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Julianna Gordon Hayes (1813-1895)

First President of the WFMS of the MECS

Julianna Gordon was born in 1813 in Northumberland County, Virginia. She married the Reverend Thomas C. Hayes, a member of the Baltimore Conference, in 1843. She became active in the Baltimore women’s missionary groups and was president of one of them, the Trinity Bible Mission, when the group issued a call in 1872 for the formation of a general women’s missions society. In 1878, the General Conference approved the creation of what would be the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, and the bishops named Julianna Hayes to be the first president.

In this role, she traveled extensively and was present at the organizing meetings of women’s missionary bodies in the St. Louis, Western Virginia, Northwest Texas, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, North Arkansas, and North Georgia conferences. As a widow, the aging Mrs. Hayes held the leadership position for many years, providing strong leadership for the society, which continued to elect her as its president. She was an outstanding speaker. In Florida, a distinguished gentleman was asked to introduce her. He demurred, saying women should keep silent in public. After hearing her address, he changed his mind and became a strong supporter. She was deeply mourned across the church when she died in 1895.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 263.

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