United Methodist Women in the Early Years
By Lindley Small & Marcia Gaddis
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
As Peachtree Road United Methodist Church celebrates one hundred years of active ministry, it must recognize the service and invaluable support women have contributed to its success from the very beginning. In those early days in 1925, nineteen citizens of the Buckhead neighborhood in Atlanta committed to become charter members of the proposed Peachtree Methodist Church South. Thirteen of the charter members were women!
The Andoe home was left to the church and has served as a residence for several of its ministers. Mrs. Andoe became the second president of the Woman’s Missionary Society.
On the morning of June 24, 1925, a group of seventeen ladies gathered in the home of charter members, Mr. and Mrs. R.E. Andoe, at 3218 West Shadowlawn Avenue to form an official unit of the Woman’s Missionary Society. The Society was encouraged by the support of the North Atlanta District and the women of St. Mark Methodist Church in Atlanta. These women from St. Mark were eager to see the new church grow and offered their services to help the Society begin organizing.
The twenties was a decade of great social change: women had just been given the right to vote in 1920. Many were eager to become involved in activities outside the home, and the church offered one avenue for them to do this. The Woman’s Missionary Society provided a structured, service opportunity for women in the Methodist Church and the women in this newly organized church set to work with enthusiasm. Mrs. M.D. Jamerson was elected the Society’s first president. With a full slate of officers and committee chairs, the women set to work.
Quilting As a Fundraiser
The Society began to organize immediately to support the church’s plans for purchasing a lot and constructing a basic worship space. As the costs of land and building materials accumulated, financial resources became scarce. The ladies set about raising funds by making a quilt to honor all the early church members. Church membership had grown to nearly ninety by the end of 1925, and each member or family, Sunday School class, or member of another church group was invited to purchase a quilt square for twenty-five cents each. The project was an immediate hit, with individually created designs and names filling each colorful section. The WMS ladies gathered and pieced together the squares and sewed the batten and backing fabric, creating a beautiful memorial to our early church. All profits from the quilt project were donated to the Church to offset building expenses.
Mrs. M.T. Salter, another charter member and active WMS officer, preserved the quilt until presenting it to her granddaughter, Cordelia Barksdale, for safekeeping. Cordelia, a very active UMW officer, presented this jewel to be hung in the UMW office at the church for many years.
When the church underwent some shuffling of space in the early 21st century, the UMW room was reassigned. UMW President, Grace Sanders, rescued this artifact and had it professionally cleaned and restored. This lovely piece will be on display in the Archives Resource Room, where professional preservation steps are in place.
The Woman’s Missionary Society Organization
The work of the WMS spread over many areas in the new, growing church and embraced new members in many areas of service. This was the only organized group for the women of the church during these early years, but it was organized in such a way that all women could be involved. WMS members served as table hostesses for Wednesday night suppers and as greeters for services and gatherings. They paid visits to those who were ill or grieving the loss of loved ones. They even arranged flowers for the altar each Sunday and oversaw the maintenance of the parsonage.
But the role of The Woman’s Missionary Society was much broader than the local church. As early as 1869, Methodist women had been working for the betterment of the world. The organization helped young churches to establish themselves in service capacities. Their mission was to unite all the women of the church in Christian living and service, supporting Christian work among women and children around the world, the development of spiritual life, the study of the needs of the world, the strengthening of the local church, and the raising of missionary funds for home and abroad. (Nat Long, pg100)
How Names Changed Through the Years
- 1939 – The Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, and the Methodist South merged to become The Methodist Church
- 1940 – General Conference renamed the Woman’s Missionary Society, changing the name to the Woman’s Society of Christian Service
- 1968 – The Methodist Church and the Evangelical Brethren Church joined to become The United Methodist Church; the Women’s Society of Christian Service became United Methodist Women
The Formation of Circles
The Woman’s Missionary Society formed small groups called Circles. These groups met monthly to support each other in spiritual growth, promote friendship and provide funding for missions at home and abroad. WMS membership continued to grow, and by 1935 the WMS had 124 members. Ten years later that number had doubled, and the trend continued until there were twenty-four Circles with twenty to twenty-five members in each group. Each Circle had a Chair, Co-chair, Study Leader, and Secretary/Treasurer. The Circle would gather for fellowship, business, and study before joining all other circles in the Great Hall for a program and lunch. These gatherings were scheduled for the second Tuesdays from September through June.
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Living Our Roots
by Kelly Brannon
The women of Peachtree Road today continue the tradition of uniting in service (and getting so much done!). One example is the annual all-women Global Mission trip to Guatemala City. Twenty women travel together to serve the local community through home construction projects, engagement with children at an orphanage, and assembly of food parcels for distribution. The open and vulnerable dynamic that is shared during this time of prayer, fellowship, and service contributes to the transformative experience and connects these women long after the trip ends. We are grateful for the continued gift of service at this church.
Recollections from Our Members
Jane Hill, Betty Lee Kennedy, Rosalie North and Janie Barker recall joining WMS as newlyweds in the 1950s when their mothers-in-law recruited them.
“My service as an officer at our church led to service on committees at District, Conference and Jurisdiction levels where I had the privilege to interact with inspiring women of many generations, nations and races.”
– Rosalie North
“I had an amazing adventure as UMW President when I attended the national convention in California. I was deeply inspired as the energy of that meeting was beyond description.”
– Janie Barker
“I formed friendships there that are a part of the foundation of my life…They have helped me deepen my faith and have shown me things…going on in the world that I would not otherwise have known.”
– Georgia Harris
“When I joined a circle, I was privileged to get to know the older women of the church. Learning from women like Mrs. Calvert, Mrs. Respess, Mrs. Addison gave me such confidence as a young woman in the church. And the lasting friendships we made with each other at church spread into forming bridge clubs, dinner groups and the Seekers Sunday School class. We made our life-long friends through this organization of the WMS. I will be eternally grateful.”
– Betty Lee Kennedy
For further reading about the history of the Woman’s Missionary Society: