Early History of Woman’s Work in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
This report deals with the early history of Woman’s Work in the Associate Reformed Presbyterial Church in the Carolinas and Georgia until 1903. Dates and names are important, but not as important as the work that the women did during this time.
History must be considered during this time. The Colonies were in the midst of the Revolutionary War during the middle to late 1700s. Staying alive and providing food and shelter for yourself and your family left little time to organize churches. Plus in this area the settlers were also dealing with the Cherokee Indians as the Cherokees did not appreciate the white man taking over his land. Battles were fought in both Carolinas and Georgia, especially in the upstate of South Caroline, and western North Carolina. This area became more settled after the Revolutionary War and the treaties with the Cherokees.
George became a state in January 1788. South Caroline became a state in May 1788. North Carolina became a state in November 1789. The states in the newly formed United States of America were very busy just surviving.
In 1790, pastorates of the ARP of the Carolinas and George met at Long Cane, SC to organize. This included 4 ministers and 44 congregations. In 1800, the group divided into the First and Second Presbyteries. On May, 1803, the Associate Reformed Synod of the Carolinas was established at Ebenezer Church, Fairfield County, SC, with 2000 members.
Woman’s Work began in 1818 at the Old Steel Creek Church, Mecklenburg County, NC. It was organized as “Home Mission Service” with the motto “Despise not the day of small things”.
The Ladies Missionary Society of King’s Creek Church, SC, was organized in 1871. In this same year the Woman’s Benevolent Society of the Winsboro, SC, Church was organized.
Women did not have time to formally organize into Ladies Aid Societies for many years. They were very busy just providing for their ever growing family. Gardens were planted and food preserved as best they could. Flax, linen, etc, had to be grown and made into clothing. Also the wool was obtained from the sheep and spun into thread to be made into cloth. These organizations began 75 to 100 years after the local ARP Church was established.
In 1873 the Due West Female Benevolent Society was organized with 9 members: “To help anyone in need; to supply food and medicine to the sick; and to aid worthy young men in preparation for the Gospel ministry.”
During the next 25 years, Woman’s Work was organized in more than 75 churches. In 1898, Dr. J. T. Chalmers, pastor of Charlotte ARP Church organized the Tabernacle NC Woman’s Society with 7 members. The Tabernacle congregation was organized a year later.
Synod gave Woman’s Work formal recognition in 1898, and appointed a General Superintendent of Woman’s Work.
In 1900 and every year since, a report of Woman’s Work has appeared in the Minutes of Synod. When the Superintendent of Woman’s Work was discontinued, the President of the Synodical Union submitted the report.
Names given to these Women’s Work varied. Names of the organization were: ‘A Mite Society’; ‘Ladies Aid Society’; Ladies Missionary Society’; ‘Ladies and Young People Missionary Society’; or ‘Ladies Benevolent Society’.
Money was raised in various ways. Many of the Societies had monthly dues ranging fro 10 cents to 25 cents. Some had initiation fees of 10 cents and 25 cents. This money was used for missions, missionary support, and to assist in the needs of the various communities.
These churches wre located in rural areas and the ladies raised chickens for eggs and meat. Sabbath eggs were sold and the money given to missions. Other ways to raise money included quilting, sewing garments, picking cotton, making bonnets, raising vegetables, serving hot suppers, and bazaars.
Bethel ARP Church, Winnsboro, SC, reports that two members of the Young Ladies Missionary Aid Society led to the acceptance of flowers in the sanctuary. Flowers and musical instruments had been banned until after 1900.
Smyrna ARP Church, Smyrna, SC, raised geese to make feather beds for their pastor’s family.
Union ARP Church, Richburg, SC, Woman’s Work was formed in 1875 in order to ‘disseminate the gospel among the heathen’. The money raised from the dues was used to purchase fabric that the members made into garments and sold to the community. This additional money was used to carry on work of the society.
The Missionary Societies were formed for friendship of other Christian women in the church; to learn more about God’s Word; to support the missionaries at home and in foreign fields; and to support their local church. Each church was responsible for its own little community. The ladies did not go beyond their local church many times because of difficulty of travel, and the many responsibilities of the home and family. Still, the ladies tried to serve their Lord, and their neighbors. As twenty-first century ladies we are proud of their work and fortitude.We are also thankful for their work and humbled by their determination.
Material for this report is taken from these sources:
Iva Cook Bryson, compiler, Woman’s Work in the Associate Reformed Church. A.R. Presbyterian Company, Due West SC 1940.
The Centennial History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1803-1903. Prepared and published by the order of the Synod, 1905
Mrs. Julia Oates, compiler. Woman’s Work in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church 1982.
Caroline W. Todd and Sidney West. South Carolina: A Day at a Time. Sandlapper Publishing Co, Orangeburg SC 1997.