Letters - 1905.11.22 -the story of the fight - to Mr. Baring-Gould
Foochow Nov. 22, 1905
Dear Mr. Baring-Gould,
As Secretary for our L.(adies’) Conference this year, I should like to explain to you why the most important business of our Conference was dealt with last instead of being taken earlier; of course I allude to the discussion of the proposed new regulations: a question which must affect very seriously every missionary.
Our Conference met last Thursday, Nov. 16 at 9 a.m., and we were beginning the business of the second day when I was privately told that Mr. Lloyd had some letter which we ladies ought to know about. I was also privately given the paper about the new regulations. I asked Mrs. Lloyd, as President of our Conference, if she had any business to bring before us of which I did not know, and she said the only business was for C.M.S. ladies to deal with when Zenana ladies had retired, and that would do when Conference had finished its business as it was not at all important. I, of course, had to be content with this.
Our business was finished on Saturday afternoon about 2:30, and then Mrs. Lloyd said that C.E.Z. ladies could go as the C.M.S. ladies had some question about furniture (this business you will see in the minutes) and also another question with which they had nothing to do. I was asked by some Zenana ladies if they might remain and several did stay on with us. When we had taken our seats Mrs. Lloyd herself read the letter from C.M.S. from which I gathered that we were asked as a Conference to give our opinion on the suggested new regulations. Mrs. Phillips however got up and said that of course it was a mere matter of courtesy to ask our opinion: that C.M.S. had already decided on the regulation being carried into effect, and that it only remained for us to act on the second point in the C.M.S. letter; viz., to proceed to point out what we wo(uld) suggest as to the best way to carry out the proposed scheme. Miss Boileau and Dr. Poulter supported her in this and she then attempted to read a resolution she had carefully (been) preparing whilst resting at Sharp Peak, when the rest of us were in happy ignorance of any such question ever arising.
I contested the fairness of this and said that it was most unfair to have withheld from us as a Conference a letter so important and then to spring it upon us and ask for immediate decision and I insisted on being given time to deliberate upon the matter and that we all adjourn our meeting until we had carefully considered the whole scheme. This was not at once conceded. Dr. Poulter, the married ladies and Miss Boileau, all of whom were either fighting for themselves to be “Staff” or for their husbands! continued to plead that whatever action we took the new Reg:(ulations) would be carried out, therefore why spend time on them? As I continued to insist on another meeting to be held after opportunity for consideration had been given, Mrs. Taylor finally suggested that we sh(oul)d adjourn till Monday at 2 p.m. which we did. Sunday was, as usual, a bust day and Monday morning we had a devotional meeting so we had to make the most of the little time we could get and I got, with effort, one copy of the letter for myself and one for the C.M.S. ladies who were at “The Firs(t).” As I was convinced that C.M.S. wished our opinion as a Conference and I addressed the following letter to the Rev. Ll. Lloyd early on Monday morning:
>Dear Mr. Lloyd,
>Would you kindly let me know if you have received any instruction from home as to whether or not C.E.Z.M.S. ladies are to be exempted from voting upon the question before us, of the proposed new regulations, regarding the status of missionaries, as, unless you hold such instructions, they have every right and it is their duty as members of Conference to express their opinion to the Home Committee. We are asked our opinion as a Conference, and no separate section of the Conference is alluded to. I also judge that as the letter is addressed to you as Secretary of C.M.S. and C.E.Z.M.S. it is understood that Zenana ladies will vote on a question so momentous as one, which will ultimately affect them. I must also express my regret that you withheld from our conference so important a communication from the Home Committee. If the letter had been in my hands a few days ago I could have supplied Conference members with a copy and they would then have been prepared with suggestions on the subject. I notice the date of your letter form the Committee is Sept. 22.
> I am
> Sincerely yours
> M. E. Barber
Mr. Lloyd replied—
> Dear Miss Barber,
> I have nothing to say in reply to your letter except that you had better discuss it in Conference.
> Ll. Lloyd
( Next Barber continues her letter to Mr. Baring-Gould)
The C.E.Z.M.S. ladies had been told they were not wanted at the meeting and need not come but I personally invited them and we had 32 ladies present when we opened our meeting. Thus you see we were a full Conference. The first remark was made by Miss Boileau who said that of course we were not that afternoon a representative Conference. When I had demolished that argument Mrs. Phillips and others said Zenana ladies could not vote. I then read the correspondence between myself and Mr. Lloyd after which we put the question before Conference as to whether Z. ladies could vote and the vote was in favour of their voting.
Mrs. Phillips then said Conference could not vote on matters which had not first gone round the districts but as we had already voted on propositions too late for circulation there was no reason in her statement.
Another argument was to wait a year and think if over to which I replied by reading the request of the Home Committee for an “early” answer and after a few more easily demolished arguments we were ready for propositions on the subject; and Miss Goldie read hers. I then read mine which I encluse (with a few omissions) and then as mine was considered too strong I seconded that of Miss Goldie’s on the principle “that half a loaf is better than no bread,” and Conference passed it; only two not voting—Misses Harrison and Thomas who wish it to be recorded that they did ot vote because 2 our of 3 points in the letter form the Patenr Committee were not dealt with. We hope we shall never have to deal with these.
We then adjourned for a few minutes, for these brief notes give you no idea of our lengthy discussion; and we had scarcely taken our seats again when Mrs. Phillips stood up to say that she wished to withdraw her vote! Dr. Poulter echoed “and I wish to withdraw mine” and Miss Boileau “and I withdraw mine.” I asked Mrs. Phillips her reason and she said for the reason Miss Thomas had given, and I then put it to Conference. Was it right for any Conference member who had already voted after fair and prolonged discussion having every chance of expressing her views (to) withdraw her vote having once given it? As the felling of Conference was decidely to insist on not withdrawing any votes we send yo uan almost unanimous vote and you will I think see that the history of this Conference is a strong case against the proposed new regulations being carried into effect: for the persons so strongly in favour of the regulations are those who will either themselves be Staff Missionaries or whose husbands will be. My strongest plea however against any alteration of our present organisation is, the minutes of Conference I now send you . They display an impartial judgment on many important questions and prove that we are capable of dealing fairly and decisively with all matters affecting our work in this province and our workers as well.
Finally may I assure you that this letter comes to you as the Secretary of our C.M.S. in the hope that it may convince the Rev. F. Baylis, as well as yourself, that the proposed new regulations are not needed and will not be welcomed by us as women workers in Fukien.
I am, dear Mr. Baring-Gould
Margaret E. Barber
Secretary of the Fukien Women’s Conference for 1905
Miss Barber then included a portion of the C.M.S Regulations for missionaries. This Part VI of the document “Instructions to Missionaries” had been the regulation since 1886 and was in effect at that time.
Missionary subordination, whether in a station or district, or in the wider area of a whole Mission, should be understood by all missionaries, not in the vulgar sense of submission to rules and authority, but in the higher and more spiritual sense of deference to those who have laboured before them, and to whom the Committee assign a conventional precedence. It is not official subordination which is the main want of Missions; that might be secured easily enough; but the Committee are jealous of its entrancee into the mission-field, it being to apt to cramp free action, to interfere with individual responsibility, to encumber with misdirections.
There must be a greater latitude of self-direction in the case of missionaries than in the case of pastors of a settled church. In the place therefore of official subordination, there is needed what may be termed missionary subordination.
The statute law of the Christian church in this case runs: “Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elders; yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.”
Miss Barber then ends her letter: I am in absolute sympathy with every word of this and trust the New Regulations will never supercede it.
M. E. B.
- Miss Emma Sophia Goldie is the longest serving women missionary, having arrived in 1887
- Miss Maria Dechal Boileau arrived in 1889 and led the school Miss Barber taught at in Ning-Taik. See her 1899 Letter
- Dr. Poulter may be either Miss Mabel Poulter. M.B., B.Ch. Glas. from 1898 or Miss Julia Harriette Poulter from 1900.
- Miss Eleanor J. Harrison and Miss Edith Marion K. Thomas are both from Miss Barbers class of 1896.
- The “married women” are not listed in the women’s list and therefore are likely included with their husbands listing.
- Rev. H. S. Phillips., M.A. arrived in 1888
- Rev. LI. Lloyd, who was Secretary of the Mission as a whole, arrived in 1876