The desire to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to women and girls of India was the prime motivation for the formation of the first women’s organisation of our Church in 1873. It was called the Female Association for Promoting Christianity Among the Women of the East. It was shortened to the Zenana Association.
Between 1874 and 2000 the PWA and its preceding organisations sent 239 missionaries into eleven countries, and Miss Susan Brown went to India as the first missionary of the Association.
In 1904, the General Assembly, concerned about long working hours for women and girls in the factories and mills, made a recommendation for “an agency of fully trained women workers” to be introduced into congregations. This resulted in the formation in 1905 of The Women's Association for Home Mission, followed by the Deaconess Guild in 1908. The first deaconess was Miss Betty Barclay.
In 1905 the Presbyterian Women's Union was formed for fellowship and to hear and discuss lectures on “edifying matters”. They quickly saw the need to help girls coming to work in Belfast from the country. In church house a Bible class was held on Sunday afternoons followed by tea. During the week there were evening classes in cooking, dressmaking, and handcrafts and at lunch time many girls came to make tea and eat their sandwiches.
By 1971 there had been several name changes and the PWA was formed by amalgamating the Women’s Missionary Association, Women’s Home Mission and the Presbyterian Women’s Union. In the same year the YWG was recognised as part of the PWA by the General Assembly, while still retaining their own identity and having a separate Central Committee.
In 2000, PWA became involved in the financial support of all missionaries in partnership with the Overseas Board, (now called Council for Global Mission) through the Mission Fund.
In 2005, we entered a new financial partnership with Council for Mission in Ireland for supporting deaconesses also through the Mission Fund.
In 2008 there was a coming together of PWA and YWG to form Presbyterian Women. This organisation aims to provide an opportunity for women to have fellowship with one another and to seek to win women for Jesus Christ. It also aims to encourage Christian discipleship and to foster support for local and global mission.
Click here to download a copy of the PW Guidebook which contains a more detailed account of the history.