LADIES SEWING SOCIETY
In 1825, women of the congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Charleston, South Carolina, formed the Female Society, “organized for the purpose of contributing financial aid to worthy young men in their preparation for the Christian ministry in the Lutheran Church.” With the encouragement of their young pastor, the Reverend John Bachman, the women began their contributions to the South Carolina Synod, organized a year earlier in 1824. With the founding of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 1830, the Society’s principal work was the support of students of that institution. This aid for the education of ministers has been the primary purpose of the Society since its beginning.
The Society met weekly in the hall of the German Friendly Society on Archdale Street. When the first Sunday School building was completed, meetings were held there. Dues of the Society were then, as now, one dollar! Additional money was raised by the sale of handwork and from other activities:
“The women of St. John’s … stood as some of the Seminary’s staunchest and most faithful supporters. Beginning in 1825, they handstitched garments and then sold them to raise funds for seminarians, a tradition of support that continues to this day.”
(Susan Wilds McArver A Goodly Heritage 2006 p.6).
In recent years, the Ladies Sewing Society has sold St. John’s note cards, cookbooks, prints, decorative plates, and Christmas cards, in addition to handsewn items, to raise money for Seminary grants. In the past, a basket was used to hold the items for sale, a practice that is still in use today. This basket tradition has been affectionately noted as the Society’s “Basket Ministry” throughout its history. The basket is the symbol of the Ladies Sewing Society and is also the design of its Life Membership pewter pin.
After the Sunday School building was destroyed by fire in 1861, meetings were held in the homes of members, a custom which continued until 1973. Ladies Sewing Society Meetings now are held in the Parish Building on the second Sunday afternoon of each month, September – May.
The work of the Female Society almost came to an end with the War Between the States and the evacuation of the city by many of the inhabitants. However, the only remaining officer of the Society, Mrs. Henry S. Griggs, Treasurer, continued “amidst ever-increasing difficulties” to collect the dues from those she could reach.
In 1868, the Female Society merged with a group of younger women who had organized the Sunday School Missionary Society, which also gave aid to the Synod for the education of ministers, adopting a new name, the Ladies Sewing Society. Miss Catherine L. Bachman, who had been president of the younger society from 1855 to 1868, became president of the Ladies Sewing Society in 1868, continuing as president until her death in 1908.
Throughout its existence the Ladies Sewing Society has remained faithful in providing financial aid for the education of Lutheran ministers, the purpose for which it was founded in 1825. Grants are given yearly to men and women recipients to assist with their theological education.
If student support was not needed during a year, or if additional funds were available, the Society used its money for other causes, making contributions to the Synodical Education Fund, Home and Foreign Missions, the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Newberry College and the Ladies Benevolent Society of Charleston. At St. John’s Lutheran Church, the Society has contributed to the restorations of the Bachman Room, the Churchyard, the Parish Building, and the Sanctuary. The Society gave the tiling for the Sanctuary’s center aisle and the brass lectern that is still in use today. A window was given in memory of the Society’s leader for over 50 years, Miss Catherine L. Bachman.
Through hurricanes, fires, epidemics, war and earthquake, the work of the Society has been ongoing … touching upon three centuries. Today, the Ladies Sewing Society of the 21st century continues as an active organization of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Its enthusiasm and energy to remain true to its mission is inspiring. With God’s continued blessings, the Society members are committed to their ministry, embraced with prayer and purpose.
Ladies Sewing Society Presidents
Miss Mary E. Strobel
Miss Catherine L. Bachman
Miss Kate M. Ficken
Mrs. Olive Olney Dingle (J. Harvey)
Mrs. Edith Boinest Simmons (J. Betts)
Mrs. Alice Horlbeck Wagner (Frederick W.)
Mrs. Minnie Schwettmann Poulnot (Joseph M.)
Mrs. Gertrude Wulbern Haltiwanger (Ralph C.)
Mrs. Barbara Muller Lindstedt (Harry H.)
Mrs. Irene Howell Zidlick (Albert)
Miss Louise Wieters
Mrs. Mary Begemann Frederick (Harry C.)
Miss Ann Luden Momeier
Mrs. Diane Heatley Bean (I. Lynn)
Mrs. Judith Skidmore Butler (David J.)
Mrs. Donna Abee Counts (Edward L.)
Mrs. Anita Donnell Mitchum (William G.)