Author: Kirk Mariner


Elizabeth James Morris Downes (1886–1968)

Elizabeth James Morris Downes was a leader among Virginia’s Baptist women for much of the twentieth century. Downes rose to prominence in 1910 when she became superintendent for the Eastern Shore’s chapters of the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU), a position she held until she became president of the the state organization in 1931. Though her presidency of the WMU of Virginia took place during the Great Depression, the association continued to fund missions and created the Interracial Department to improve African American education. Her term as president ended in 1934. Downes then became state chair of the Margaret Fund, which provided scholarship aid to children of Baptist missionaries, from 1935 until her retirement in 1950.

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