The WOMAN’S FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY was founded in 1872 at Second Church on Superior St., with the purpose of helping and supporting female Presbyterian missionaries in their work in foreign countries.
The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was the second iteration of its kind; the first was founded in 1833, and met in the FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (OLD STONE), before it was dissolved. The organization was originally known as the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Presbyterian Churches of Cleveland, and a derivative branch, the Woman’s Presbyterial Foreign Missionary Society, was founded a year later. At the Society’s first meeting, the proposal to make the organization exclusively Presbyterian was passed and effected, and a constitution was put into place. The first president of the Society was Mrs. E. H. Huntington, along with vice-presidents Mrs. J. N. McGiffert and Mrs. Eleroy Curtis.
The first act of the Society was to sponsor Miss Mary P. Dascomb, a missionary in Paulo, Brazil. Within its first year, the Society gathered $1,033 in funds, allowing it to purchase a building in Woodstock, India, as well as send money to support students abroad. Much of the money raised by the Society went to investing in real estate to establish schools, homes, hospitals, and asylums. On average 10 missionaries were sent abroad per year, to make a total of 235 by 1894. Additionally, roughly 1000 native people were hired to support the missionaries in the field.
Meetings were held quarterly, in conjunction with those of the other Presbyteries until 1885, after which they switched to twice annually. The Society’s primary purpose was to send and sponsor women missionaries, establishing schools and spreading the word of Christ. They had missionaries go to such places as Ningbo, China, Yokohama, Japan, and Oromia, Persia. By 1894, the average monthly collection was $10,400 per month, or $350 per day, resulting in over $3,000,000 raised.
The Society hosted semi-annual conventions: the convention of March 1894, was held at Epworth Memorial Church. The Society had 22 auxiliaries and 18 missionary bands, most of which gave progress reports at the semiannual conventions. These bands were made up of young girls, aged eight to fourteen who participated in different branches and contributed aid. At these conventions, missionaries stationed in various parts of the world presented on local cultures, and gave updates on the progress of missionary work at different global locations. At this time, the Society managed 400 schools and over 13,000 students. It also supported 10 orphanages, eight training schools and three homes for homeless women. In addition, the Society oversaw 13 hospitals, all of which were managed by qualified female medical missionaries. In 1893 over 50,000 women received care in these hospitals.
On March 14, 1914, the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society was officially united with the Women’s Home Missionary Society, whose cause was to invigorate home missionary efforts as well as raise money for relief for families and schools. After this merger, the Societies were renamed the Woman's Missionary Society of Cleveland Presbytery. In 1926 the name changed again to the Presbyterial Missionary Society of Cleveland Presbytery. The Society lasted until 1940.