Davis, Mary Hill (ca. 1860–1934)

By: Ricky Paris

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Mary Hill Davis, advocate of Baptist missions and denominational leader, was born in Greenville, Georgia, around 1860, the daughter of Waid Hampton and Margaret (Lawson) Hill. She descended from Huguenots who arrived in Virginia around 1700. In 1870 her parents moved to Dallas, Texas, where they joined the First Baptist Church. Her education came primarily from private tutors. When she was twenty years old she married F. S. Davis, a Dallas physician.

Mrs. Davis served as recording secretary of the Texas Woman's Missionary Union from 1898 to 1906. She was elected president of the organization in 1906 and served for the next twenty-five years. Her first action as president was to organize the Young Women's Auxiliary in 1907 to educate young women for mission work. She organized the Royal Ambassadors in 1908 and the Girl's Auxiliary in 1913 for the same purpose. She also encouraged the WMU to support Baptist work among students on college campuses. Under her leadership the WMU grew from 350 mission societies in 1906 to 1,732 in 1931. To coordinate the union's work she helped introduce a district plan that organized the WMU into district unions. Although the organization grew, she stressed that the local missionary society was the most vital element of the WMU. She encouraged Baptists to support missions both spiritually and financially. During her tenure the WMU raised money to construct facilities for the Williford-Miller and Annie Jenkins Sallee schools in China, the Baptist Women's Missionary Training School in Fort Worth (a part of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), and the Women's Memorial Dormitory at Baylor University. She also solicited WMU contributions to Buckner Orphans Home (see BUCKNER BAPTIST CHILDREN'S HOME). In 1910 the WMU set aside the last week in September as an annual time to stress financial and spiritual support for state missions.

In addition to her work with the WMU, Mrs. Davis served as chairman of the Advisory Board of the Women's Missionary Training School from 1911 to 1934 and as vice president of the Baptist Missionary Union, an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, for twenty-six years. As a vocal supporter of the involvement of women in denominational affairs, she also spoke publicly to promote the Seventy-five Million Campaign, a missionary offering. In 1935 the Texas Woman's Missionary Union named the annual offering for state missions the Mary Hill Davis Offering. Mary Davis died in Dallas on November 28, 1934.

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L. R. Elliott, ed., Centennial Story of Texas Baptists (Dallas: Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1936). Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists (4 vols., Nashville: Broadman, 1958–82). Mrs. W. J. J. Smith, A Centennial History of the Baptist Women of Texas (Dallas: Woman's Missionary Union of Texas, 1933).
  • Religion
  • Baptist
  • Women
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ricky Paris, “Davis, Mary Hill,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/davis-mary-hill.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: