

Identifier: FRG-7

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of records of the United Society of Friends Women and its predecessor bodies, the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Union of Friends in America and the Woman’s Missionary Union of Friends in America.  They are a rich source for the missionary activities of American Quakers since the 1880s and the establishment of Quakerism in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Central America. These records were housed for many years in the vault of First Friends Meetinghouse in Richmond.  Although they have been collectively referred to as the USFW Archives, they appear to have had at least five discrete sources, which are reflected in the arrangement of the collection.  First are records of the international USFW and its predecessor bodies.  Then there are the records of its Indiana Yearly Meeting affiliate under its various names.  Then come two collections of correspondence and other materials collected by two key women in the organization.  One is Mahalah (Pearson) Jay (1826-1915) of Richmond, Indiana, a leading figure in the founding of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Union.  The other is Phariba (White) Stephens (1857-1929), also of Richmond, who was a missionary at Matamoros, Mexico, in 1902-1903, and who served as executive secretary of the Foreign Missions Board of Indiana Yearly Meeting.  Finally, there are records of the Whitewater Monthly Meeting missionary group. Much of this series consists of letters to Amy (Johnson) Marvel (1867-1953), a leading figure in the Woman’s Missionary Union and national president from 1938 to 1943.             Significant additions to the collection, including executive committee minutes after 1962, issues of Blueprints, and triennial minutes, were made through a gift from Bea Kimball in November 1998.


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Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Some materials may be protected by copyright. Permission to reproduce and to publish for commercial purposes must be requested from the Archivist.

Biographical or Historical Information

The USFW traces its founding to a Quaker women’s missionary society formed in Mooresville, Indiana, in 1881.  It was the spur for the formation of a missionary society for women in Western Yearly Meeting (larger body) in the fall of 1881, the first of a series of such groups at the yearly meeting level by Orthodox Friends.  The first national conference of women Friends from ten Orthodox yearly meetings was held in Indianapolis in 1888.  At a conference held in Glens Falls, New York, in 1890, the decision was made to form the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Union of Friends in America and to hold triennial conferences thereafter.  Its original focus was support of Quaker missionary work already underway in India, Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Japan.             In 1917, the name of the organization was changed to the Woman’s Missionary Union, to reflect increasing interest in home missions as well as foreign missionary work.  Most, although not all, of the members were affiliated with Gurneyite yearly meetings that were part of the Five Years Meeting.  In 1916, the group requested recognition by the Five Years Meeting as an affiliated organization.  In 1948, reflecting a desire to unite Quaker women regardless of yearly meeting affiliation, the name of the organization was changed to the United Society of Friends Women.  It continues in existence.             In 1885, Esther Tuttle Pritchard, a Chicago Quaker woman, began publication of the Friends Missionary Advocate in the interest of Quaker missionary work.  In 1890 she turned ownership of the journal over to the Woman’s Missionary Union.  In 1977 the name was changed simply to the Advocate.

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11 Boxes

Language of Materials