A warmed heart and a disciplined mind …

Dorothy Farrar’s long life and distinguished career spanned more than three quarters of the history of twentieth century Methodism, and for much of that time she was a pioneer, enabler and advocate of women’s ministry. Born into an affluent Halifax manufacturing family, ‘DF’ inherited a tradition of commitment to Wesleyan Methodist work at home and overseas. Like many educated young people in the inter-war years (Dorothy studied at the University of London and gained a PhD) she was deeply influenced by the charisma of W.R. Maltby, Warden of the Wesley Deaconess Order.

Maltby’s Liberal Evangelical theology and spirituality profoundly affected Free Church and student circles in this period, and he was a strong supporter of women’s ministry. It was through Maltby that Dorothy heard the call to preach in 1927, and she taught at the Deaconess College at Ilkley in the 1920s before joining the Order in 1936. She served as Vice-Principal at the College and as a long-standing member of the Local Preachers’ Studies Board before being elected Vice-President of the Conference in 1952, becoming only the second woman to hold this post. Dorothy represented British Methodism at the World Council of Churches in 1954 and was the only female Methodist representative on the Anglican-Methodist ‘Conversations’ from 1956 to 1963. During a lengthy ‘retirement’ from 1962 to 1987 she continued to serve as a Local Preacher and Bible study group leader in Halifax.

John Hargreaves is an experienced and gifted historian, with a particular expertise in the history of Halifax Methodism. He has unearthed a tremendous amount of material about Dorothy Farrar’s life and activities - in itself a considerable achievement, since she left no memoirs and systematically destroyed her personal papers - and he tells her story with sympathy, insight and understanding. This clearly written and well-produced booklet offers an excellent snapshot of Methodism in the quarter-centuries before and after Methodist Union.

Two reflections remained in the mind of this reviewer after reading Dorothy Farrar’s life story. First, an awareness of how much work still remains to be done on the history of twentieth century Methodism; and second, how far we have come from the days when a Vice-President could say to his predecessor (and mean it as a compliment): ‘in difficulty God will find a man and if there isn’t a man he will find a woman’. At least, I hope we have come a long way since those days!

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