Sunday, March 6, 2016
Lucy Webb Hayes
The Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1880 when Jennie Hartzell traveled from New Orleans to Cincinnati to ask the General Conference to send missionaries and teachers to her area. She was referred to church women of the area and met with fifty of them at Trinity Church "to confer together concerning the organization of a society having for its purpose the amelioration of the conditions of the freed-women of the South." The purpose of the group was expanded to address needs of the entire population, and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes was chosen as the first president of the WHMS.
Although at first she considered her role to be a figurehead because of her prominence, she quickly became involved during the last year of her husband's term of office and continued to serve the society until her death in 1889. She used her experience gained from trips to the South and the West to identify problems to be addressed, as well as seeing the need to serve the increasing immigrant population. She was especially aware of the need to provide services for women, saying "America is the cradle of the future for all the world. Elevate woman, and you lift up the home; exalt the home and you lift up the nation." Equally important, she was able to use her diplomatic skills learned as a Washington hostess to prevent friction between the Home and Foreign Missionary Societies in competition over funding.
Both President and Mrs. Hayes were life-long Methodists and even though she became known as "Lemonade Lucy" it was actually his decision not to serve alcohol at state functions in the White House. They attended Foundry MEC while in Washington and held Sunday evening services for the Cabinet and Congress, during which she led the singing. She also started the custom of the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.
This is an excellent article on Mrs. Hayes by her biographer, Emily Apt Geer:http://www.rbhayes.org/…/Hayes_Historical_Journal/womens_ho…