NWMA History 1950-2000
(This article appeared in the BMA paper entitled “Net-Work”)

Women’s Missionary Auxiliary 1910-1952

By Mrs. Gerald Kellar


An event which occurred in Mississippi, north of Natchez, reveals the courage of a great woman. It was August 25, 1795—yes, 1795. Members of Salem Baptist; Church met secretly, for the Spanish leaders had forbidden pastor Curtis to speak in public. If he did so, he would be sent to the silver mines in Mexico for the rest of his life.

On that day, sentinels from the church were posted on every road leading to the home designated for worship. One of these watchmen hurried to report that five Spanish officers were coming. Quickly the men of the church scattered to the thickets. The group had planned for the pastor and two newly converted men to go to South Carolina. The three men barely escaped to nearby Fort Gibson.

The question: who would get clothes and supplies to the men? No man dared to go for fear of being exiled to the silver mines. Aunt Chloe Holt, a midwife of the settlement, volunteerd to make the trip. Being strong-willed and very courageous, she asked for a man’s horse and saddle. Then she set out alone, facing wild animals, Indians, and dismal swampland. The brave pioneer arrived safely at Fort Gibson, delivered the goods, and the men went on to South Carolina. After many years, known and praised for her heroic deed, Aunt Chloe Holt died and was buried in Warren County, Mississippi—truly a Baptist hero. (Mississippi Baptists: Then and Now, P.M. Cochran)

Two centuries have passed since that incredible act of bravery. Women have continued to help spread the gospel, perhaps not in such a heroic manner as Chloe Holt, but nevertheless untiring and faithful in their service. Look back at the nation during the first fifty years of the twentieth century.

The rural church early in the century was usually erected in a grove of trees with spaces for buggy and wagon hitching posts. Permanent tables were built around the trees so that the members had a place for “dinner on the ground.” Many churches had preaching once or twice  a month, thus labeling the churches as half-time or quarter-time. The members were ready for the summer revival (two or three weeks) after the crops were laid by and the women had done the canning. Many were saved during the “big meetin’,” and the baptisms took place at the nearby pond or creek.

Many churches were dependent on the faithfulness of the women who were motivated to spread the gospel. The women cared for their families, attended services regularly, and gathered often for quilting day with time for Bible study. The group earned the name “ladies aid society” or “ladies auxiliary.” The women liked the idea of the auxiliary, and the plan for a local auxiliary spread among our Baptist churches.

The Baptist Missionary Association of Texas was formed on December 6, 1900, at Lindale, Texas. The brethren passed a motion to invite the women of the churches to form a women’s auxiliary, working in connection with the new association. The following day women from six churches met and organized the first Women’s Missionary Auxiliary. Their first offering was $12.00, designated for foreign missions and Jacksonville College, thus giving evidence of their purpose: the spread of the gospel through missions, Christian education, orphans’ homes, and benevolence. In the 1920’s that group aided the Lupers as missionaries to Brazil and then to Portugal  where today there remains a  group of faithful believers.

Six years later in 1906, the Baptist women of Arkansas formed a state WMA in Forest City. They had a desire to spread the gospel, reaching those at home and abroad. Mrs. J. E. (Matilda Elizabeth) Cobb was a great hero in the work in Arkansas with the local WMA being her great love. It seemed fitting that another great concern of hers was for preachers’ wives, since her husband was a veteran preacher. Mrs. Cobb passed her love for women’s work to her daughter, Mrs. Bernice Bates (deceased); and then to her granddaughter Mrs. Judy Wallace, who is very active in WMA work. What greater heritage can a women bestow upon her children than a  desire for continuing the work she loved and promoted.

Many years later the idea for a state auxiliary reached Mississippi, though the women had been busy in the local WMA for years. In 1941 at Mount Vernon Baptist Church (First Baptist) Louin, the women organized a Mississippi State Auxiliary with the purpose of cooperation among the local groups in spreading the gospel. The first president of that organization was Mrs. D. N. (Erma) Jackson, wife of a great Baptist leader. Mrs. Jackson encouraged WMA work wherever she lived and passed that desire on to her daughter, Mrs. S. T. (Jean) Sullivan of California.

These three state auxiliaries are but examples of the determination and faithfulness of Baptist women. Women heroes in other states led in the establishment of local and state auxiliary work. Look about you. Think of the women in your church who are heroes. Say thanks to them. I cannot say enough good words about our great heritage. Thanks to all of those unnamed women heroes in our work!


The Fifties by Mrs. John W. Duggar

The decade of the fifties witnessed the birth of the national Women’s Missionary Auxiliary. The idea had been presented as a suggestion at a Texas WMA meeting. ON March 10, 1953, 252 women from 100 churches met at Temple Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the suggestion became reality. Mrs. Oliver Forbes from Texas moved to organize a national WMA. A constitution prepared by Mrs. Vernon Tapp and Mrs. L. L. Collins of Eighteenth Street Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas, was adopted, and Mrs. John W. Duggar was elected first president of the national WMA.

From the very beginning the national WMA has been true to the missionary part of her name. In 1953, the WMA voted to send the Jack Batemans to Formosa (now called Taiwan), where we did not have a missionary. Other missionary projects such as the school in Brazil and the church in Cape Verde Islands followed in the fifties.

In 1955, Mrs. Duggar passed the president’s gavel to Mrs. Douglas Laird. In 1957, it went to Mrs. Z. W. Swafford and to Mrs C. O. Strong in 1959. The largest national WMA attendance in the fifties was at Texarkana, Texas, in 1959. There were 389 registered messengers from 207 churches and a total attendance of 604. Fourteen states and Mexico were represented, and twenty-two new WMA’s were added.

The Sixties by Mrs. Vernon (Janet) Tapp

The sixties saw extreme highs and lows. A period of mourning and introspection followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Great turbulence characterized the Civil Rights movement. The Vietnam War caused a sense of conflicting feelings over whether our nation’s involvement was morally right or wrong. The U. S. Supreme Court began rendering decisions to remove prayer from our public schools. The rapid expansion of the space program resulted in great anxiety, expectation, and exhilaration as our country was first to land a man on the moon.

In this environment the national WMA continued to stretch out her hand in service to her Lord. A missionary or his wife as the featured speaker at meetings created greater interest in missions. The addition of a recommendations committee became a big step forward in the efficient operation of the annual meetings.

With a mother’s heart the WMA had an intensified concern for her children. The national GMA was organized and a national youth auxiliary promoter was elected. The GMA and Sunbeam Manuals and the Handbook for Counselors were published.

A compassionate heart led the WMA to enter the field of medical missions with offerings to Brazil, to a nurse trainee in Portugal, and to an emergency need of the Portugal seminary. Ladies donated medical supplies to be sent to foreign missionaries to be used in their work.

Ladies of the WMA graciously contributed their books of trading stamps to purchase an airplane for missionary use in Brazil and for a bus for use by missionaries in Taiwan. Ladies gave their old costume jewelry to newly-elected missionaries to Bolivia to help them make friends with the natives.

The national WMA raised funds to purchase a lot and church building in both Vera Cruz, Mexico, and Tokyo, Japan and a church building in Taiwan.

Aware of the value and importance of the printed word, she contributed to Enlarge Literature Ministry (now MLM) and WMA printing. To serve the needs of both Portugal and Brazil the WMA Manual was printed in the Portuguese language.

To aid interstate missionaries, the national WMA helped purchase a mobile trailer which missions could use for a meeting place. The national WMA stretched out her hand by financially supporting the radio ministry The Harvest Gleaner Hour (Lifeword). Land had been donated to the BMAA for the beautiful Daniel Springs Encampment. The WMA project helped to fund buildings and facilities needed to get it ready for use, including a nursery building for the encampment.


The Seventies by Mrs. Danny (Dian) Pope

The decade began with Mrs. H. W. (Marie) Darst serving as president. In 1973, Mrs. Darst assumed the responsibilities of the office of corresponding secretary, and continues to serve in that office.

The WMA made several advances in the youth work. Youth auxiliaries claimed a regular place on the project list during those years. In 1974, the revised Sunbeam Manual and Handbook was available with the Sunbeam study plan. The vision of Glenda Haynes became reality in 1976 with the long-awaited visualized Forward Step lessons. In 1978, the WMA voted to print the GMA, My Special Place, a GMA workbook for Forward Step studies.

The 1972 project included help for the publications department to produce VBS material. In 1973, the Seminary and Harvest Gleaner Hour were on the project list. In 1975, an all-time high of over $16,000 was given to the project fund.

The seventies also saw changes in the Auxiliary. The theme for 1975 was “Reaching Out in Service” and saw the introduction of the WMA theme song of the same name as written by Ruthie Brooks. The WMA approved the idea of a reviewing council for girls to pass all Forward Steps. In 1976, the national WMA Standard of Excellence was presented and accepted. Also in 1976 a study course book committee was elected which began the publishing of a study book each year.

Focus was born. In 1975, the WMA approved printing Focus twice a year. Then in 1977, the WMA approved a plan to publish monthly through the publications department. Pat Quesenbury was the first managing editor, and the first edition appeared in January, 1978.

In the Bicentennial year, many ladies came dressed in attire of 1776 for the meeting at Jackson, Mississippi. The WMA celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1978 and a special commemorative bookmark was given to each lady.


The Eighties by Mrs. Bob (Bettye) White

What do you remember about the ‘80s? Cabbage Patch dolls, the Potato Head Kids and Pound Puppies? The Iran Contra Affair, the Challenger disaster and the end of the Cold War in 1989? Our grand lady, the Statue of Liberty, was renovated as she celebrated 100 years in 1986. The pop culture brought concern to parents whose children wanted to experience the now generation. WMA ladies will remember the ‘80s as a time when WMA flourished, and exciting things were happening in the local, district, state, and national meetings.

Ladies supported the national meeting in good numbers. There were only two years in which attendance dropped below 600. The high attendance came in 1987 when 706 registered in Biloxi, Mississippi. New auxiliaries were added each year as well. The greatest addition came in 1986 when eighteen auxiliaries petitioned for membership.

The national WMA enjoyed good leadership through the eighties. The presidents serving through these years included Mrs. Bert Jones, Mrs. Lavay Crawley, Mrs. Bob White, Mrs. Elvin McCann, Mrs. Loy Westbrook , Mrs. Billy Smith, and Mrs. Bill Goodwin. Mrs. Westbrook introduced the President’s Award for the auxiliary contributing the most to the project. After her tenure the WMA chose to make the President’s Award permanent. Mrs. Westbrook also invited ladies to participate in a linen shower for the Honduras hospital. She then spent her lunch hour counting 437 sheet, 412 pillow cases, 436 bath towels, 179 hand towels, 965 wash cloths, 5 sheet towels, 3 blankets, and 6 quilts.

The WMA’s continued to support associational work. Projects included ABS, youth auxiliaries, Focus, Baptist Publishing House, FAME, Honduras Orphanage, Newsom  Medical Missions, Uruguay Building Fund, Medical Missions, Philippine Publications, and the Missions Department General Fund.


The Nineties by Mrs. Ray (Maeva) Thompson

The psalmist declared in Psalms 119:89, 90, “For ever, O LORD, they word is settled in heaven. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations.” Truly, the Lord has shown His faithfulness to the national WMA throughout the past decade. Amid the onslaught of Satan the Lord once again proved His Word faithful and true when He promised to give courage and strength to those who desire to serve Him. Throughout the turbulent years of the nineties, the Lord walked faithfully beside the national WMA in her every endeavor.

During the nineties, national WMA was privileged to raise over $300,000 for missions work, ranging from Honduras to the Chapare of Bolivia, from the Spanish Publications Ministry to Baptist Medical Missions International, from the building of a much-needed facility for the Baptist Publishing House, to the provision of a warehouse for food, clothing, medicine, and literature for missions around the world. Through these years the WMA was also enabled to continue her sponsorship of Sunbeams and GMA, a ministry more vital than words can express.

A number of talented and committed writers were used of the Lord to pen our WMA study course books in the nineties enriching our understanding of our role as servants, wives, mothers, and witnesses. These studies included: Staying In Touch, by Mrs. Maxine Duggar; Far Better, Far Worse, by Mrs. Norma Fields; Mama Said, by Mrs. Jean Sullivan; Love Reaching, by Mrs. Mary Smith; Cultivating Your Christian Life, Mrs. Carole Lybrand; Bloom Where You’re Planted, by Mrs. Elda Skinner; Is Love Enough? by Mrs. Glenda Haynes; All That We Need , by Mrs. Karen Mitchell; and Through the Storm, by Mrs. Nettie Ann Bowman.

A spirit of excitement and expectation of the blessings of the Lord characterized the national WMA meetings of the nineties as programs were rendered and speakers conveyed inspiring challenges to our ladies to reach for greater heights of service. We were admonished to walk in humility with a servant’s heart, but to boldly go forth to carry the gospel at every opportunity.

Even our meeting places conveyed to us how awesome a God we serve, as we enjoyed the natural beauty and warm hospitality of such cities as Colorado Springs, Pigeon Forge, Tulsa, Lubbock, Port Arthur, and Dallas-Fort Worth.

During the nineties, six ladies were honored to lead the national WMA as president. The included Mrs. Barbara White, Mrs. Deborah Goodwin, Mrs. Wilma Schoenrock, Mrs. Maeva Thompson, Mrs. Norma Womble, and Mrs. Elda Skinner. Our mutual testimony, and that of all the ladies wherever we visited, is a prayer of deep gratitude to the Lord for His bountiful blessings upon the work of WMA. May His precious name be glorified always in WMA and may those who come behind us find us faithful. Should we be privileged to witness His coming, may we be found laboring diligently in the service He has appointed.


2000 and Beyond by Mrs. Bill (Elda) Skinner

From March 10, 1953, to April 18, 2000, God has blessed the national Women’s Missionary Auxiliary of America. We have been reminded of the women who saw the need and had the vision to launch out in faith and determination to begin this work that was dedicated to God for the women of the early 1950s to the women of the future.

God opened the door for the Women’s Missionary Auxiliary and from its very beginning the WMA has loyally and constantly supported the entire BMAA work. Participating in a united effort from the four levels of work – local, district, state and national – the WMA has worked to serve the Lord’s churches in helping spread the gospel of Christ.

There are unlimited opportunities in the plan of work that involves missions, Bible study, evangelism, benevolence, youth auxiliaries, and Christian education. We stand ready to continue letting nothing move or hinder. Yes, God opened the door and that door is still open today. There are and will be many challenges for the future, but the ladies who started this organization in the early 1950s also faced many challenges. History has revealed what God has accomplished through the auxiliary work.

We have not completed the task God called us to do. God is issuing the call more loudly than ever before and is waiting upon us to allow Him to work through us even to a greater extent.

For 2000 and beyond we, as auxiliary women, must do those things instructed in Matthew 28:19, 20. Go and teach!

When will the door be closed? When Jesus comes.

When will WMA cease to be? When Jesus comes.

When will our work be done? When Jesus comes.

For 2000 and beyond, Proverbs 31:25 is a promise from God. “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”

Until then, may we be found faithful!