Hannah Norris Armstrong
Born in 1842 in Canso, Nova Scotia, Hannah Maria Norris was known even as a child for her independant ways. Perhaps her strength was inherited from her grandfather, Abraham Whitman, the son of John "Deacon" Whitman and Mercy Foster. Hannah Maria was the daughter of Abraham's daughter, Hannah, who married George Norris.She received a calling early in life to become a missionary. Stories are recorded about her learning to row a dory across the Canso Harbor so she could bring the Gospel to the Micmaq living there. One such story tells of how on a wintry day, she tore her own shawl in half in order to share it with a freezing Indian woman who had no wrap to warm herself.
Overcoming great obstacles of discrimination as a woman, she was finally awarded the opportunity to serve as a Baptist missionary in Burma.
But it was a hard road she travelled.
*The United Baptist Women's Missionary Union began in 1870 when Miss Hannah Maria Norris of Canso, NS offered herself to the Maritime Baptist Foreign Mission Board as a candidate for appointment to Burma. This Board did not have the funds available for her passage and support. She engaged passage on a boat to Boston intending to apply to the American Baptist Foreign Mission Board, but before she sailed she was advised to appeal to the women of the churches. This she did on June 18, 1870. Miss Maria Norris organized a Woman's Missionary Society in her home church and soon had organized twenty-two societies in Nova Scotia and eleven in New Brunswick - the first of their kind in the world.
Miss Norris sailed for Burma on September 21, 1870 with sufficient money for her passage and one year's living expenses! From these beginnings the UBWMU has attained its present status.*
She married the Rev. William F. Armstrong in Rangoon, Burma.
See also The Dictionary of Canadian Biography
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