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Women's Missionary and Service Commission Executive Secretary (Beulah Kauffman) Files


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

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Women's Missionary and Service Commission Executive Secretary (Beulah Kauffman) Files, 1953-1987 | Mennonite Church USA Archives

By Colleen McFarland

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Collection Overview

Title: Women's Missionary and Service Commission Executive Secretary (Beulah Kauffman) Files, 1953-1987Add to your cart.

ID: IV/20/023

Primary Creator: Women's Missionary and Service Commission

Extent: 5.5 Linear Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: Flat

Subjects: Mennonite women, Women's Missionary and Service Commission

Forms of Material: Correspondence

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Correspondence and subject files of the lead staff person for the Women's Missionary and Service Commission (WMSC).  These files primarily document the tenure of Beulah Kauffman (1966-1978), but also include documentation from other executive secretaries, including Florence Shantz (1956-1958), Doris Snyder (1958-1959), Dorothy McCammon (1960-1966) and Barbara Reber (1979-1986).  Researchers will find that materials in these records provide information about both the WMSC's activities and the WMSC's relationships to other Mennonite organizations.

Biographical Note

The Women's Missionary and Service Auxiliary was an auxiliary organization of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (Mennonite Church), Elkhart, Indiana. It grew out of the sewing circle and women's missionary organizations which developed during the first half of the 20th century in the Mennonite Church congregations in the United States and Canada. As early as 1895 Mennonite women in eastern Pennsylvania were sewing garments for the poor. As a result of the work of Mary A. Mellinger in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Paradise Sewing Circle was organized in 1897. The Associated Sewing Circles was organized in Lancaster County in 1911. As early as 1900 a Sisters' Sewing Circle was organized in the Science Ridge Mennonite Church, Sterling, Illinois. During that decade other circles were organized in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Ontario. As early as 1911 Mennonite (MC) women, under the leadership of Clara Eby Steiner (1873-1929) of Columbus Grove, Ohio, began to promote a general society of sewing circles. With the formation of a general organization, Mary Burkhard became its president, serving 1916-1923. She was followed by Mary Ann Cressman 1923-1930, Lina Z. Ressler 1930-1937, Cora Buzzard 1937-1944, Ruth B. Miller 1944-1950, and Minnie Graber 1950- . Clara Eby Steiner became the first secretary of the organization, serving 1916-1926, during which time she wrote many letters to promote sewing circles. A third pioneer was Ruth A. Yoder, who served as treasurer of the organization 1916-1929. Mary Ann Cressman, Crissie Y. Shank, Mary Ann Gerig, and Stella S. Kreider were additional members of the general committee in the 1920's. In 1917 the women's organization became churchwide, when general officers and branch secretaries to cover the entire church were elected, and in 1924 its permanent constitution was adopted. In her second annual newsletter, secretary Clara Eby Steiner reported that for the year ending 31 March 1919, thirteen branch secretaries had reported total receipts of $13,763.58. In addition they had reported 11,957 garments made and at the same time the Friends reported 27,189 garments given to them for war relief by Mennonite women. By March 1920 the organization had 13 branches, 124 circles, and 2,262 members.

Beginning in 1922 the organization operated under the name Mennonite Women's Missionary Society. Because of a lack of good coordination between this society and the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, in 1928 the Board accepted a report providing for a "Woman's Mission Committee" to operate under the Mission Board. In its printed constitution of 1933 the name adopted for the committee was "The General Sewing Circle Committee of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities." Misunderstandings arose during this time of the transition of the women's society from an independent status to one of dependency on the Mission Board, and consequently for a time the membership in the new organization was less than half of what it had been in the former society. Eventually membership in the new organization surpassed the highest membership obtained by the old and was widely accepted. The WMSA met annually in connection with the annual meeting of the Mission Board.

In 1947 the committee was again reorganized, its name was changed to Women's Missionary Sewing Circle Organization, and from that time it was regarded as an "auxiliary of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities." In January 1954 its first full-time secretary was appointed. With the rapid growth of the organization and the extension of its activities into areas beyond sewing, the name was changed to Women's Missionary and Service Auxiliary in its 1955 annual meeting. President Minnie Graber reported, "We strive toward the vision of concerting the efforts of every Mennonite woman and girl to the total program of the Mennonite Church so that wherever the church is found, in city or country, at home or abroad, in charitable or educational institutions, in community efforts, in relief to the ends of the world, there we may be found enhancing the attractiveness of the Gospel and giving expression to the love of Jesus."

The 1958 secretary's report listed 826 auxiliaries or local units, of which 236 were girls' auxiliaries, with a total membership of 15,690. Cash receipts during the year totaled over $175,000 and other contributions amounted to a value of more than $121,000. More than 71,000 garments were received besides large amounts of bedding and linens, baby garments, Christmas bundles, and other material aid gifts. Between the local groups and the general organization were the district organizations through which the national officers worked. Emphasis was given to women's fellowship meetings, in which mission and home interests were discussed and prayers offered for the work of the church. A literature secretary was responsible for producing the Daily Prayer Guide (1951- ), of which 12,000 copies were printed for 1958, and the WMSA Monthly (begun in 1930 as Missionary Sewing Circle Letters), which had a circulation of 11,800. A suggested reading list (twelve books) in flyer form was printed and distributed in 1957. The general committee had begun work on A Handbook for the use of its local and district officers. The executive secretary carried out the assignments of the general committee, prepared the Program Guide for the use of the local auxiliaries, prepared publicity, and informed the auxiliaries of the mission needs of the church. A secretary of home and special interests promoted prayer fellowships, homemakers' organizations, and mission study groups. The secretary of girls' activities promoted girls' missionary and service auxiliaries, supplied materials for a page on "With Our Girls" in the Monthly, and served as assistant Junior Activities Secretary on the Commission for Christian Education. -- MG

1989 Update

The Women’s Missionary and Service Commission was a church-wide organization with a special interest in women’s and girls’ activities in the church. It was recognized for its many years of significant ministry as a mission and service agency of the church. It sought to involve the women and the girls in the church through its conference and congregational organizations and activities. In the Mennonite Church reorganization in 1971, the Women’s Missionary and Service commission (WMSC, formerly Women’s Missionary and Service Auxiliary) was placed in an adjunct relationship with the newly formed Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries.

Executive secretaries to the 1980s included Beulah Kauffman, Barbara (Bender) Reber (1978-1988), and Marian Hostetler (1988-). Velorus (Gingrich) Shearer of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania served as editor of the monthly publication, Voice, after 1978, replacing Lois Gunden Clemens (1960-1978). During the 1980s a concerted effort was made to involve women in business and the professions as well as homemakers. In 1979 a committee composed of Alice (Weber) Lapp, Jocele (Thut) Meyer, Emma (Sommers) Richards, Barbara K. (Bender) Reber (chairperson), and Leonard Gross (consultant) was formed to begin writing the history of Mennonite Church (MC) women. Mennonite Women 1683-1983: A Story of God's Faithfulness, ed. by Elaine (Sommers) Rich, was released in the spring of 1983.

In 1983 the Bylaws Revision Task Force presented to the General Assembly (MC) recommendations for some structure changes. This was approved on 5 August 1983 at the Bethlehem, PA, General Assembly. This placed the WMSC as an Associate Group in the Mennonite Church. The General Assembly’s constitution permited special interest groups to request recognition by the General Board as associate groups, with their guidelines subject to approval by the General Board. Such associate groups continued to maintain primary relationships in the regional conferences. Organizations which qualified as associate groups appointed up to six delegates to the General Assembly and members to the General Board.    

The Women’s Missionary and Service Commission merged with Women in Mission (General Conference Mennonite Church) in 1997 to form Mennonite Women. Following the realignment of the General Conference Mennonite Church, the Mennonite Church (MC) and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada into Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Women USA formed in 2003. It worked in partnership with its Canadian sister organization, Canadian Women in Mission, to produce print resources. -- BKR

Subject/Index Terms

Mennonite women
Women's Missionary and Service Commission

Administrative Information

Repository: Mennonite Church USA Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 3 records cartons and one oversize poster

Access Restrictions: These materials are open for public research.

Use Restrictions: Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. Copyright owned by Mennonite Church USA Archives.

Preferred Citation: Women's Missionary and Service Commission Executive Secretary (Beulah Kauffman) Files, 1955-1985.  IV-20-023.  Mennonite Church USA Archives - Goshen.  Goshen, Indiana.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1],
[Box 2],
[Box 3],

Box 3Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Women in Mission - Window to Mission, 1974-1976Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Women in Mission, 1977Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Yoder's Department Store - Orders for Bedding/Linens, 1974-1978Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Allegheny WMSC Programs and News Items, 1974-1978Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Atlantic Coast, 1977-1983Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Franconia WMSC - News Items, Programs, Correpondence, 1972-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Illinois Conference WMSC - Programs, Correspondence, Minutes, 1962-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Franklin Conference, 1965-1982Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Indiana-Michigan WMSC - Programs, Minutes, Correspondence, 1973-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Iowa-Nebraska Conference, 1978-1983Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Lancaster Conference, 1976-1983Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Beulah Kauffman Collection - New York State Fellowship, 1974-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Northwest Conference, 1970-1978Add to your cart.
Folder 14: Beulah Kauffman Collection - North Central Conference, 1982-1983Add to your cart.
Folder 15: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Ontario WMSC - Programs, Minutes, Correspondence, 1972-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 16: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Ohio, 1972-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 17: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Pacific Coast Conference, 1970-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 18: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Rocky Mountain Conference, 1970-1983Add to your cart.
Folder 19: Beulah Kauffman Collection - South Central Conference, 1968-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 20: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Southeast Conference, 1975-1980Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Southwest Conference, 1970-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 22: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Virginia Conference, 1967-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 23: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Region II - WMSC, 1974-1975Add to your cart.
Folder 24: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Region IV- WMSC, 1974-1975Add to your cart.
Folder 25: Beulah Kauffman Collection - Region V - WMSC, 1972-1983Add to your cart.

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