History History of the Woman's Auxiliary
HISTORY – LEGACY – ADVOCACY
The first President, Dr. Sarah Willie Layten, was the daughter of Rev. William H. and Mary H. Phillips. She was a graduate of LeMoyne College in Tennessee, honorary member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and active member of the Woman’s National Republican Committee. She accepted the challenge to be President of the newly formed Woman’s Convention at a time when Woman’s suffrage was a big issue in the country and the need for a separate Woman’s convention was hotly contested in the National Baptist Convention. Yet, both she and the Woman’s Convention persevered with faith, prayer, planning and a spirit of meekness. Dr. Layten helped to establish the National Baptist Missionary Training School at Nashville, Tennessee and helped to maintain missionaries on both the home and foreign fields. Her service expanded almost 50 years (1900-1948)
The second President, Dr. Nannie Helen Burroughs, first served as Corresponding Secretary to the Woman’s Convention over 40 years. It has been said, “Where she led, people followed.” She was the only child of parents who were born into slavery. She was a member of numerous civic organizations, a prolific orator and author of several books and publications.
Dr. Mary Olivia Brooks Ross was the third President of the Woman’s Auxiliary, serving from 1961 through 1995. She was born to the parentage of Professor Brookins and Mrs. B (Beatrice Brookins), both educators. She married Dr. Solomon David Ross, who was the pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Detroit for 39 years. Dr. Ross taught school after earning her B.A. from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and doing graduate studies at Michigan and Wayne State Universities. She was a world traveler, participant in many Christian education and Baptist organizations and author or co-author of a list of literature. Dr. Ross was a public servant, pioneer in social issue advocacy and strong supporter of youth and young adults. She received many awards, citations and Honorary Degrees for untiring efforts in the fields of Christian Education and Public Service.
Dr. Cynthia Perry Ray, the fourth President who served the Convention from 1995 until 2000, was former First Vice-President to Dr. Ross. She was born to Walter and Beatrice Perry of Penllyn, Pennsylvania. She was an integral part of her Christian and civic community. She held several leadership positions in the Woman’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. and also was elected Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1995, serving in that post until the year 2000. Dr. Ray, known as a “Presider,” characterized by a butterfly conversion and commitment to a new life with Christ continued many programs with the Literature Department, Women in White, and Camp Program. She instituted the Baptist Day of Prayer, Living Legacy and Love Kitchen. She too has passed on from labor to reward, and, like her predecessors, lives on in our hearts, minds and spirits.
Dr. Rosa Burrell Cooper served as president from 2001 to 2004. She began her service with the statement, “Together we can do it through Mission, Evangelism and Education.” She stated: “I believe that as President of the Woman’s Auxiliary, it is my mission to provide intelligent, articulate and responsive leadership in promoting spiritual growth of Christian women across the United States of America. To that end, I am committed to fostering and promoting group spiritual growth and personal development through programs which interpret, teach and apply the living and life-giving Word of our God.”
Dr. Hugh Dell Gatewood began her official service in January 2005. Dr. Gatewood served in a distinguished fashion for 12 years.
Sister Cynthia Perkins Smith was appointed as the President of the Woman’s Auxiliary in January 2017.