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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Admiration for a woman minister and her accomplishments

Dabbs talks about Mossie Wyker, a woman minister she worked with in the United Church Women during the 1940s and 1950s. Earlier in the interview, Dabbs had acknowledged the organizations reputation for advocating liberal politics, which generated opposition from some southerners. Here, she recalls how Wyker spoke in front of a large congregation on one occassion in Atlanta, Georgia. She recalls feeling great pride in Wyker's accomplishments, particularly since some people in attendance believed a woman should not have such a position of power within the church.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edith Mitchell Dabbs, October 4, 1975. Interview G-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
You said that when you were working for the United Church Women, you got to know some of the most liberal women that you had ever known. Who were some of the women?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
Yes, well, Dorothy McLeod was one and another was Mossie Wyker, Mrs. James M. Wyker from Louisville, Kentucky. She is there now and is retired. A beautifully capable, courageous, liberal woman. She was the president of United Church Women nationally at the time that Dorothy Shaw McLeod was executive secretary and Mrs. Wyker is an ordained minister of the Disciples Church. I remember an interesting little thing that happened once in Atlanta … what was the occasion? James and I went to a service in a big, beautiful church in Atlanta and … I wish that I could remember why. It was a very important occasion and dignitaries of the National Council of Churches and other groups were there. Dr. Frank Laubach spoke, I remember. He was the "each one teach one" missionary personality. I believe he made an address and it was a religious meeting. It must have been sponsored by the National Council and Mossie Wyker was the minister of the day. The church had a very high … now, I don't know what you call this, being a Presbyterian now and having been a Baptist, I don't know what you call the parts of the church, but there was one raised platform where the minister goes up into the thing to speak and then there was another on the other side where a lay reader could speak, not maybe so high as the minister's. But nobody except the minister ever set foot on the steps of that inner sanctuary up there. Well, we had our programs and I knew Mossie and I knew what had been planned for the day, I may have had something to do with the planning, I don't know. But seated right behind James and me were two women and they commented about everything. It was supposed to be whispering, but it was a little louder than that because you could hear everything. It was a stage whisper and everybody around heard it. At the point when Mossie got up to go forward and up those little steps, she started in the direction of the steps and I was so proud of her, because I know what a magnificent job she does when she speaks. She is a dynamic speaker and pulls everybody in sight to her point of view. She can pull anything she wants to, you can't resist her and I thought, "Mossie is going to do herself proud and I am so glad." But the women behind me started whispering, "Look, she's going right on up there. Somebody ought to stop her. They oughtn't to let that happen." And as they got so excited, I was afraid that they would stand up and say something. Actually, they really were very worked up, I have never heard such upset women in the church in my life. [Laughter] The only release that they got was to talk back and forth to each other and they got louder and louder and I was afraid Mossie would hear them. But I thought, "Well, Mossie will be in complete control of the situation, she will think of something." Well, she went on up her steps …
ELIZABETH JACOWAY BURNS:
Now, this wasn't her church?
EDITH MITCHELL DABBS:
No, it wasn't her church. She had never been in it before. Maybe the women did go there all the time. They must have been local women. They were not United Church Women. But they came maybe out of curiosity to see what all these liberal people were up to. Mossie made a very fine sermon and I was proud of her, just as I expected to be. I remembered for a long time how concerned those women were that another woman, purely because she was a woman, was about to mount the steps reserved for a male minister. Mossie had been such a devoted minister for so many years, brought up a family and all that and done a lot of extra outside work, but she had also served as a minister at one church or another. Her husband, I believe, was one too.