Kathleen Mallory - The Sweetheart of Alabama Baptists

Kathleen Mallory


Called "a Christian world citizen" and "the sweetheart of Alabama Baptists," Kathleen Mallory was the longest-serving executive director in the history of WMU. She was petite and deceptively dainty, but under the gracious exterior lay a human dynamo with a passion for the world. That passion remained undiminished through an unprecedented 36 years at the helm of WMU. 

Mallory was born in Selma, Alabama, in 1879. Her father was a lawyer, Selma's mayor, and, for a period of years, president of the Alabama Baptist Convention. Her mother was a staunch member of the Woman's Missionary Society.

Mallory graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore and became engaged the same year to Janney Lupton, a handsome young medical students at Johns Hopkins. They waited to marry until he had set up a practice, but Lupton tragically died of tuberculosis in 1907. She was 28, and the direction of her life completely changed.

In 1909, Mallory's father invited her to attend the state Baptist convention and read a missionary's letter to the WMU group meeting there. That letter from China unfolded her heart to missions.

In short order, 33-year old Mallory was chosen national WMU corresponding secretary (now called executive director). When first presented to WMU as its new leader, she immediately knelt before the assembled body to pray God's blessings on the years ahead. Humbly kneeling in prayer was a pattern she always followed; she frequently had hundreds of women praying in the same manner.

Mallory became one of the best-known and most beloved names in Southern Baptist history. She traveled, spoke, and guided the women of the Southern Baptist Convention and concurrently edited Royal Service. And it was she who wrote the first full-length Manual of WMU Methods.

A woman of self-discipline, she believed that gifts should be "fragrant with self-denial" and spent her 36 years in office living very simply. Mallory never accepted a salary larger than that of a missionary, and on two extended trips to missions fields in Child and South America, she insisted on paying the expenses herself. 

Mallory's motto was Fidelity to the Finish. In January 1929, she proposed that every penny of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering go to missionary support and none be siphoned off for other needs. This was later hailed as one of the most far-reaching, constructive, and statesmanlike achievements in WMU history. The Great Depression hit, and because of Mallory's proposal, the survival of the Home Mission Board (presently North American Mission Board) was guaranteed during the Depression.

Retiring at age 69, she had boosted WMU to a position of quiet power. Her life and WMU's history became one and the same–inseparable. Mallory's compassion for the world never changed. Thousands remembered her as the woman who knelt in prayer, speaking to God as a child would speak to her father. Her memory remains a testimony to the love of the Lord she served so faithfully.

Adapted from The Story of WMU by Rosalie Hunt


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