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Missionary Societies, Home


MISSIONARY SOCIETIES, HOME, are voluntary associations for the advancement of Christian piety and domesticity in poor areas of the United States. In the eighteenth century, small-scale missions to new settlements were sponsored by Presbyterian synods and Baptist and Congregational associations. The revival of evangelical religion in the early nineteenth century, along with the growing spirit of humanitarian reform and continuing westward settlement, led to the proliferation of local missionary societies. In 1826, members of four Protestant denominations formed the American Home Missionary Society, but conflicts with in the alliance forced its dissolution. Unlike the sabbatarian and abolition movements in which an ecumenical spirit prevailed, denominational associations like the Missionary and Bible Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1819) and the Baptist Home Mission Society (1832) handled most of the home missionary work. As a further obstacle to ecumenical cooperation, the slavery controversy divided home missionaries into the antislavery American Missionary Association (1846) and societies affiliated with the southern churches.

Throughout most of the nineteenth century, the home missionary societies sent preachers to the western frontier; later more attention was paid to the foreign-born in the cities, to African Americans, and to rural communities in the East. White, middle-class women dominated the home missionary movement, exemplifying their new voice in public affairs. Many colleges and academies in the West trace their roots to home missionaries. During the 1930s, following a study by the Institute of Social and Religious Research, home missionary societies deemphasized church programs and began to follow more closely the secular, bureaucratic model of government welfare agencies.


Pascoe, Peggy. Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874–1939. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Yohn, Susan M. A Contest of Faiths: Missionary Women and Pluralism in the American Southwest. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Colin B.Goodykoontz/a. r.

See alsoBaptist Churches ; Congregationalism ; Episcopalianism ; Iowa Band ; Presbyterianism ; Women in Churches .

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