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The Wesley Deaconess Order was founded in 1890 in response to the realisation that an Order of dedicated women had a valuable part to play in the life of the Methodist Church. For over one hundred years, deaconesses made a significant contribution to British Methodism across a range of activities – pastoral, evangelistic, nursing, in teaching and in overseas missions.

Before the entry of women into the ordained ministry in 1974, the deaconess work was the principal official means by which female ministry was exercised in British Methodism. Their contribution to the life of the Church (which continues today) was immense and had a particular, but not exclusive, impact on youth work and social ministry, especially in the inner city.

The deaconess collection consists of committee minutes, training and policy documentation, photographs, personnel records and the personal papers of deaconesses and supervising staff. The records of the annual Convocation and the Deaconess Training Institute are also well-represented in the archive.

The deaconess collection is now fully catalogued to item level and provides valuable opportunities for research into the evolving role of women in the life of the modern Church. To download the catalogue in PDF form click here: WDO Archive Catalogue.

Dr Gareth Lloyd

Photograph of staff of the Wesley Deaconess Order

WDO 4/29. Group photograph of deaconesses at the Institute, 1910.