Records of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East

Reference code(s): GB 0150 FES
Held at: Birmingham - University of, Information Services, Special Collections Department
Domain: archival
Title: Records of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East
Date(s) of contents: 1834-1899
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: 17 vols, 1 file, 10 docs


Name of creator(s):

Administrative/Biographical history: The Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East was founded 25 July 1834. It had its origins in an appeal for women missionaries to work amongst Chinese women made by an American missionary, Mr David Abeel, during a visit to England in 1834. Its title was abridged to the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East by 1838 and it is also sometimes referred to as the Female Education Society.

It was established as an interdenominational missionary society and was staffed by women and employed women agents and its principal object was the establishment and superintendence of schools in China, India and the adjacent countries. It supplied missionaries and school teachers, who were given passage and outfit money but who were expected to be supported locally; they, in turn, trained native women. The Society also gave schools grants of money, supplies of school materials and boxes of work materials for sale. The first missionary, Eliza Thornton, went to Malacca in 1836 and in the same year, Elizabeth Carter went to Cawnpore to take charge of the orphanage asylum, Anne Thomson to Chinsrah and Mary Craven to Madras. The Society also sent missionaries to Singapore in 1836, among these Sophia Cooke (1814-1895) but it was not until the 1840s when Mary Ann Aldersey went to Ningpo, that the first missionaries were sent to mainland China. The work in India expanded in the 1840s and 1850s and agents were sent to Palestine and Syria from the 1860s and to Japan from 1877.

The Society's main work in India centred on Madras (1837-1888), Cuttack, Orissa (1854), Calcutta (1855), Multan (1863), Ludhiana (1867), Agra (1869) and Coonoor (1895). In China, the main stations were Amoy (1848), Ningpo (1848, but transferred to Church Missionary Society 1888), Shanghai (1856-1880), Hong Kong (1858) and Foochow (1875). The Society also had agents in Singapore (1836) and Japan (Osaka 1877, Hakodate [Esashi] 1896). In South Africa it worked at Cape Town (1848-1876); in Palestine at Nazareth (1863), Bethlehem (1878) and Shefa Amr (1889); in Syria at Shemlan, Mount Lebanon (1861), and in Lebanon at Beirut (1859-1862, 1868-1871). The Society also worked in Mauritius 1860-1881. Its support for schools was widespread throughout India and China as well as Ceylon, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Burma, Penang, Greece, Turkey, Algeria and throughout the Levant.

In 1899, following the death of the Secretary, Miss Webb, the Society was closed down and the work divided. The Church Missionary Society accepted 24 FES missionaries and their work in Palestine (Nazareth, Bethlehem and Shefa Amar), China (Hong Kong and Foochow), Japan (Osaka and Hakodate) and India (Agra and Multan). The schools in Singapore were handed over to the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society. The Baptist Missionary Society took over work at Cuttack, Orissa (from 1 July 1899), while the London Missionary Society became responsible for Miss Dawson and her work at Coonoor. The British Syrian Schools Committee [now Middle East Christian Outreach] took over Shemlan (from September 1899) and the work at Ludhiana was handed over to the American Presbyterian mission. Ludhiana premises had been sold earlier to the North India School of Medicine [Ludhiana Medical Fellowship, now Friends of Ludhiana].

Supporters of the Society were encouraged from its earliest days to join together in groups as local Auxiliary Associations to raise funds and to spread interest about the work of the society. Groups were formed at Liverpool and Hackney as early as 1836. These supporters were encouraged to continue and some working parties existeduntil at least 1915.

Sources: Rosemary A. Keen, 'Catalogue of the papers of Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East, Church Missionary Society', 1987. Editorial introduction by Rosemary Keen in 'Church Missionary Society Archive. Missions to Women. A Listing and Guide to Section II: Parts 1-3 of the Microfilm Collection', Adam Matthew Publications, 1997

Custodial history: The minute books - and presumably the other surviving records of the Society - were already at Salisbury Square [CMS headquarters] in January 1900 when Miss Webb, the FES Secretary, wrote that they were "kindly stored there by Mr. Marshall Lang" [CMS ref: G2 I6/1900/52]. By 1951 when the first CMS archivist was appointed, the minute book covering the period January 1886 - April 1895 was missing. The last minute book (1895-1899) and this survives. It was produced in a Chancery suit in 1909, for which the papers survive at the Public Record Office (affidavit ref: J4/7663/2398) and it may be that the other minute book was also used but not returned.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Scope and content/abstract: General and Finance Committee minutes; ledgers and other financial records; annual reports and other printed and miscellaneous material

System of arrangement: Arranged into three series: Administration, Finance and Miscellaneous


Language: English

Conditions governing access: Open Access to all registered researchers

Conditions governing reproduction: Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections (email: Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Physical characteristics: Some sequences of records including the General Committee minutes and, in particular, the Society's publications are incomplete

Finding aids: A paper catalogue of this collection is available in the Special Collections Department and at the National Register of Archives in London


Related material: Archives of other missionary societies: Church Mission Society [CMS]; Church of England Zenana Missionary Society [CEZ]. A sketch book of Caroline Cuffley Giberne, 1838-1862, a missionary serving with the Society for Female Education in the East in Ceylon is held by the Orchard Learning Resources Centre, Selly Oak Campus [DA18] The British Library holds copies of printed and published material of the Society which augments the incomplete sets held here. Their holdings include copies of the annual reports, a complete set of 'The Female Missionary Intelligencer', September 1853 - July 1899; 'Missionary Pages for the Young' January 1879 - October 1887 and the history of the Society published under the title 'History of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East: established in the year 1834' (Edward Suter, London 1847).

Copies: This collection has been micropublished by Adam Matthew Publications in 1997


Date(s) of descriptions:


Personal names

Corporate names
Church of England Zenana Missionary Society
Society for Promoting Female Education in the East

South Asia