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Sarah C. Durfee (1838-1915)

Sarah Crawford Durfee was born to Sanford and Mary C. (Cozzens) Durfee on January 20, 1838, in Warwick, Rhode Island. Both of her parents descended from early settler families in 17th century Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Her father was treasurer of a cotton manufacturing company, and amassed some modest wealth. Sarah lived with her father and stepmother, Mary E. Durfee, until their deaths in 1879 and 1880, respectively, and then she apparently lived alone (with a few servants from Ireland and Sweden) for the remainder of her life.

Though the census records never allow Sarah Durfee an occupation, she worked for more than forty years. An active member of Providence’s First Baptist Church, she served as president of the Women’s City Missionary Society, organized in March 1868, to “assist the poor in efforts to help themselves, and to engage in general missionary work for the city, providing homes for women who desire to reform, where they may be enabled to earn an honest livelihood, and aiding poor girls to procure respectable homes and employment.” Many women contributed money or visited the indigent who lived in their wards.

Durfee later served as national president of the Woman’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society for fifteen years. She directed an extensive national organization and was intimately involved with international missionary programs in Africa, East Asia, and Europe.

Sarah Durfee passed away on July 15, 1915 at the age of 77 and was buried near her parents in the North Burial Ground. Read More...

Erik Christiansen, PhD, Rhode Island College