Southwestern States Mission: Lady Missionaries’ Perfect Right to Teach

By February 3, 2013

A few weeks ago Julie M. Smith discussed 1 Corinthians 14:35 in ?Should Women Pray in Public?? at Times and Seasons. Amelia Carling, the first full-time, female missionary in the Southwestern States Mission, referred to this verse in her diary entry for 1901 Dec 03 [1]:

Tuesday evening we packed our grips and walked over to sister Hedges, found her gone. We went to the neighbors but could not find her. We had a hard time getting thru wire fences but almost frightened the neighbor girl as she knew we were ?mormons?. We learned that Sister Hedges had gone to stay all night with her mother so we retraced our steps, going thru the woods just as it was getting dark arriving just after dark at bro. Stevens? again. While passing along this road at this time of night brought to us some of the experiences which the Elders have in their travels. We thought how we would feel if we were strangers in that part and were seeking entertainment and knew not who would take us in. We felt thankful to Father in heaven for the many blessings and kind friends he had blessed us with.

We got back to the house just after dark after a walk of about three miles. The evening was spent very pleasantly spent conversing, singing, and best of all we proved to Bros. Stevens and Hasty who were opposed to women speaking in church, that we could find passages in the Bible to prove that women in those days, as well as in our own day, were helpers in the church. We gave the references in Philippians IV 3, Romans XVI 3, Acts XVIII 26. They had never heard the passages before, but they had heard the one in I Cor. XIV 35 where Paul says it is a shame for a woman to speak in church [2]. They admitted that we were right and according to the Bible we had a perfect right to teach, so they were in favor of lady missionaries after that proof from the Bible. So we felt repaid for our long walk.

I doubt the men were severely antagonistic: whatever their thoughts on female missionaries, if I?ve identified the correct Hasty and Stevens, they boarded, fed, and chauffeured Sisters Carling and Giles about, and Carling records multiple instances of pleasant conversation, laughter, study, labor, and worship with the two couples.

I think Carling?s gratitude in the first paragraph for a partially-gendered shelter juxtaposed with her triumph in the second illustrates some of the complexity of her experiences as a missionary.

The ?Southwestern States Mission? series (homepage) examines mission life in (mostly) Texas around 1900.

[1] Carling and companion were working in and around Jay, Kansas (near Leavenworth), which had an organized branch, Relief Society, and Sunday school. You might recognize part of the first paragraph, which I cited last week in discussing perceptions of Carling?s male colleagues and their proselyting ?without purse or scrip.?

[2] Philippians 4:3 ?And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.?

Romans 16:3 ?Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:?

Acts 18:26 ?And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.?

1 Corinthians 14:35 ?And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. […] her account of the events leading to the mission call and her defense of ?lady missionaries?? right to preach. Below I transcribe her mission call letter and compare it to the letters received by male […]

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