Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


8 Aug 2021, 10:30 a.m.
Church_news Notices
Mary Sumner, the founder of the Mothers' Union (see photo), has left behind a grand legacy, sowing the seeds of ideas that have led to a movement which now spans the globe, supporting many thousands of people each year.

Her vision was a world in which women could hold their rightful place in society. A vision of women as empowered, not only to be equal to men, but to provide firm support to each other in their roles and responsibilities.

Mary Heywood was born in Swinton, a suburb of Manchester, in 1828. Her family moved to Herefordshire and Mary was educated at home by her parents.

In 1848 she married a young curate, George Sumner. He was the son of the Bishop of Winchester. In 1851 George became the Rector of Old Alresford in Hampshire. As she brought up her own three children Mary became increasingly aware that mothers received no real support from the Church. In 1876 she began holding 'Mothers' Union' meetings in the parish, aiming to unite mothers of all social classes in bringing up their children in the Christian faith.

Baptism and parental example were its two basic principles. At first just a parochial organisation it grew into a worldwide concern, encouraging the ideal of a Christian home. This process began in 1885 with a speech Mary gave at a conference in Portsmouth and gave rise to the MU as a national organisation.

It enjoyed a remarkable and rapid growth into a world-wide society which today can boast over 1million members. While there is no MU branch in Dunsfold these days, women and men can join the Mothers' Union group at St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh.

Mary Sumner died in Winchester on August 9th 1921.