It’s St Andrew’s Day and to celebrate the occasion we have a stunning image of Scottish Mothers’ Union badges which form part of the Archive of the Mothers’ Union held here at Lambeth Palace Library. The Archive includes minute books, publications, correspondence, photographs, slides and ephemera including banners, badges and even a jigsaw. It is invaluable to anyone interested in the organisation and more generally, the history of women in the Anglican Church.
The Mothers’ Union was founded by Mary Elizabeth Heywood who was born on 31st December 1828. She was well educated and later married George Sumner with whom she had three children. In 1876 Mary started meetings for mothers in her parish, and she later created a membership card and the first Mothers’ Union Prayer with her husband. Her impromptu speech in 1885 at the Portsmouth Church Congress inspired other women to establish their own meetings and persuaded the Bishop of Winchester to make the Mothers’ Union a diocesan organisation.
Mary Sumner’s visit to Scotland in 1887 sparked the creation of the Scottish Mothers’ Union. The Scottish MU’s affiliation with the organisation ended when the Mothers’ Union was granted a Royal Charter in 1926 which stipulated that all office bearers must be Anglican Church members. In 1929 the Scottish MU became an Incorporated Society; however, in March 1984 it was dissolved and the remaining groups were affiliated with the Mothers’ Union. A service to commemorate the Scottish MU took place at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh.
In 1912 the Mothers’ Union was incorporated as a church society and its new constitution expressed its primary aims:
- To uphold the sanctity of marriage
- To awaken in all mothers a sense of their great responsibility in their training of their boys and girls (the Fathers and Mothers of the future)
- To organise in every place a band of Mothers who will unite in prayer and seek by their own example to lead their families in purity and holiness of life.
The Mothers’ Union was originally represented by a drawing of a mother and child by the artist Heywood Sumner, Mary’s son, as can be seen in the image of a medallion and a brooch pin dated from approximately 1910. Badges, brooches and other material items were important to members as treasured possessions while also embodying the spiritual motivation behind the organisation.
An unusual example of memorabilia within our collection is the card model of Mary Sumner House. The model making kit, commissioned by the Mothers’ Union, was produced by the printers Edson Ltd and dates from the mid-twentieth century. This model of the MU headquarters reveals an intention to promote the organisation’s work and mission. It also shows a sense of pride and a conscious attempt to preserve their history.
After many years of fundraising, Mary Sumner House was opened in Tufton Street, Westminster, by Princess Mary on 21st July 1925. It acts as a memorial to the MU’s founder and a spiritual home to its members, with a chapel designed by the architect Paul Waterhouse at the heart of the building.
The Mothers’ Union continues to thrive and describes itself as ‘an international Christian membership charity that aims to demonstrate the Christian faith in action through the transformation of communities worldwide’. The Archive of the Mothers’ Union is available to view in our reading room and you can learn more about the organisation at http://www.mothersunion.org/about-us