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Mary E. Bates (standing, center) and the Sioux City Little Mothers’ Society. 

From Home and School, January 1923.

Bates, Mary Ellen (Cook) (1869–1939)

By Sabrina Riley

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Sabrina Riley was born in Auburn, New York and raised in Dowagiac, Michigan. She received a B.A. in history from Andrews University and an M.A. in information and libraries studies from the University of Michigan. Riley was a member of Andrews University’s library staff from 1998 to 2003, library director and college archivist at Union College from 2003 to 2016, and is presently a freelance researcher, author, and information professional.

 

Mary Ellen Bates was an early proponent of family ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She encouraged the General Conference to establish the Home Commission department and was affectionally known as “the Mother of the Young Mothers’ Society,” a precursor of the Home and School Association.1

Early Life and Family

Born on January 23, 1869, in LaSalle County, Illinois, Mary Ellen Cook was the daughter of Midwestern farmers,2 William Cook and Laura Louisa Hartson (1818-1897; 1827-1906).3 Her siblings included William Jasper (1851-unknown), Edward N. (1859-1921),4 and Flora L. (1865-1926), a teacher who married William Thomas Bland.5 William and Laura Cook were natives of Pennsylvania who moved to Wisconsin and Illinois, before settling near Nevada, Iowa, in 1876. It is unknown when the family became Seventh-day Adventist, but Mary Cook Bates was reported to have been an Adventist from her childhood.6

On December 22, 1890, in Nevada, Iowa,7 Mary Cook married William Leonard Bates (1867-1956), a physician8 and a photographer, who worked for the Sioux City Journal, the newspaper of Sioux City, Iowa.9 No evidence that William Bates was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been located.

The Bates’ only son, Floyd Edward (1892-1971), became a minister and physician who spent seventeen years in China during two terms of mission service. He also worked at several Adventist hospitals and sanitariums in the United States.10

A Lay Worker for the Church

Mary E. Bates’s contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church was largely through work in her local congregations in Coon Rapids, Harlan, and Sioux City, Iowa. In 1898, she was Tract and Missionary Society secretary for the Coon Rapids church.11 The following year she moved to Harlan, Iowa.12 By 1915, she relocated to Sioux City.13

In Sioux City, Bates served as Sabbath School superintendent until at least 1919,14 and later became Young People’s Society leader.15 As Young People’s Society leader, she began to exert regional influence. In 1920, Bates was in charge of the meetings for young women at a Missionary Volunteer convention held at Oak Park Academy in Nevada, Iowa.16 She was issued a missionary license by the Iowa Conference in 1918 and 1919.17

As evidence by a contribution she made to the Northern Union Reaper in 1916, Bates was a natural encourager. The collection of quotes she compiled for the article illustrated her own experience of being blessed by serving others and encouraged readers to gain the same blessings through unselfish service to those around them.18

Bates started the first mothers’ meetings in Sioux City in July 1918. Intended to help young Adventist women train their children spiritually, it was also attended by some who were not members of the church.19 At about the same time, she started writing to the General Conference education department, urging the adoption of her program church-wide. When the Home Commission was formed in 1921 and Arthur W. Spalding given responsibility for it, her correspondence was forwarded to him.20 While the Home Commission did adopt the Little Mothers’ Society program, which was later replaced by home and school associations, Bates remained active in its support. In November and December 1921, 21 she published two articles promoting the mothers’ meetings. Throughout 1923, she wrote monthly programs for the Little Mothers’ Society meetings that were published in the new magazine, Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education.22

Later Life

In the midst of writing the sample programs for the Young Mothers’ Society, Bates moved to Los Angeles, California, with her husband. She continued to address issues of parenting and child development through writing and speaking.23 She was a featured speaker during the National Child Health Day program held on May 1, 1930, at the White Memorial Adventist church in Los Angeles.24 Mary Bates died on June 10, 1939, in California.25

Sources

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “The Coon Rapids Society…” The Worker’s Bulletin, October 4, 1898.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “The Elijah Message.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, June 1931.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “Every Day.” Christian Educator, March 1922.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “From the Cuckoo's Nest–Appreciation.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, May 1932.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “From the Cuckoo's Nest–The Perfect Antique.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, August 1932.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “The ‘Little Mothers’’ Organization.” Christian Educator, November 1921.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “Mother’s Meetings Sioux City.” The Worker’s Bulletin, March 25, 1919.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “Personal Blessings that May be Received from Engaging in Home Missionary Work.” Northern Union Reaper, May 9, 1916.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “Program for Young Mothers' Society.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, August 1923.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “Sabbath School Quarantine.” The Worker’s Bulletin, October 22, 1918.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “Sioux City.” The Worker’s Bulletin, August 8, 1916.

Bates, Mrs. W. L. “A Suggestive Program for the Young Mother's Society.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, January 1923.

“Floyd E. Bates obituary.” ARH, February 3, 1972.

“An Identification.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, November 1924.

Iowa. Death Certificates. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 26, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

“Iowa Sanitarium News Items.” Northern Union Outlook, June 27, 1939.

“Laura Louise Hartson Cook obituary.” Find a Grave. accessed November 26, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119074376/laura-louisa-cook.

Mair, J. J. “Missionary Volunteer Conventions, Exira, Ruthven, Oak Park Academy.” The Worker’s Bulletin, April 13, 1920.

“Mary Ellen Cook Bates obituary.” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939.

McKibben, Mrs. W. A. “Sioux City Specials.” The Worker’s Bulletin, July 15, 1919.

McKibben, W. A. “Sioux City and Other Churches. The Worker’s Bulletin, November 16, 1915.

“Morningside.” Sioux City Journal, May 7, 1920. Accessed November 26, 2019. Newspapers.com.

Mothers’ Committee. “National Child Health Day.” Pacific Union Record, April 17, 1930.

“Mrs. W. L. Bates…” The Worker’s Bulletin, November 28, 1899.

Nevada, Story County, Iowa. Marriages. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 24, 2019. https://www.ancestry.com.

Ogden, A. R. and A. R. Smouse. “Conference Proceedings.” The Worker’s Bulletin, September 23, 1919.

Ogden, A. R. and Flora V. Dorcas. “Conference Proceedings 1918.” The Worker’s Bulletin, September 3, 1918.

“Our Pioneers.” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, January 1923.

Tennessee. Deaths and Burials Index. Ancestry.com. Accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

“William Cook obituary.” Find a Grave. Accessed November 26, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119059720.

“William L. Bates obituary.” The Los Angeles Times, January 8, 1956. Accessed November 24, 2019. Newspapers.com.

W. L. Bates. “Snapshot at Indian Celebration Which Shows They are on Good Terms with Whites. Sioux City Journal, July 12, 1908. Accessed November 26, 2019. Newspapers.com.

Notes

  1. “An Identification,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, November 1924, 31.

  2. “Mary Ellen Cook Bates obituary,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939, 13.

  3. “William Cook obituary,” Find a Grave, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119059720; “Laura Louise Hartson Cook obituary,” Find a Grave, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119074376/laura-louisa-cook.

  4. Iowa, Certificate of Death no. 077-291 (1921), Edward N. Cook, Ancestry.com, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

  5. Tennessee, Deaths and Burials Index (1926), Flora L. Bland, Ancestry.com, accessed November 26, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

  6. “Mary Ellen Cook Bates obituary,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939, 13.

  7. Nevada, Story County, Iowa, Marriages, (1890), Ancestry.com, accessed November 24, 2019, https://www.ancestry.com.

  8. “Mary Ellen Cook Bates obituary,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939, 13; “William L. Bates obituary,” The Los Angeles Times, January 8, 1956, 10, accessed November 24, 2019, Newspapers.com.

  9. W. L. Bates, “Snapshot at Indian Celebration Which Shows They are on Good Terms with Whites, Sioux City Journal, July 12, 1908, 6, accessed November 26, 2019, Newspapers.com.

  10. “Floyd E. Bates obituary,” ARH, February 3, 1972, 32; “Iowa Sanitarium News Items,” Northern Union Outlook, June 27, 1939, 3-4; “An Identification,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, November 1924, 31.

  11. Mrs. W. L. Bates, “The Coon Rapids Society…,” The Worker’s Bulletin, October 4, 1898, 4.

  12. “Mrs. W. L. Bates…,” The Worker’s Bulletin, November 28, 1899, 4.

  13. W. A. McKibben, “Sioux City and Other Churches, The Worker’s Bulletin, November 16, 1915, 2.

  14. Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Sioux City,” The Worker’s Bulletin, August 8, 1916, 2; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Sabbath School Quarantine,” The Worker’s Bulletin, October 22, 1918, 3-4; Mrs. W. A. McKibben, “Sioux City Specials,” The Worker’s Bulletin, July 15, 1919, 3.

  15. “Morningside,” Sioux City Journal, May 7, 1920, 7, accessed November 26, 2019, Newspapers.com.

  16. J. J. Mair, “Missionary Volunteer Conventions, Exira, Ruthven, Oak Park Academy,” The Worker’s Bulletin, April 13, 1920, 1.

  17. A. R. Ogden and Flora V. Dorcas, “Conference Proceedings 1918,” The Worker’s Bulletin, September 3, 1918, 1-3; A. R. Ogden and A. R. Smouse, “Conference Proceedings,” The Worker’s Bulletin, September 23, 1919, 1-3.

  18. Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Personal Blessings that May be Received from Engaging in Home Missionary Work,” Northern Union Reaper, May 9, 1916, 6-7.

  19. Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Mother’s Meetings Sioux City,” The Worker’s Bulletin, March 25, 1919, 3; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “The ‘Little Mothers’’ Organization,” Christian Educator, November 1921, 90-91.

  20. “Our Pioneers,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, January 1923, 155; See Arthur W. Spaulding for more about Mary Bates’s role in the formation of the Home Commission.

  21. Mrs. W. L. Bates, “The ‘Little Mothers’’ Organization,” Christian Educator, November 1921, 90-91; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Help for Mothers,” Christian Educator, December 1921, 124-125.

  22. See for example, Mrs. W. L. Bates, “A Suggestive Program for the Young Mother's Society,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, January 1923, 155-156; and Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Program for Young Mothers' Society,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, August 1923, 383-385.

  23. Mrs. W. L. Bates, “Every Day,” Christian Educator, March 1922, 218; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “The Elijah Message,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, June 1931, 18-19; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “From the Cuckoo's Nest–Appreciation,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, May 1932, 10; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “From the Cuckoo's Nest–The Skeleton,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, April 1932, 14; Mrs. W. L. Bates, “From the Cuckoo's Nest–The Perfect Antique,” Home and School: A Journal of Christian Education, August 1932, 25.

  24. Mothers’ Committee, “National Child Health Day,” Pacific Union Record, April 17, 1930, 6.

  25. “Iowa Sanitarium News Items,” Northern Union Outlook, June 27, 1939, 3-4; “Mary Ellen Cook Bates obituary,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939, 13.

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Riley, Sabrina. "Bates, Mary Ellen (Cook) (1869–1939)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed June 20, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IC7.

Riley, Sabrina. "Bates, Mary Ellen (Cook) (1869–1939)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access June 20, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IC7.

Riley, Sabrina (2021, April 28). Bates, Mary Ellen (Cook) (1869–1939). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 20, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IC7.