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Mary Louise Deming Eldridge (1849-1933)

Pioneer missionary among the Navajo

Widowed at an early age, Mary Eldridge entered the United States Indian Service and went to work at Haskell Institute, a training school for clerical and commercial work, in Lawrence, Kansas. From there she went to a school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to work among the Lakota tribe.

In 1891, she moved to the San Juan Valley, west of Farmington, New Mexico, where she and missionary Mary A. Tripp put up a tent and started the first Methodist mission for Navajo people. It was later moved to a small house, and is today the Navajo United Methodist Mission School. Mary Louise Eldridge worked for 42 years in New Mexico as a field supervisor for the Woman’s Home Missionary Society. Due to her efforts, the Cambridge Ditch was built, making it possible for the Navajo people to farm.

Her hardest work was in using her influence and resources to provide food, medicine, and clothing for the people she served. Never was a storm too severe, the night too dark or cold for her to go to the assistance of persons in need. After retirement, she continued in the cause of humanity, never losing interest in the people or their needs.

Taken from They Went Out Not Knowing… An Encyclopedia of One Hundred Women in Mission (New York: Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 1986). Used with permission of United Methodist Women.

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