Mary Sumner, Founder of the Mothers' Union

Who was Mary Sumner (1828 - 1921)?

She is best known as the founder of the Mothers' Union.

If you were to go to her grave at Winchester Cathedral, England on 9 August you might find flowers placed there that day by Mothers' Union members. That is because this is the day when she is commemorated in the Church of England calendar, although she actually died on the 11th not the 9th August 1921.

Born Mary Elizabeth Heywood in 1828 in Manchester, she married George Sumner in 1848. He was a Church of England clergyman. For many years she supported her husband's work in the parish of Old Alresford near Winchester, Hampshire, England.


Mary Sumner saw the need for a supportive group of mothers.

She wanted to bring together women who could support and learn from one another about how to be a good example to children and keep prayer central to family life.

In the summer of 1876 she convened the first group meeting in the Rectory of Old Alresford, inviting 40 local women from all social classes. It was a small and local beginning for something that eventually grew into an enormous and now international movement, the Mothers' Union.


You can read more about Mary Sumner in these places for starters:



The Mothers' Union's vision has expanded beyond its original aims, although prayer still remains central.

The Mothers' Union aims to
"demonstrate the Christian faith in action through the transformation of communities worldwide".
Its vision
"is of a world where God's love is shown through loving, respectful and flourishing relationships".

Click on the Mother's Union website to learn more of its history and current work with people of all faiths and none in 83 countries.



Collect for Mary Sumner


Faithful and loving God,
who called Mary Sumner to strive for the renewal of family life:
give us the gift of your Holy Spirit,
that through word, prayer and deed
your family may be strengthened and your people served;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


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