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The Union was organised and continues to work under the auspices of the Church, of England, and all official workers engaged in the parochial, diocesan, and central work of the Union must be members of the Church of England or of the Church of Ireland. There is no such restriction as to ordinary members, provided they bring their children to Holy Baptism.
From its beginning the Union has particularly tried to influence the mothers of the upper classes, as it was felt by the foundress that through them public opinion was largely formed. That has been a great feature of the work throughout the twenty-rive years of its corporate existence as a Union, and remains its policy under the new president. The interest of the educated mothers is maintained by meetings for discussion, and the branches in the Continent of Europe are under the direct patronage of H.r.h. Princess Frederica of Hanover.
The Scottish Mothers' Union has for its president Lady Aberdeen, and the president and convener of its Central Council is the Countess of Glasgow. In Ireland, the wife of the Lord-lieutenant for the time being is usually patron of the Mothers' Union and the general president is the Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava. In Canada and in the Commonwealth of Australia the wife of the Governor-general is usually president of the Union, while in New Zealand, Lady Plunket, the wife of the Governor, was both patron and president.
In order to link more intimately the
Colonies and the Mother Country, a colonial committee is shortly to be formed. Each diocese beyond the seas is asked to nominate some lady at home to act as its representative. It is hoped that this will lead to the establishment of many "linked " branches. Already some linked branches exist. These branches select one special branch abroad with which they keep in touch by correspondence and make it a special subject of intercession in prayer.
This binding together of mothers in distant parts of the Empire was dealt with by Lady Chichester in her presidential address in 1910. "We know," she said, "that the genius of the Anglican Communion is that she holds herself responsible for every living being within a given area until they cut themselves off from her ministrations. The home and the family must always be the advance guard of civilisation, and our hearts go out with tender sympathy to the women of our race, living out their lives in the log-huts, the lonely cabins, or in the scattered town-ships of the new countries. They claim our missionary work. To them we should surely, through the agency of colportage and itineration, pour out our leaflets and magazines, and so pave the way for the coming of the bush brother and itinerating priest." Lady Chichester also advocated the educating of capable agents on the spot, to promote the work of the Mothers' Union in the Colonies, rather than sending out temporary delegates from home.
In this respect Tasmania has set an admirable example. Its council has appointed a diocesan woman worker, who visits all over the diocese, especially the outlying bush settlements. Amongst other things she has initiated a branch of the Mothers' Union for women at the lighthouses and amongst the inhabitants of Bass Island.
From many parts of the world comes news of the missionary influence of the Mothers' Union. In China, that vast and conservative country, now beginning to open its doors to westernisation, the Mothers' Union has planted its saplings. There is an up-country branch in Chinese territory, while Miss Storr's work is prospering at Kowloon City and Yau-ma-tie, where the monthly meetings are well attended. We are told that it is an inspiration to see the Chinese mothers gathered together to pray for their sons and daughters.
Mrs. Sumner, widow of the late Bishop Sumner, and founder of the Mothers' Union, of which she is now honorary president.
This noble organisation binds together Christian mothers in all parts of the Empire for mutual help and encouragement
Photo, J. Russell & Sons
Though the Mothers' Union is a definitely religious society and the spiritual side of the work is always kept to the front, it aims at promoting the physical and mental well-being of its members. In Natal, for example, the Union includes active social work on behalf of the children, and promotes the training of girls in domestic economy and housekeeping. Through the Mothers' Union in Australia, religious instruction is given to the children in public elementary schools, and the wide interests of the members are shown by their support of the District Nursing Association, the Home of Peace for the Dying, the Children's Hospital, the Benevolent Asylum and Rescue Work and Homes. The annual service in the Cathedral at Sydney, when all branches are represented, is an inspiring sight.
At home the Union has realised its obligations in the matter of social legislation.
Laws mean much to the mother in the home and she cannot be too close a student of the trend of legislative events. The Union sent three witnesses, the Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hubbard, Mrs. Frances Steinthal, and Mrs. Church, to give evidence before the Royal Commission on Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, in June, 1910. They presented resolutions against any increase of divorce facilities signed by over 80,000 women of the working classes, and a petition signed by over 20,000 educated women.
The Union has not declared a policy regarding the political enfranchisement of women, and its officers and members number supporters for and against woman suffrage. The organs of the Union are "Mothers in Council" and the "Mothers' Union Journal." The latter has a circulation of 140,000. There is a lending library at the Central Office, Church House, Westminster.
Opportunities for the members and workers of the Union to meet together are provided by the large conference held annually in the Great Hall of the Church House, and there is also a meeting for official workers held the same week, for whom a service is provided in St. Paul's Cathedral, while a large service for members of the London diocese is held every July in the cathedral.
The first central secretary was Mrs. Mathew. She was succeeded in 1909 by Mrs. Maude, who resigned her post as London secretary in order to devote herself entirely to the central work