Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)FES
TitleRecords of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East
Extent10 standard boxes, 1 large box
DescriptionA small, very incomplete collection comprising the surviving archives of the Society which passed to the Church Mission Society some time before January 1900. Including nine minute books, ledgers and other financial records, 37 annual reports, a single copy of 'The Female Missionary Intelligencer' and a few other miscellaneous items. The only correspondence in the archive relates to the closure of FES in 1899.
ArrangementThe collection is held as part of the wider Church Mission Society Archive. It is catalogued as a discrete collection, arranged in three series:
A Administration
F Finance
Z Miscellaneous
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers.

For preservation reasons, digital or microfilm copies of the records in this collection are made available in place of original documents.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. A paper copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation at Special Collections.
Access StatusOpen, but subject to some access restrictions
Administrative HistoryThe Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East was founded 25 July 1834. It had its origins in an appeal for women missionaries to work amongst Chinese women made by an American missionary, Mr David Abeel, during a visit to England in 1834. Its title was abridged to the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East by 1838 and it is also sometimes referred to as the Female Education Society (FES).

FES was established as an interdenominational missionary society, staffed by women and employing women agents. Its principal object was the establishment and superintendence of schools in China, India and adjacent countries. It supplied missionaries and school teachers who were given passage and outfit money but who were expected to be supported locally; they, in turn, trained native women. The Society also gave schools grants of money, supplies of school materials and boxes of work materials for sale. The first missionary, Eliza Thornton, went to Malacca in 1836 and, in the same year, Elizabeth Carter went to Cawnpore [Kanpur] to take charge of the orphanage asylum, Anne Thomson went to Chinsrah and Mary Craven to Madras. The Society also sent missionaries to Singapore in 1836 but it was not until the 1840s that the first missionaries were sent to mainland China. The work in India expanded in the 1840s and 1850s and agents were sent to Palestine and Syria from the 1860s and to Japan from 1877.

The Society's main work in India centred on Madras 1837-1888, Cuttack, Orissa 1854, Calcutta 1855, Multan 1863, Ludhiana 1867, Agra 1869 and Coonoor 1895. In China, the main stations were Amoy 1848, Ningpo 1848 (transferred to Church Missionary Society 1888), Shanghai 1856-1880, Hong Kong 1858 and Foochow [Fuzhou] 1875. The Society also had agents in Singapore 1836 and Japan (Osaka 1877, Hakodate [Esashi] 1896). In South Africa work was based at Cape Town 1848-1876; the main stations in Kaffraria were Peelton 1855-1892, and Newlands Kahoon 1857-1883. In Palestine there were stations at Nazareth 1863, Bethlehem 1878 and Shefa Amr 1889; in Syria at Shemlan, Mount Lebanon 1861, and in Lebanon at Beirut 1859-1862, 1868-1871. The Society also worked in Mauritius 1860-1881. Its support for schools was widespread throughout India and China as well as Ceylon, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Burma, Penang, Greece, Turkey, Algeria and throughout the Levant.

In 1899, following the death of the Secretary, Miss Webb, the Society was closed down and the work divided. The Church Mission Society accepted 24 FES missionaries and their work in Palestine (Nazareth, Bethlehem and Shefa Amar), China (Hong Kong and Foochow), Japan (Osaka and Hakodate) and India (Agra and Multan). The schools in Singapore were handed over to the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society. The Baptist Missionary Society took over work at Cuttack, Orissa from 1 July 1899, while the London Missionary Society became responsible for Miss Dawson and her work at Coonoor. The British Syrian Schools Committee (now Middle East Christian Outreach) took over Shemlan from September 1899 and the work at Ludhiana was handed over to the American Presbyterian Mission. Ludhiana premises had been sold earlier to the North India School of Medicine (Ludhiana Medical Fellowship, now Friends of Ludhiana).

Supporters of the Society were encouraged from its earliest days to join together in groups as local Auxiliary Associations to raise funds and to spread interest about the work of the Society. Groups were formed at Liverpool and Hackney as early as 1836. These supporters were encouraged to continue after the closure of the Society and some working parties existed until at least 1915.

Honorary Secretaries:
1834-1840 Miss Elizabeth Adam
1834-1842 Miss H. Hope
1841-1856 Miss Sarah Adam
1847-1856 Miss Anne Bridges
1856-1865 Miss Emma Leycester
1857-1899 Miss Ellen Rutt
1866-1884 Miss Haldane
1881-1885 Miss Stirling
1885-1899 Miss L. Hope

1841 Miss Briggs
1841-1899 Miss Rosamond Anne Webb

Cash Secretary [Finance Secretary 1891]:
1854-1891 Miss Tait
1891-1897 Miss A. K. Sinclair
1897-1899 Miss C. E. Thorp

Sources: Rosemary A. Keen 'Catalogue of the papers of Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East, Church Missionary Society' 1987. Editorial introduction by Rosemary Keen in 'Church Missionary Society Archive. Missions to Women. A Listing and Guide to Section II: Parts 1-3 of the Microfilm Collection', Adam Matthew Publications 1997.
Custodial HistoryThe minute books, and presumably the other surviving records of the Society, were already at CMS headquarters in Salisbury Square in January 1900 when Miss Webb, FES Secretary, wrote that they were 'kindly stored there by Mr. Marshall Lang' (see CMS/G2 I6/1900/52). By 1951 when the first CMS archivist was appointed, the minute book covering the period January 1886-April 1895 was missing. The last minute book is dated 1895-1899, and this survives. It was produced in a Chancery suit in 1909, for which the papers survive at the Public Record Office (affidavit reference J4/7663/2398) and it may be that the other minute book was also used but not returned.
AcquisitionThe records were deposited with the University of Birmingham by the Church Mission Society in 1987 as part of the gradual transfer on permanent loan of the Church Missionary Society Archive.
CopiesMicrofilm copies:

The collection was micropublished by Adam Matthew Publications as part of a compilation of records relating to various missions to women which was released under the title 'Church Missionary Society Archive: Section II: Missions To Women, Part 1 (Adam Matthew Publications, 1997). The micropublication makes available copies of all of the records of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East (FES) alongside selected records of three other mission organisations: periodicals of the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS), minutes of the Zenana, Bible and Medical Mission (ZBMM) and annual reports of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society (IFNS). Copies of the microfilm have been purchased by libraries and other institutions around the world. The full text of the printed guide to the microfilm is available online through the Adam Matthew Publications website at

Reference copies of the microfilm are available in the Cadbury Research Library in microfilm drawer E2; paper copies of the guide are also available in Cadbury Research Library.

Online copies:

Digital copies of the microfilm are available to see online through the website of Adam Matthew Digital. Released under the titles: 'AM Scholar- Church Missionary Society Archive: missions to women'; 'Church Missionary Society Periodicals' and 'Empire Online'. The digitised copies are available to visitors to, and members of, the University of Birmingham and other subscribing institutions.

All visitors who have registered for a Cadbury Research Library Reader ticket can access the online copies on the public computers in the Cadbury Research Library Reading Room by following the URL links in the online catalogue. Staff and students of the University of Birmingham may also access the products when off campus through the University’s eResources by logging in through FindIt@Bham.

To find out about options for accessing microfilm or digital copies of the records in this collection if you are unable to visit the Cadbury Research Library, please contact Adam Matthew for information about holding institutions near you, and options for arranging institutional subscription or a four-week free trial of the digital products. Go to:

To find out about a Cadbury Research Library Adam Matthew Partnership Project which offers 12 researchers, one year of free individual access to the Adam Matthew products: ‘Church Missionary Society Archive' and 'Church Missionary Society Periodicals', go to the Research, Learning and Teaching page of the Cadbury Research Library website and follow the links under 'Support for remote learners’ at
Related MaterialCadbury Research Library holds the records of several mission organisations including the Church Mission Society official archive (GB 0150 CMS) and the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (GB 0150 CEZ); the Church Missionary Society archive includes an FES working parties despatch book 1907-1915 (CMS/W/A3). Cadbury Research Libary also holds a sketch book of Caroline Cuffley Giberne, 1838-1862, an FES missionary who served in Ceylon (DA18).
Associated MaterialsThe records of Interserve (formerly, the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission and the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society) are held by London University: School of Oriental and African Studies (GB 0102 INT).
The British Library holds copies of printed and published material of the Society which augments the incomplete sets held here. Their holdings include copies of the annual reports, a complete set of 'The Female Missionary Intelligencer' September 1853-July 1899, a history of the Society publsihed by Edward Suter (London, 1847) and 'Pages for the Young' 1879-1887.


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