The First Women of Theology: Wives, Missionaries, Deaconesses, and the Beginnings of Boston University
- 4:00 pm on Thursday, March 21, 2019
This event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the chartering of Boston University in 1869. While the husbands were establishing Boston University, their wives were founding the Methodist women’s missionary society that sent unmarried women to start the first schools and hospitals for women in India and China. The early feminist and global roots of Boston University are interwoven with the hidden history of the women’s missionary society and the deaconess movement. Faculty wives in the School of Theology partnered with former women teachers and students from the predecessor schools of Boston University to launch organized outreach abroad. Polly Claflin, wife of BU founder Lee Claflin, was a founding member of the WFMS; Mehitable Baker, former teacher at the predecessor school of BU (and wife of its first theologian), was the first president of the missionary society; and Harriet Warren, wife of the first president of Boston University, edited the women’s missionary publications. Returned missionary women launched the deaconess movement in Boston, providing the foundation for Deaconess Hospital, the School of Social Work, and the first African-American deaconesses—who in retrospect can be considered some of the first African-American women students at Boston University. All are invited to this event. It will include the dedication of historic windows devoted to some of the founding women; a lecture by Professor Dana L. Robert; and a public reception.