By K Stone – Almaden Hills UMC, San Jose – El Camino Real District – CA NV Conference United Methodist Women
In 1869, a small group of women in Boston raised enough money to send the first Methodist missionaries to help change the lives of women and children in India. One of those missionaries was Isabella Thoburn, a teacher who built a girls’ school later named for her. Isabella Thoburn College, in Lucknow, northern India, is now a highly-reputed school associated with Lucknow University.
Not too many years later, a young woman – my mother, Eileen Betty Hakim Townsley – attended and graduated from Isabella Thoburn College. This was the beginning of her life-long passion for education, advocacy, service & leadership.
Mom graduated at the top of her class in education and economics. As a high school Principal, she had been groomed to be the next President of Isabella Thoburn College, when she met my father, her “prince-charming”. She made the difficult decision, with the help of her Bishop, to leave the path of Isabella Thoburn, educator, and join the world of Global Methodist missions, service, and life as a minister’s wife.
My mother was molded by her parents, her mother being one of the first Christian women doctors in India and father being a second generation Christian. Both were active lay leaders in their church. Throughout her life, she was an epitome of leadership, mentoring & activism for the W.S.C.S organization in India, including being a Board member of the Bible Society and an advocate for the Indian Methodist church.
My recollections of Mom were of holding leadership training events in large outdoor meeting tents. She travelled to villages to connect with women, to teach about the goodness of Jesus and advocacy for women & children. With gavel in hand, she led the ladies to organize service projects. The W.S.C.S. ladies supported church “melas” for fundraising events. As a child, I had a special job….to help welcome the ladies!
My sister, Colleen, and I are blessed to be direct products of the work & intentions of the Boston women in 1869, for the establishment of Isabella Thoburn College, and of the many leaders and teachers who have spent a lifetime to nurture & guide young women to their full potential.
I believe God’s world is amazingly connected, for perfect purposes! My heart is filled with gratitude for the direct legacy I have with the vision of the United Methodist Women, thru my mother, from Isabella Thoburn and the forward-thinking women of 1869.
Learn more about the legacy of Isabella Thoburn here.