|CHAPTER III. -- Commissioned by the Board of Directors of "The Bible and Normal Institute."|
In the spring of 1888 the Board of Directors of "The Bible and Normal Institute" decided to send out two of our Bible women to visit the churches and organize the women and children to come to the relief of the school that was then suffering under the great embarrassment occasioned by the death of Mr. Peter Howe, its benefactor, who was murdered as we have mentioned.
The blessed results that were manifest from the labors of the white missionaries sent to us by the W. B. H. M. S. with headquarters in Chicago, Ill., encouraged this school board to undertake a similar work throughout the surrounding country, which should be organized and fostered by women of the race. Thus God opened a great and effectual door for the women of the Baptist churches throughout West Tennessee. Miss. E. B. King and Virginia were the two women appointed. These two consecrated women
with Bibles in hand went forth, going in different directions in order to canvass the entire district in a specified time, organize the women and children locally, and arrange for a general district organization. Everywhere these women went the people were aroused, some for them and many against them. Bible Bands were organized throughout the district. Exciting days were those! Bibles were being searched as never before by that people to find out if there was, any divine authority for such work; women were rising up and striving to get to the meetings to hear what new doctrine those women missionaries were teaching, and men were discussing and opposing.
September, 1888, was the date fixed for the general organization of the district. Great Interest prevailed everywhere. People came from all directions and in every conceivable way. This first associational meeting was held in Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Stanton, Tenn. All the roads leading to Stanton were crowded, people going and coming continually during the four days sessions. The presence of God was unmistakably manifest. Christians rejoiced, testified, prayed, sung and preached until one dear woman just stood up in front of the vast audience and exemplified what many had been saying (viz, that they were speechless), for she was unable to say a word, being so completely overcome with the joy of the moment. Eternity
alone will reveal the glorious results that have come from that meeting. In this beginning of organized missionary effort among Negro women in Tennessee the following fundamental principles were emphasized as necessary to our Christian development as women: First, simplicity, cleanliness and neatness in dress and in our home furnishings. Second, wholesome, well prepared food. Third, the temperate use of all good things and total abstinence from poisons, tobacco and liquors being specified. Fourth, the education of heart, head and hand. Fifth, above all things, loyalty to Christ as we should be taught of Him through the daily prayerful study of His word.
Dr. McVicar at that time was superintendent of education for A. B. H. M. S. When he visited the school at Memphis Dr. H. R. Traver , president of the Bible and Normal Institute at that time, told him the story of the unprecedented success of this mission work as conducted by Virginia and her associate workers. Dr. McVicar became thoroughly aroused to this fact, that after all the salvation and education of the Negro depended largely upon himself, and men and women of the race should be helped and trained for leadership along all lines of religious and educational work as well as industrial pursuits. He then decided with Dr. Traver to make a special effort for the missionary training of our women. Accordingly,
through Dr. McVicar's counsel and influence, missionary departments for women were established at Spelman Seminary, Atlanta, Ga.; Bible and Normal Institute, Memphis, Tenn.; Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C. and Bishop College, Texas. Thus provision was made for the missionary training of our women for work, either on the home or foreign field. Miss E. B. Delaney, who has spent several years of hard service in Blantyre, East Africa, is one of the, representative missionaries from Spelman Seminary; also Mrs. G. Patton, Washington, D. C., who did faithful service on the foreign field, and then returned to America where she did faithful service as a successful medical practitioner ere the dear Lord called her to her home beyond the skies. Missionaries from the other schools are scattered throughout this country doing good service, some under commission of W. B. H. M. S., Chicago, others under the cooperative plan of the Southern Baptist Convention and the N.B. Convention and still others under national, state and district religious organizations. These missionary training schools for Negro women owe their birth largely to the success that attended the first year's labors of our heroine when serving under the commission of the Board of Directors of the Bible and Normal Institute, Memphis, Tenn. Members of that memorable board who have ever stood by Virginia to encourage her
work, still live to rejoice in the glorious culmination, now manifest, of what they then believed, which is the general recognition of woman as man's helpmeet in the church as well as in the school and home.
The following are the names of those good men who still live: Revs. R.N. Countee, Wm. Brinkley, Hardin Smith, H.C. Owen, Wm. J. McMichael, T. J. Searcy. To these worthy Christian gentlemen our women owe the deepest gratitude. Our prayers shall ever be for them a blessed life here and an abundant entrance into life eternal.