Negro Baptists of North Carolina
THE WOMEN'S BAPTIST HOME MISSION CONVENTION OF NORTH CAROLINA.
The Women's Baptist Home Mission Convention of North Carolina was organized 1884, with Mrs. Lizzie Neely, of Salisbury, N. C., President; Mrs. Lizzie Saunders, of Henderson, Secretary, and Mrs. Mary E. Tinsley, of Oxford, Treasurer. Mrs. B. E. Green and Miss Helen R. Jackson assisted in the organization. For more than sixteen consecutive years Mrs. Pattie G. Shepard remained at the head of the Woman's Organization of North Carolina, which was unmistakable evidence of her ability to lead women. She was modest and retiring, and yet when brought into action, with her heart of Christian devotion, her command of a choice flow of language and her great executive mind, she swayed great audiences wherever she appeared, not only of the gentler sex, but of the opposite as well. The success of the Convention for all the years of her remaining at the head was a continued success, and progress was due largely to the President, whom most of the women were glad to follow. In that blessed Providence which brings individuals to "work together for good," Mrs. S. A. Eaton, of Henderson, N. C., was brought to labor side by side with Mrs. Shepard with the only hope of reward in that "Blessed Beyond." While Mrs. Shepard was wielding the gavel for the Women's Convention, Mrs. Eaton was wielding the pen. Mrs. Virginia King and Mrs. A. L. Ransom have made efficient treasurers of the Convention. Mrs. Ransom holds that office now.
A number of times during their administration the place of Corresponding Secretary, so important in any organization, underwent changes: Mrs. E. E. Smith, of Fayetteville, an efficient and good woman, called from labor to a blessed reward in 1906; Miss Hannah Steward, of Salisbury, N. C., and Mrs. Annie M. Brandon, of Oxford, N. C., who held the position successfully for a number of years. Back of these women was an executive board composed of the best talent among the women of the State.
Differing somewhat from the men's convention, most of the work of the women was done through the Executive Board, and instead of their sessions being devoted to discussions of business, often useless, they were given to papers and addresses on useful topics and to songs and devotions.
At times there was so much done through the Board of the Convention some complaint was alleged, but after all much of the wisdom of such a course was seen in the avoidance of needless discussion and a waste of time and bitter feelings so often engendered in floor debates.
The objects of the Women's Convention, as contained in their Constitution, were "To establish and improve Baptist Home Mission Societies in all the Baptist churches and destitute sections of the State; to assist in the support of the Oxford Orphan Asylum; to cooperate with the Chicago Baptist Home Mission Society, to send the gospel to Africa, and to awaken a general interest in the study of the Bible, and in the religious education of both the aged and the young by gathering them into the Sunday School."
Much of the success of the Women's Convention of North Carolina was due to their affiliation with the Baptist Home Mission Society of Women of Chicago.
Miss Mary G. Burdette, for many years the able Corresponding Secretary of that society, was one of the strongest friends the Negro Baptist women of this country ever had. Her whole soul was devoted to their uplift, and no pains were spared on her part in making provisions for the extension and progress of the work among them. While Mrs. Ellers, the first Superintendent of the Woman's Training School, in connection with the Shaw University, succeeded by Misses Miller and Hamilton, made it possible for so many to go forth throughout North Carolina prepared to do Christian missionary work, Miss Burdette was the power behind the throne which made the Training School a reality.
What the Home Mission and Publication Societies were to the Education and Sunday School Conventions, the Chicago Society was, and even more, to the Women's Convention of North Carolina.
The Convention was required to raise what they could in support of their missionaries; the society obligated itself, and paid from year to year a sufficient amount to meet the deficit.
Despite the efforts of these Christian heroines there was always at the close of each year a considerable deficit to be met.
MISSIONARY WORK OF THE WOMEN.
What Mrs. Shepard was in the chair and Mrs. Eaton at the desk, Mrs. Sallie A. Mial, of Raleigh, was on the mission field of North Carolina. In thinking of one of these women it looks as if she was indispensable to the work, but it was equally true of the others, and it seemed good that they were kept by a special Providence to labor so ably and long. Preceding the death of Mrs. E. E. Smith, about whom mention has already been made, the Convention sustained great loss in the death of Mrs. Alice A. Patterson, of Raleigh, N. C. Mrs. Patterson was a devoted Christian woman and not only was she helpful during the sittings of the Convention with her prayers and advice, but she was at the side of the missionary whenever and wherever opportunity afforded, going into the homes and in the prayer meetings, giving encouragement and aid such as only devoted women can give.
Mrs. Virginia King, too, situated in the distant east, made her lovely home a base of operation for the missionaries of the cross. She too was of incalculable good to the annual councils.
Some achievements can only be known in the "Great Beyond," where there shall be a general revelation of records and deeds of Christian servants.
This gives some idea of the great work done by the women in their missionary work in North Carolina.
Their work was divided into home visitation, Bible instruction, charity distribution, organizing, strengthening and building up societies already organized.
Naturally the first and greatest need of the colored people after they secured some kind of homes was to have the proper regulations and practices within the home circles. As much as they stood in need of education, as much as they needed property, the greatest need of this people emerged from slavery with all its stains, and greatest need for many years thereafter was home training, and this the Women's Convention of North Carolina through its missionaries undertook to accomplish.
How well they succeeded is best seen in the splendid homes throughout North Carolina, especially among the Negro Baptists. Mrs. Mial, about whom mention was made, had considerable influence with the brethren, so necessary for the successful prosecution of the missionary work among the women, since they could only be reached through the leaders of the churches, usually the ministers and deacons; often too it was necessary to appear on the floor of the Associations and Conventions as well as the churches. She was especially adapted to this.
Mrs. R. A. Morris, of New Bern, N. C., too, was employed for some years and gave excellent accounts of real work accomplished throughout the eastern section of the State, her special field of labor.
Mrs. Roberta Bunn, of Selma, N. C., the exception who had been thus appointed without the usual course at the Training School, was appointed conjointly by the Women's Convention and the Educational and Missionary Convention. Mrs. Bunn was a woman of much Christian piety and zeal. Like the two already named she was possessed of peculiar adaptation to the missionary work, being called as she felt of God for this specific work. Her reports from year to year were an inspiration and encouragement to her Convention.
THE RELATION OF THE WOMEN'S CONVENTION TO THE EDUCATIONAL AND MISSIONARY CONVENTION.
For many years after the organization of the Women's Convention strenuous efforts were made to unite the Conventions forming the women into an auxiliary of the men's Convention, but for fear of the change of the autonomy and a final submerging of their Convention they would never consent to the change, and no doubt their position was wise, since alone, under the guidance of God and the aid of the leading brethren, they accomplished possibly most existing separate and apart. Still there was always the kindliest feeling between the two Conventions, the women sometimes taking part on the programs of the men's Convention and the men sometimes taking part with them.
By mutual consent a commission was appointed in the men's Convention to act as an advisory board for the Women's Convention. For many years the women made annual appropriations to the men to be used in connection with their Foreign Mission work.
In the Convention at Reidsville, 1907, it was unanimously voted that the Women's Convention of North Carolina should pay the expenses of Miss Cora A. Pair to labor as missionary under the auspices of the Lott-Carey Foreign Mission Convention in Africa.
At the meeting of the Lott-Carey Convention which met in Washington City September 2, 1908, the first quarter's salary of Miss Pair, $267, was paid in by the Women's Convention. No object appealed more readily to the generosity of the North Carolina women than Foreign Missions.
It may be truly said too, while the women were wholly dependent on the churches through which to organize the societies and prosecute their work, they contributed in many instances and in many ways to the general development and improvement of the churches. There are many imposing church structures throughout the State which owe their construction to the societies in the churches, and the zealous women at their helm.
We have mentioned the great good of the Convention through the women and we may as emphatically mention the good of the individual society.
Thousands of dollars were given in clothing to the naked through these societies, thousands in food for the hungry, and prayers without number at the bedside of the sick and dying.
It has been said that "many a flower has bloomed and shed its fragrance upon the desert air" unnoticed and unseen; as truly may it be said while much of these splendid deeds which we have mentioned have never come to the recognition which they deserve, yet the Heavenly Father, of whom it is said "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" sees and knows, and in the final consummation will give the reward which is their due. Possibly in no way, as a convention, did the Baptist women of North Carolina accomplish more than in one feature of their annual gatherings. At times it was thought that some of the women carried some of their views too far, but it was never thought that there was not great spiritual power and helpfulness in the Women's Convention of North Carolina; for wherever they met they left an indelible impression and a spiritual awakening upon the minds of many. In fact there are instances in which many souls were led to the blessed Christ and many cold and indifferent Christians awakened to new life and usefulness.
The report of the Convention of 1908, as an instance of their annual results, shows that there were eight thousand members of the different societies represented; two hundred and eighty-one dollars raised; and eleven hundred dollars expended in food and clothing. There were several other organizations existing in the State, separate and apart from the Convention, but as with the men there was a gradual unification of the forces. There was great rejoicing when the Northbound Association, with Mrs. R. A. Fitts, of Ridgeway, as President, and Mrs. W. N. Coats, of Margarettsville, as Secretary, came into the Convention with a strong force of Christian women. We close this chapter with the splendid results of this union going on and with the fields of golden harvests more evident to the Convention than ever; with zeal, anxiety and determination such as has never characterized the Convention before they go forth determined to labor on until their blessed Master calls them as He has called out of their ranks before, from persistent, faithful service, they may joyfully "lay down their cross for the crown."
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