Sarah Doremus

They call me, “the mother of Missions.”  I suppose it’s because many missionaries came and went from her home.  I have been interested in foreign missions ever since I was a child.  And God has given me the opportunity to engage in this interest.

My husband, Thomas is a merchant like my father was and we have nine children.  When we married, I became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and continued my charitable work. 

I have been very busy doing what I can to help other.  In 1828, I organized a ladies’ relief society to alleviate the suffering of Greek women. I helped to found and lead the Women’s Prison Association and the New York House and School of Industry. I also founded the Nursery and Child’s Hospital, the Presbyterian Home for Aged Women and the Woman’s Hospital in New York City. I distributed tracts, collected medical supplies and raised funds for worthy causes.

My love for foreign missions prompted me to arrange for David Abeel, the first Dutch Reformed missionary from the United States, who had returned from five years in China, to speak to women in New York on the necessity of women organizing themselves to send missionaries.  My idea of a women’s organization was opposed by Rufus Anderson of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions opposed the idea of a women’s organization and the women submitted to his authority.

However, as God would have it, there was a greet need for women in Burma.  To meet this need, I became the founding president of the Woman’s Union Missionary Society (WUMS), the first American non-denominational women’s missionary society.  Our object is to send single women as teachers and missionaries to Asia.  From the headquarters which is my home, I directed all of the activities.

Throughout my life, I have assisted missionaries of many denominations by providing hospitality, outfits, money, correspondence and support.  As a firm believer that Christians who belonged to different Christian denominations should work together to develop closer relationships among their churches and promote Christian unity, I made the first financial contribution for Methodist women’s work in North India.

I’m very dedicated to my work, so much so, that on one occasion when Thomas bought me a beautiful, expensive shawl, I begged him to return it. And I used the money he had spent on the shawl to buy supplies for some delicate needlework and embroidery which I sold for $500 to give to Hawaiian missions.

On January 22, 1877, Sarah died but she left behind a legacy which showed the necessity for female missionaries. 

Well reported of for good works, [Sarah Doremus] hath brought up children, she hath lodged strangers, she hath washed the saints’ feet, she hath relieved the afflicted, she hath diligently followed every good work”—Dr. E.P. Rogers, Funeral Sermon

I decided to write about Sarah Doremus in the first person using the information in the biographical accounts of her remarkable life. Some of the things, I imagined she might have thought like God giving her the opportunity to be involved in foreign missions and sending women as missionaries to Burma.

Sources:  Christianity.com; Wikipedia; BU School of Theology; Encyclopedia.com

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