"Mother of Missions" Doremus Died from a Spill

"Mother of Missions" Doremus Died from a Spill

One day a friend met Sarah Doremus, seemingly unaccompanied, at a Dwight L. Moody meeting in New York and asked, "Are you here alone?"

"No, I am never alone," replied Sarah. She had taken God as her continual companion-- and it showed.

Married to a wealthy husband, she was able to involve herself in many activities aimed at promoting the gospel, easing physical distress, or setting people's lives right. In addition to raising her eight children, she led an organization to return women prisoners into society; managed a tract society; organized relief for Christian Greeks oppressed by Muslim Turks; distributed Bibles to the destitute; founded a self-help organization; and cooperated with efforts to create a children's hospital and a separate women's hospital in New York State. During the Civil War, she distributed supplies among city hospitals.

But the effort that made her famous was her work with the Woman's Union Missionary Society of America, founded in 1860. Sarah had created a women's mission society much earlier. Back in 1834 the Reverend David Abeel, a missionary to China from the Reformed Church in America (Sarah's denomination) told of Chinese women who wanted "female men" to come and share their Christianity with them. Sarah was especially moved by this plea, but there was intense opposition to single women becoming missionaries, and that early organization never overcame the obstacles. A new mission association, the Woman's Union, was much more successful. Sarah became its first president and operated a branch out of her New York home.

So many missionaries came and went from her home that she became known as the "Mother of Missions." In a period of about twenty years, the organizations she led sent about 1,000 missionaries to all parts of the world.

Sarah was dedicated to her work. On one occasion when her husband bought her a beautiful, expensive shawl, she pleaded with him to return it. With the money she bought supplies for some delicate needlework and embroidery which she sold for $500 to give to Hawaiian missions.

On this day, January 22, 1877, Sarah died. Like many elderly folk, she found she could not recover from the effects of a fall. She retained her deep beauty into her old age.


  1. "About Interserve, USA." http://www.interserveusa.org/php/who/history.php
  2. Deen, Edith. Great Women of the Christian Faith. New York, Harper, 1959.
  3. Glimpses #83. Worcester, Pennsylvania: Christian History Institute.
  4. Montgomery, Helen Barrett. Western Women in Eastern Lands. New York: Macmillan, 1910.
  5. "Sarah Doremus." http://historicalrenewal.com/SarahDoremus.htm
  6. "Sarah Platt Doremus." Virtual American Biographies. http://www.famousamericans.net/sarahplattdorenus/
  7. Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated May, 2007.

Originally published April 28, 2010.