Called “a Christian world citizen,” 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.
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. Kathleen was only 28 years old, and this tragedy completely changed the direction of her life.
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. 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, known by many leaders as the “Tiny Dynamo.” She traveled, spoke, and guided the women of the Southern Baptist Convention. 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 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.
To learn more about Kathleen Mallory’s life, get your copy of her story now. Guided by Grace: the Kathleen Mallory Story, was written by speaker, author, and historian, Rosalie Hall Hunt.
Adapted from The Story of WMU by Rosalie Hunt