Corinthia Virginia Reed Williams
September 7, 2016
Corinthia Virginia Reed Williams (1827-1893) was born in 1827 to a Virginia family who had lived on Eastern shore plantations since the seventeenth century. Baptized into the Red Bank Baptist Church, she married minister J. W. M. Williams there before her twentieth birthday. After several pastorates they moved to First Baptist, Baltimore, in 1851, where she served until her death in 1893.
Corinthia Williams was the president of the Baltimore Auxiliary of the Women’s Union Missionary Society which began in February 1870. The society included Baptist, Methodist, and Friends and “the right arm of his [God’s] power was exercised through it. The organization fared well. It contributed six hundred dollars the first year and gave to missions more than a thousand a few years later.
The Baptist members felt their denomination needed a society of women focusing on Baptist work alone. Williams started a Baptist society for women interested in missions which would not be under subjection of any one Baptist congregation. She targeted one woman in each of the other Baltimore Baptist churches not already involved in the work, asking those leaders to enlist others.
A meeting was held at First Baptist and a “great number” almost filled the room. A steering committee was assigned to devise a strategy for organization. Thus Woman’s Mission to Woman (WMW) was born. During this time a letter to a Baptist missionary in Burman, who had urged just such a work as the women embarked upon, arrived too late to cheer her or help her efforts. Her death caused Williams to resolve never to allow another foreign missionary career to end in “weeping over our apathy.”
Williams worked with Ann Graves who was the founder of Woman’s Mission to Woman in 1871. They became fast friends and confidants as they served within the congregation later called derisively, the “First Female Church of Baltimore.” If some thought woman inferior because she was responsible for man’s original fall from God’s favor, Williams replied that God had now “placed his Word in the hand of woman,” giving her “the angelic mission of restoring him to a higher state than that enjoyed in Eden.” Graves son, Rosewell, was a missionary in China.
As early as 1877, Williams made a motion that Woman’s Mission to Woman involve itself in home mission work. Her request was declined by the MBUA. It wasn’t until May 1880 that Williams invited a woman from Philadelphia to address the interdenominational Woman’s Baptist Foreign Mission Society in Baltimore. As a result, two Baltimore Baptist churches, First Baptist and Eutaw Place began local home mission societies. The leader of the Eutaw Place society was thirty-year old Annie Armstrong.
Williams taught a Sunday School class of men and women for forty years at First Baptist, Baltimore.
In 1881, Williams published her brief history of the substantial accomplishments gained through the “potent influence” of WMW. The mission was later renamed the Maryland Woman’s Mission to Woman in Foreign Lands.
Greater things lay ahead for Maryland Baptist women under the leadership of the most famous of them all, Annie Armstrong. But her work was made possible by the vision and courage of women such as Corinthia Williams.
Material used in this biography was taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen