Mary Webb Organized Missions from Wheelchair:
This is an incredible story, and an inspiration to all of us.
We have reprinted this story from
Baptist Bible Tribune: http://www.tribune.org
by Thomas Ray
The name Mary Webb is almost unknown among Baptists. However, this tiny little woman, confined to a wheelchair, probably did more than any other woman to arouse the Baptist denomination and make them the most missionary-minded group in modern history.
Mary Webb was born in 1779 in Boston, MA. When she was about five, she contracted an unknown and usually deadly disease. The doctors were certain she would not survive. Miraculously she recovered; however, her illness left her hopelessly crippled. Sadly, Mary’s father died when she was 13, leaving the family in a dire financial state. It was at this time that a neighbor, Thomas Baldwin, pastor of Second Baptist Church, took a special interest in the Webb family, especially little Mary.
As a result of Pastor Baldwin’s compassion, Mary began attending Second Baptist and after several discussions with Pastor Baldwin and a careful study of the Scriptures, Mary, at the age of 19 ,made a public confession of her faith and was baptized. Pastor Baldwin was an ardent supporter of home and foreign missions, and Mary caught her pastor’s vision, and after reading a missionary sermon she approached him with a plan she believed would aid the missionary cause.
In the 18th and early 19th century, it was almost unheard of for women to take an active part in church affairs. Thankfully, Pastor Baldwin was a man of vision, and he not only listened to Mary’s plan, he encouraged her to proceed with her dream. Mary Webb may have been crippled, but she possessed a brilliant mind and the determination to implement her dream. She convinced 13 women to join her, and in 1800 they organized the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society.
Initially, the society’s goal was to contribute funds for the distribution of Bibles and gospel literature. However, Mary Webb and her ladies, seeing the enormous need of Boston’s neglected poor and discarded women and children, were determined to minister to their needs. Acting upon their faith, they employed a missionary to visit and to minister to Boston’s poor. Mary Webb and her ladies assisted in establishing in 1803 the Female Cent Society and the Children’s Cent Society in 1811. The objective of these societies was for each member to contribute one cent a week to missions.
In 1811 Mary Webb assisted in founding the Corban Society that raised money to help educate worthy but poor young ministers. In 1812 they established the Fragment Society that collected clothing and bedding for needy children. The society also provided a day care for the children of working mothers. In 1818 Mary Webb led in the founding of a female refuge to help rescue women who were enslaved by alcohol and immorality. In 1825 she established a free school for girls whose parents were too poor to pay for their education.
Perhaps you are thinking with all these extra activities Mary Webb would have little or no time for her local church, but the opposite is true. Only sickness could prevent her from occupying her place on Sunday. In 1816 Second Baptist established a Sunday school, and Mary Webb was chosen and served for many years as a superintendent. Almost everyone living in Boston was familiar with Mary Webb. She and her wheelchair were a familiar sight on the streets of Boston as she visited the sick, the dying, and the poor bringing food, clothing, compassion, and hope. But perhaps her greatest contribution was the impact she and her ladies had upon Baptist women. Through Mary Webb’s influence, hundreds of female societies sprung up all over America. These ladies looked to Mary Webb for advice and counsel in duplicating her work in Boston. Mary could not travel, but she wrote thousands of letters of encouragement and counsel. Mary Webb faithfully served her master for over 50 years and in 1861, at the age of 82, she escaped her frail and broken body.
Article courtesy of Baptist Bible Tribune: