UMW celebrates 150 years of advocacy


The United Methodist Women took a moment to celebrate its past during the General Conference on Monday afternoon, while brimming with excitement about the group’s future.

A seven-minute presentation featured the history of the UMW, which began 150 years ago as an outreach to women and children in India.

Members of The United Methodist Women celebrated the 150th anniversary for the 
organization during a special presentation at General Conference on May 16.
Photo by Todd Seifert
The UMW has made great strides even in the past four years since the last General Conference, worldwide UMW leaders said in a news conference before the presentation.

The greatest accomplishments have taken place in the fields of maternal health awareness.

“We were not doing maternal health four years ago,” said Andris Salter, UMW assistant general secretary for mission opportunities. “But maternal health has become such an important issue and not only for women but women and children, and making sure women have access to the kind of health care they need around the world."

That help includes training workers in the needs of mothers, expectant mothers and babies.

“It’s very important that you train on-the-ground people that are able to do some of that,” Salter added.

The UMW is also helping the women of Africa make their voices be heard, said Elmira Sellu, a regional missionary of the East Africa and West Africa conferences of the United Methodist Church.

“The voices of women are being heard now in Africa,” Sellu said. “Women used to be seen and not heard. But now women are coming out. They’re speaking out, and they’re being heard in most communities.”

The UMW has long rallied for women’s and minority rights, sometimes long before the rest of the church has caught up.
“We’ve been at the forefront for racial justice in our church since 1952,” said Mollie Vickery, a deaconess and New Jersey-based executive for children, youth and family advocacy for the UMW.

In the Great Plains, the UMW is thriving, said conference president Esther Hay.
Esther Hay (center), president of the Great Plains United Methodist
Women, takes a photo during a celebration of UMW's 150th birthday
May 16 during General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Photo by
Todd Seifert

“We’ve found that we have opportunity to put our faith, hope and love into action,” said Hay, who is based in Waverly, Nebraska.

The Great Plains raised the second-most money of any conference UMW in the country, said Lisa Maupin, communications coordinator for the group.

Hay said the UMW raised more than $750,000 for the past three years of the combined conference.

The Great Plains UMW, Maupin said, will sponsor a trip this summer for 35 young women to visit mission institutions in Colorado and South Dakota to see the needs of urban and rural areas.

“United Methodist Women are talking about issues that young women care about,” Maupin said. “And they’re doing it in a way that matches up with their faith.”

Hay said the UMW is excited about its future in the Great Plains.

“The opportunities for Great Plains United Methodist Women is endless. It really is,” she said.
David Burke, communications coordinator, can be contacted at

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