Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Doremus’

Sarah DoremusMrs. Doremus’s life in any aspect – intellectually, socially, or religiously – is a lesson and a treasure to the women of any country; for the wise may be wiser and the good better by considering it. There is only one solution of it: her whole nature and all its possibilities were at the bidding of a Master whom she loved, and in whose service she was spent.                                       Annie Ryder Gracey

 Sarah Platt Haines Doremus (1802 – 1877) is remembered as the founder and first president of the Woman’s Union Missionary Society of America for Heathen Lands. But this devoted follower of Christ was also a loving wife and mother of nine children, faithful church attender, worker in local charities, and a best friend to hundreds of missionaries.

In 1834 Reverend David Abeel, returning from the mission field in the East spoke to mission boards in England and the United States pleading for female missionaries. In England the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East was formed. However, in the United States the response was slower. Sarah Doremus tried to form a society similar to the one in England but there was opposition from the mission boards. They were not ready to allow single women to go as missionaries.

It would be twenty-five years before the hearts of the Christians in America were touched  for the downtrodden women in foreign lands sufficiently to spur them to action. About 1859 or 1860 Mrs. Mason, missionary from Burma, visited the United States and told such heart wrenching stories of the heathen women that women in this country decided to do something about it even if they had to form their own organization. The result was the forming of the Woman’s Union Missionary Society in 1861.

Sarah Doremus had been busy during those twenty-five years between the time when she first wanted to send women missionaries to the East and when the Women’s Union Missionary Society was formed. Sarah was active as a member of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York. Her husband encouraged her in her charitable activity. In 1828 Sarah organized a relief society for the Greeks who were being persecuted by the Turks. She helped to get essential items for everyday life to Greek women. In 1835 she aided the Baptist Mission at Grande Ligne, Canada distributing food and other supplies to the needy.

Mrs. Doremus began a Sabbath service in the city prison which later developed into the Women’s Prison Association which she was connected to for over thirty years. She was one of the founders of the New York House and School of Industry. She was connected to the Nursery and Child’s Hospital which she helped found. She also worked with the Presbyterian Home for Aged Women. She was manager of the City Bible Society for twenty-eight years and manager of the City and Tract Mission Society for thirty-six years.

In 1855 Sarah worked tirelessly to establish the Woman’s Hospital, the first one of its kind in the world. She not only did much of the fund raising and took care of the legal work, but she also visited the sick regularly cheering and comforting them spiritually.

All the while Sarah raised nine children. Her home was active and loving. Though she was busy with charitable activities outside of the home, Sarah was devoted to her family. She painted, designed her own patterns for embroidery, modeling in wax, and working with her children. She also adopted children into her home. She saw to the education of all of her children. Though she was involved in so many organizations she did not let anything interfere with her motherly duties.

How was one woman able to do all of this? Mrs. Gracey, a missionary herself, tells us:

Much of what she accomplished was due to a very rare combination of endowments. She had power to lay great plans and organize grand movements, a marvelous memory, and a talent for details. Nothing was too trivial to be made use of if it would aid in perfecting the organization, and to her latest day her memory was true to its trust for dates and incidents, every one accurate and thoroughly at her command, and all used  for the benefit and comfort of others.                                 Annie Ryder Gracey

In spite of being involved in enough charity work for any three or four women, as soon as Sarah heard the pleas of Mrs. Mason she was ready to try and form a missionary society to aid the women in foreign lands. This was how the Woman’s Union Missionary Society came into being.

Woman's Union Missionary Society

Woman’s Union Missionary Society

The Woman’s Union Missionary Society included all denominations. The women concentrated on the Gospel and did not want to be sectarian. Because of this they worked independently of church mission boards. The church mission boards were still uneasy about sending out single women but women were desperately needed in missions. The Society’s aim was to send unmarried women abroad to serve as teachers and missionaries who would enter homes carrying the Gospel to those who could not receive it any other way.

This was a huge undertaking and the first of its kind. The women leaders prayed for good judgment. They wisely decided to fund the organization in a way that did not interfere with any of the usual church collections or with any other missionary organization. Through contributions made by women in America that were over and above their regular church giving, over one and a half million dollars was raised in a period of thirty years!

Sarah Doremus was elected the first president. For the first fifteen years the society was headquartered in her home in New York. Sarah welcomed every missionary in her home and took care of them. When they left for foreign fields, Sarah accompanied them to the dock. Then when they returned, Sarah was there to meet them.

While the female missionaries were so far from home, Sarah wrote to them as a mother. She sent them news stories and books and other items that might cheer them up. She believed that this encouragement would give them strength for their arduous duties.

Consistent with her beliefs that all Gospel believing women should receive support on the mission field no matter which denomination they belonged to, Sarah sent support to the Methodist Mission in North India. Work among the Indian women and girls was progressing slowly. Mrs. Doremus soon sent a letter with a check for fifty dollars to be used to employ a native Christian woman as a Bible teacher. This was the first financial contribution to women’s work in the North India Conference.

All of her life Sarah was devoted to her Redeemer. She consecrated everything to His service – all of her gifts, her time, and her many abilities. Eventually the Lord called her to cease all of these loving activities. Sarah suffered an accident in her home in January, 1877. She was prostrated for a week before succumbing.

Missionaries from all over the world felt that they had lost a friend. At her funeral one minister summed up her beautiful life: “Mrs. Doremus seems to have given the whole of herself to the Lord; the whole of herself to every suffering heart she met, and yet the whole of herself to home and children.”

Many organizations paid their respects to this godly woman. The Woman’s Union Missionary Society has perpetuated her name by calling their home in Calcutta, India the “Doremus Home”.

What a powerhouse for Christ! Imagine what could be accomplished if all of us Christian women would take on even one or two activities that would further the Gospel. Sarah Doremus showed us what can be done by a person who is totally sold out to Christ.

The quotes in this story are from: Gracey, Mrs. J. T., Eminent Missionary Women, (Missionary Campaign Library, Number Two, 1898).

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