Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Alice Blanchard Merriam Coleman 1858 ~ 1936


Born in Boston, May 7, 1858. All Mrs. Coleman's life has been spent in the old South End of Boston, where she still resides. She was graduated from the Everett Grammar School in 1873 and immediately went abroad with her parents for nine months, spending a large part of the time in London and Paris, and absorbing with great eagerness all that fitted on to the studies of the grammar school, especially the history of England. In September, 1874 she entered Bradford Academy, in Bradford, Massachusetts, the oldest academy in New England for young women, where she had the privilege of being trained by Miss Annie E. Johnson, one of the best-known educators of that time. The four years of boarding school life were marked by the awakening of the missionary spirit and by the resolve to herself to become a foreign missionary.

She graduated in 1878, with the expectation of spending one year in the further study of Latin and Greek in order to fit herself for Smith College, but her eyes, already a source of trouble and anxiety, again gave out and all thought of further study or of any life work which would involve language study had to be abandoned.

In the fall of 1879, the Woman's Home Missionary Association (Congregational) was organized in Boston under the leadership of her former principal. Miss Annie E. Johnson. The purpose of the association was the prosecution of educational and missionary work among the women and children of our own land especially among the alien races and religions. This opened the door for her entrance into the work of home missions which has from that day to this been the main work of her life. At the request of the directors of the association, she visited all its fields of work in 1884 in order to prepare herself to speak of the work among the churches.

The trip covered the country as far west as Utah and as far south as Texas, including the work among the Negroes, Indians, Mormons and pioneer settlements. The next year was spent in visiting the churches and marked the beginning of her platform work.

In 1886, she transferred her denominational relationship to a Baptist church, and at once became a member of the board of directors of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, thus continuing her activity in home mission work and as a speaker among the churches. Various lines of church work also claimed a considerable share of her time and strength.

On June 30, 1891, Miss Merriam was married to George W. Coleman of Boston. They have had no children and so she has continued in the lines of activity already referred to. In 1891 she became president of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society and held that position until April, 1911, when by the consolidation of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, headquarters in Boston, and the Woman's Baptist Home Mission Society, head-quarters in Chicago, a new national organization was formed having the name of the Boston organization but with headquarters in Chicago. Mrs. Coleman is now the first vice-president of the new organization and president of the New England Branch of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, the branch being a local organization whose purpose is the holding of inspirational meetings and otherwise fostering the work of the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society.

In December, 1906, the Interdenominational Committee of Women for Home Mission Conferences for the East was formed to provide for and to conduct a summer conference in Northfield, Mass. For the first three years, she served the committee as its president, and is still a member of the governing body.

As a result of the formation of similar committees in different parts of die country, the Council of Women for Home Missions was organized in November 1908, and Mrs. Coleman has served as president of the council from its beginning.

The Home Mission work has brought Mrs. Coleman into a close relationship to the schools and colleges provided for the colored people of the South and she is a trustee of Hartshorn Memorial College, Richmond, Virginia, and of Spelman Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia.

Mrs. Coleman's activities during the last five years in connection with the Ford Hall meetings in Boston and the Sagamore Sociological Conference, which meets each summer at their summer home, have her warmest sympathy and sup-port though she has no official connection with them. Mrs. Coleman has, how-ever, been for several years one of the non-resident workers of the Denison House, a settlement house for women in a district largely populated by Syrians and Italians.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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