Skip Navigation

Transcript: Kathryn Maurer: Methodist Angel Greeted Immigrants

View full video.


Dale Patterson, United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History: “The images that we have of Kathyrn Maurer, there are not many, but every one that we do have, she’s smiling.”

For 40 years, her smiling face was a sight of comfort for thousands of immigrants facing uncertainty and sometimes hostility in a new world. Methodist deaconess Kathryn Maurer, an immigrant herself from Canada, and the youngest of nine children, devoted herself daily to those stepping off the boat at the port of San Francisco.

(Voice of Dale Patterson) “She’s in the middle of this noisy place with new people coming and going and arriving to the U.S. And she is just happy and content.”

Starting in 1912, Maurer rode the ferry daily to the Angel Island Immigration Center where she served as a social worker primarily for Chinese women and children. The deaconess taught English, helped detainees write letters, and advocated on their behalf.

Dale Patterson: “It was not at all uncommon for single women or maybe women with just children to be traveling to the U.S. And they could encounter all sorts of problem once they got there, before they got through the whole immigration process.”

Some newcomers were detained for months or years. Maurer made sure medical and basic needs were met but also sought to raise spirits, bringing dolls for the children and hosting Christmas parties.

For her devotion, a San Francisco newspaper dubbed her, “the angel of Angel Island.” She set the standard for United Methodist Women.

Harriett Olson, Chief Executive, United Methodist Women: “Greeting people on the dock was one of the ways that the women of the church were able to receive people and connect them to a place of safety.”

Maurer in California, and Alma Matthews at Ellis Island in New York, were among the deaconesses appointed by the Woman's Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to welcome immigrants.

Dale Patterson: “You meet Kathryn Maurer, or at some other port of entry another woman, and they’re there to help you. They’re there to offer you skills. It might have been house cleaning. It might have been any number of small types of jobs. They provided food. They provided blankets. They provided Bibles. They assisted that way.”

Historians at the United Methodist General Commission on Archives and History sometimes hear from families researching genealogy and seeking information about the smiling woman who welcomed their parents and grandparents to the New World and did it with love.

Dale Patterson: “For her, I would, she’s found the perfect job. Standing at the door of our country welcoming, saying ‘Hi.’