The first single sister missionaries were called in 1898, and soon many of the missions in the U.S. and Great Britain were experimenting with “lady missionaries,” assigning them as proselyters, mission office help, teachers, and musicians. Some mission presidents struggled to find effective uses for them, or even to appreciate their presence at all. Others quickly became enthusiastic due to their experiences with the first to serve.
German E. Ellsworth, president of the Northern States Mission, falls in the “enthusiastic” class. I like this 1910 letter not only for what it says about women in the mission field, but also its hint of what mission service might mean for a woman’s future utility to the Church.
NORTHERN STATES MISSION
Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints
German E. Ellsworth, President
May 18, 1910
Pres. Joseph F. Smith
Salt Lake City, Utah
Dear Pres. Smith: –
In visiting the three cities where our lady missionaries are working I have made a little study of their work from every side, and feel prepared to say that it is good, and their conduct in every way has indeed been an example and their power felt for good. The number of real friends that our sisters have, and the quality of the same, equals that of the elders, and I feel that they are a real factor in reaching intelligent people. Some of our best converts the past year attribute their conversion to the influence of the lady missionaries.
If it meets with your approval, I should like to have four or five more pair for different cities where we have small branches of the church. Cities like Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Evansville and Joliet. In order to give those in the office a change, I should like two or three of these to have a knowledge of office work.
While at home, a number of our sisters asked for the privilege of coming out on a mission, and among those who asked, especially, was [names of two sisters and their circumstances].
Our sisters report such good treatment and exert such a splendid influence wherever they go that I am convinced that there is a work for them to do in the mission field, and a work that will prepare them for wider activities at home. We have had no trouble whatever with one of them in obeying the mission rules. They have every one been obedient and attended strictly to their work.
Ever praying for the welfare of Zion and her noble leader, I am,
Humbly, your brother,
GERMAN E. ELLSWORTH