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BUCHAN, JANE, teacher, publisher, and missionary society administrator; b. 1837 in Paris, Upper Canada, second daughter of David Buchan and Jane Griffith; d. unmarried 21 Nov. 1904 in Toronto.

Jane Buchan was one of 14 siblings. In 1834 her parents had immigrated from Scotland and settled at Braeside, Upper Canada; they became farmers there and were founding members of First Baptist Church in nearby Paris. David Buchan served as president of the Regular Baptist Missionary Convention for two terms (1849–50, 1876–77) and in 1849–50 was owner-editor of the Evangelical Pioneer (Toronto). In 1851 he was made chairman of the endowment board of the University of Toronto and two years later its bursar, a position he also held at Upper Canada College. Briefly in 1850–51 and permanently from 1866 the Buchan family lived in Toronto.

As a young girl during her first period of residence there, Jane Buchan committed herself to Christian service and was baptized into membership of Bond Street Baptist Church. She taught Sunday school, an activity she continued after going back to Paris. Upon her return to Toronto, she rejoined Bond Street Church. On 22 Sept. 1871 she became a founding member of Yorkville Baptist Church, where, under her leadership and that of other family members, a Sunday school was begun. The church grew and Jane became a fixture in its programs. Her young women’s class, for example, regularly attracted 30 to 40 students.

With the encouragement of their father, Jane and her sisters Margaret and Erskine became leaders in the movement to create, in 1876, the Women’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of Ontario West. They had been inspired by an appeal from the Reverend Americus Vespucius Timpany during his furlough from India. Two years later Jane and Margaret launched a private periodical, the Canadian Missionary Link, with Jane as its first business manager. Under her able administration, it soon had 5,000 subscribers. In 1886 the women’s missionary society appointed Jane corresponding secretary (renamed foreign secretary in 1901), a position she held until her death. She received no salary, and it is likely that she was supported by her family.

During the 19th century, the foreign missionary cause elicited enthusiasm and support from hundreds of thousands of Canadians. As was true for other denominations, there were in the Baptist church many who initially opposed the commissioning of single women as missionaries and the organization of women’s missionary societies. In 1878 the Canadian Baptist quoted a Mrs Willing of Chicago, who challenged the propriety of these societies, saying that women who participated in them had less time to give to the “tangling and untangling of worsteds and the hemming of flounces.” Recalling this controversy, Joseph William Alexander Stewart, general secretary of the Canadian Baptist Missionary Board, wrote in the Canadian Missionary Link in 1884 that, when the formation of a women’s auxiliary was proposed, he numbered among the “wise and cautious brethren” who “shook their heads at this innovation. . . Was not this new movement a division of our forces? . . . What right had the women, as women, to be moving in this matter?” But, he confessed, “I am wiser now. . . . To begin to object to the Women’s Mission Circles now would be about as sensible as if one rail of a railway track should begin to find fault with the other and tell it to get out of the way.” Despite initial opposition, women’s societies became the backbone of the expanding missionary movement, providing many of its most able administrators and devoted workers.

Women’s missionary activity had as its purpose the “evangelization of the women of heathendom” by the training of native workers, the support of women missionaries, and the provision of resources. Especially in India, this work had a strong social-service orientation, but it also facilitated the realization of a broader missionary mandate. In 1882 the Baptist women of Ontario sent to India a single woman, Mary Jane Frith, who undertook the supervision of schools and conducted zenana visitations, which entailed calling on Muslim and high-caste Hindu women in the secluded quarters of their homes. The work prospered, in considerable measure because of strong support from the home base in Canada.

Reading Jane Buchan’s annual reports as corresponding secretary in the Canadian Missionary Link and the Baptist year book for Ontario, Quebec, [etc.], as well as in other church publications of the time, one discerns her yearning to have a full place in the ministry and mission of the church, to support foreign mission work and the advance of western civilization, and to end such Hindu practices as suttee, whereby widows were burned on the pyres of their husbands, and its system of caste, which, she believed, undermined the status of women. She understood the importance of domestic support for overseas work, and urged other Baptist women to form mission groups, soliciting 2 cents a week, 10 cents a month, or a dollar a year for the cause. Within a year of its founding, the Women’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of Ontario West numbered over 30 circles and bands and had raised $654. By 1904 the figures had grown to several hundred groups and more than $10,000. Over the years these local societies raised additional funds for special projects such as dispensaries, schools, and bungalows for women missionaries. Even during periods of economic hardship, such as the early 1890s, the women’s side of the foreign missionary enterprise did not suffer.

By the time of Jane Buchan’s death, Baptist women in Ontario were supporting 14 female missionaries in India, among them Sarah Isabel Hatch, Dr Gertrude Hulet, and Katherine Sarah McLaurin, and a new field in Bolivia. A pioneering administrator, Jane Buchan provided services essential to the smooth operation of this work, including careful compilation of annual reports, correspondence with missionaries in the field, hospitality for those who returned to Canada, and participation in the meetings of boards, circles, and other denominational bodies. Canadian Baptist missionaries in India valued her support and named a bungalow after her as a memorial at the Vuyyuru hospital in present-day Andhra Pradesh.

From the time of her baptism, she linked prayer with service and faith with action. In addition to her work in Sunday schools and the mission society, for many years she engaged in a broad range of benevolent activity including, in 1873, helping to found the Young Women’s Christian Association of Toronto, which she served as secretary for 20 years. Jane Buchan died in 1904.

Paul R. Dekar

Jane Buchan’s reports as corresponding secretary of the Women’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Soc. of Ontario West appear in Canadian Missionary Link (Toronto), 9 (1886–87)–27 (1904–5).

Canadian Baptist Arch., McMaster Divinity College (Hamilton, Ont.), Mrs I. C. [Ruth] Morgan, “Women’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of Ontario (West), 1876–1952” in “The B.W.M.S. story: a history of the Baptist Women’s Missionary Society of Ontario and Quebec” (typescript, 1976). Canadian Baptist (Toronto), 7, 14 May 1873; 1 Dec. 1904: 8. The Baptist year book for Ontario, Quebec, [etc.] . . . (Toronto), 1905: 22–23. R. P. Beaver, All loves excelling; American Protestant women in world mission (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1968). J. A. Boyd, “David Buchan,” McMaster Univ. Monthly (Toronto), 6 (1896–97): 194–203. Canadian Missionary Link, 27 (1904–5): 80, 115 (includes photograph). Alfreda Hall, Wheels begin to turn: the Baptist Women’s Missionary Society of Ontario and Quebec (Toronto, 1976). Mary Quayle Innis, Unfold the years: a history of the Young Women’s Christian Association in Canada (Toronto, 1949). H. M. Ross, “Shaping a vision of mission: early influences on the United Baptist Women’s Missionary Union,” An abiding conviction: Maritime Baptists and their world, ed. R. S. Wilson (Saint John, N.B., 1988), 83–107.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Paul R. Dekar, “BUCHAN, JANE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/buchan_jane_13E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/buchan_jane_13E.html
Author of Article:   Paul R. Dekar
Title of Article:   BUCHAN, JANE
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   May 21, 2024