Wisconsin Women’s Society: 100 Years of Extending God’s Kingdom

Wisconsin Women’s Society: 100 Years of Extending God’s Kingdom

Posted 05/03/2024
Sarah DeGraff

The Baldwin (Wis.) Christian Reformed Church Dorcas Ladies Aid Society marked 100 years of continuous ministry April 30, still holding to its original purpose: "by means of the labors of its members to accomplish something for the extension of God’s Kingdom," as captured in the group's 1924 constitution.

Bonnie Van Someren, Dorcas member since 1978, sifted through 100 years of society minutes highlighting past accomplishments. Celebrating “Ordinary Women in Extra-Ordinary Times,” the congregation is recognizing "Dorcas Sunday" on May 5.

The society took its name from Dorcas in Acts 9:36-41, a woman raised back to life by the Apostle Peter who is described as “always doing good and helping the poor” and who made “robes and other clothing” for widows in Joppa.

In 1924, any woman aged 15 or older and in good moral standing could join the society, contributing 10 cents, “whether absent or present,” at each meeting. Associate members were welcomed by paying two dollars per year. “They may attend any meeting, and only the active members should decide the proceeds of the sale and all other money,” the constitution read.

Originally, the women created items like rugs, quilts, aprons, and towels to sell at church auctions. They also worked at weddings, funerals, and farm auctions and set the money aside for donation.

Van Someren, consulting the archive of minutes, said the proceeds resulted in things like electric lights for the church and parsonage, an oil stove, curtains, a pulpit and pulpit chairs, and “basement improvements, namely running water, sink, and drainage in the kitchen.”

Along with making improvements to the church, the society “sent much of their funds away,” Van Someren said. The Dec. 3, 1924, minutes record $251.40 in the treasury ($4,415 in today’s U.S. dollars), of which, the society designated $100 to the church and another $100 in the following ways: “Christian School - $15; Zuni - $10; Cutlerville - $15; Bethesda - $15; Classis Wisconsin - $15; Helping Hands Missions - $20 and China - $10.”

How those funds were used isn’t known. “Going through the minutes, I had so many questions, wondering why certain things happened,” Van Someren told The Banner. “I wish they had written even more.”

They did record an early highlight, a 1931 visit by “Miss Johanna Veenstra.” The first woman missionary in the CRC, Veenstra ventured to Nigeria in 1919. “She spoke to our ladies on Wed. Nov. 11 at 12 o’clock in the afternoon. On Thursday she spoke at the ladies (aid) at the Reformed Church in town, and in the evening again in our church for everybody,” Van Someren said.

Today, the society continues its mission of fundraising through bake sales and community suppers to contribute funds to local missionaries, Samaritan’s Purse, Open Doors USA, and other aid organizations.

“We offer our service to our church, our community, and to missions, and we grow by studying God’s Word together. We are humbly grateful for 100 years of God’s bounteous blessings,” Van Someren said.

The Baldwin Dorcas society has 14 members today, down from the peak number of 47 in 1961, but still healthier than the threshold of four, at which point the society would face dissolution, according to the 1924 constitution: “In the case of eventual dissolution, which shall take place when the membership has declined to four, and there are no prospects for new members soon, the possession of the Society shall revert to the Christian Reformed Church at Baldwin, Wis.”