Preparing God-called women for more than a century
The desire of four young girls in a Dallas orphanage to enter the mission field was the catalyst for the launch of the Baptist Woman’s Missionary Training School at Southwestern Seminary more than a century ago. In a presentation this fall in Roberts Library, seminary archivist and special collections librarian Jill Botticelli recalled how it evolved from a fledgling training school to a full-blown seminary program for women.
In 1904, Robert Cooke Buckner, a Baptist minister and founder of Buckner Baptist Children’s Home in Dallas, learned that four girls living at the orphanage wanted to follow in the footsteps of Lottie Moon. En route to a conference, “he calculated a plan for a mission training school,” Botticelli said, and presented the idea immediately at the conference. Training started in 1906 in an annex building at the Buckner Home. “Buckner believed that women’s training was a great foundation pillar of mission work,” Botticelli said.
Local pastors taught classes. Enrollees studied Scriptures and pastoral theology with the Bible as their textbook, and were taught to care for the sick. They attended tuition-free but were assigned the upkeep of the orphanage. One of the school’s early graduates, Ida Bowie Taylor, was assigned to mission work in China, where she worked with Lottie Moon and took over operation of a school for girls.
After talking with L.R. Scarborough, who would eventually become Southwestern’s second president, Buckner steered the merger of the Baptist Woman’s Missionary Training School with Southwestern Seminary in 1910, when the seminary’s programs were relocating from Waco to Fort Worth. “Once the second floor at Fort Worth Hall was finished, the girls moved in,” Botticelli said. The first class to complete its studies on the Southwestern campus graduated in 1917.
As the program grew, Scarborough called on Baptist women to raise money for a new building. Now known as Barnard Hall, this new structure provided a space devoted to training the seminary’s female students. “It was really a magnificent building for its time,” Botticelli said.
Barnard Hall’s namesake, Floy Barnard, joined the Southwestern faculty in 1933 to teach missionary education and was elected dean of the Woman’s Missionary Training School in 1942. The building was officially named for her after her retirement in 1960.
As the training school expanded its activities, students performed field work and held prayer services, and faculty member and songwriter B.B. McKinney wrote a hymn for them in praise of their time as students—“Our Home on the Hill,” preserved in Southwestern’s archives.
They also established a kindergarten and a site for household donations. “The kindergarten was the brainchild of Dr. Scarborough,” Botticelli said.
In 1945, the Baptist Woman’s Missionary Training School was incorporated into Southwestern’s regular program offerings for women. From its inception, Scarborough had high praise and a clear objective for the school. “Our purpose is to do for women in their work what we are doing for men in theirs,” he said.
Since 1908, this early work has paved the way for 9,856 women to graduate from Southwestern, preparing them for their godly objectives just as Scarborough intended. “I think he would be proud to see that we are still doing that today,” Botticelli said.