An Organisation that Unites Christian Mothers in all Parts of the Empire - How the Union Began - Queen Victoria the First Patron - The Sanctity of Marriage - Training of Boys and Girls The Work of Lady Chichester - The Mothers' Union Abroad
The Mothers' Union is exactly what the name implies. It is an organisation which aims at uniting Christian mothers in all parts of the Empire for mutual help and encouragement in the performance of their duties as wives and as mothers.
The home is the pivot upon which the well-being of a nation turns, and Nature and social usage combine to make the mother the centre of the home. In the words of the old song, "What is home without a mother ? "
It seems but a truism to say that in proportion as the mothers of a nation are developed in spiritual, moral, and intellectual culture so will that nation rise to high and noble ideals of life. Society is awakening to this fact on all sides, and we hear of '! schools for mothers," and of municipal councils organising classes and teachers for the instruction of the poorer women in the care and upbringing of their children; and of philanthropic people, like a Mayor of Huddersfield offering money prizes to women who keep their babies in health, so great is the sad total of infant mortality in many parts of the country.
Before these modern efforts were made for stimulating maternal responsibility, it entered into the heart of Mrs. Sumner to start in a little village in Hampshire a society for mothers in the district in order to awaken women to a higher sense of their duty towards their children.
This society, formed in 1876, was the germ from which the Mothers' Union sprang.
In 1887, the Jubilee Year of the revered mother on the throne, the Mothers' Union was established as a diocesan organisation, and Queen Victoria became its first patron in 1898.
In May, 1896, it was centralised under a president, council, and secretary, in offices in the Church House, Westminster, and a constitution was drawn up. The result of this centralisation surpassed all expectations and new branches were rapidly formed in all parts of the world.
The Mothers' Union is now working in-every diocese in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. It also is established in India, South Africa, Canada, West Indies, Falkland Islands, China, Japan, Madagascar, Lagos, United States, and Algiers. In 1910 seven new dioceses were added to the list - viz., Gibraltar, Bermuda and Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Qu'-appelle, Quebec, Tinnevelly, and an affiliated branch in the diocese of Mashonaland. There are now (1911) upwards of 6,000 branches and close upon 400,000 members and associates.
Mrs. Sumner, as first president of the Mothers' Union, had watched and watered her grain of mustard seed to great purpose. In January, 1910, she resigned her position as president, to the deep regret of her fellow-workers, to whom she had been a continual source of inspiration.
Mrs. Sumner, who may be called the mother of the Mothers' Union, is the widow of the late Bishop of Guildford, who was a son of Dr. Sumner, Bishop of Winchester, and nephew of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. She was the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Heywood, of Hope End, near Ledbury, the beautiful house and park opposite the Malvern Hills, which had been the home of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It is not often that a house is successively associated with a poet and a philanthropist, both of world-wide renown.
Mrs. Sumner's early married life was spent at Old Alresford, Hampshire, and there she began the experiment which developed into the Mothers' Union.
The scheme was first brought forward in the diocese of Winchester in 1885, when Mrs. Sumner was persuaded by Dr. Wilberforce, Bishop of Newcastle, to speak on the subject at the women's meeting of the Church Congress, at Portsmouth. Immediately after the meeting a committee was formed to consider and formulate the society and its work with the help, advice, and co-operation of Archdeacon Sumner.
In 1887, Mrs. Sumner had the happiness of seeing the Mothers' Union launched as a diocesan society, with the warm support of Bishop Harold Browne, of Winchester, who drew up a circular, which he sent to every clergyman in his diocese, expressing his belief that the Mothers' Union would be a real help in the work of the Church.
For many years, since her husband accepted a residentiary canonry at Winchester, Mrs. Sumner's busy life has been passed in her home under the shadow of the cathedral, in the beautiful close at Winchester, where she still continues to devote her life to the much loved work of the Mothers' Union.
Her mantle as president has fallen upon the shoulders of the Dowager Countess of Chichester, who has been so well known through her active and devoted work for the Church, and who was unanimously chosen to fill this important post.
The Dowager Countess of Chichester, President of the Mothers
Union, who is widely known for her active devotion to work for others, and who was unanimously chosen to succeed Mrs.
Sumner as President of the Union
Photo, S. Maud
The objects of the Mothers' Union are :
1. To uphold the sanctity of marriage.
2. To awaken in mothers of all classes a sense of their great responsibility in the training of their boys and girls - the future fathers and mothers of the Empire.
3. To organise in every place a band of mothers who will unite in prayer, and seek by their own example to lead their families in purity and holiness of life.
The society consists of members and associates. The members are married women who are mothers and belong to all ranks of life; associates may be married or unmarried women belonging to all ranks of life.