Sisters of the People

The name was given to a group of women, organized by Katherine Price Hughes in 1887 to support the work of the newly formed West London Mission, especially in ministering to the poor and disadvantaged. She was inspired to take this step by Mazzini's Young Italy Association. At a time when there were few outlets for the talents and dedication of young women from the privileged and educated classes, she enlisted those whose birth and education enabled them to offer their services to the community. They were involved in many forms of outreach, from district visiting to staffing a dispensary, a refuge for prostitutes and an early hospice, the St. Luke's Home for the Dying (1893). They also spoke at open-air services. Numbers grew from three in 1887 to forty in 1894. Among them were Mary Neal and ???. Mrs. Hughes remained in charge of the Sisterhood until World War II.

Hugh Price Hughes described the Sisterhood as 'by far the most important departure of the Mission', and his colleague Mark Guy Pearse declared one Sister to be worth ten parsons at caring for the poor.


'When [Hugh Price Hughes] thought any method or institution good, it mattered not to him that a Church of which on the whole he disapproved strongly had a sort of patent rights in it. He fearlessly adopted it. He resented the idea that any Church should have an monopoly of anything that was good. This mental attitude led to the foundation of the Sisterhood of the People. This frightened a good many old-fashioned Methodists. They thought that a Sisterhood, the members of which wore a veil and were called by their Christian names with the prefix "Sister", showed a Romeward tendency. That was not the standpoint with which Mr. Hughes, with his splendid audacity, looked at the religious history of the world. He thought that the Latin Church had derived great strength from the devoted services of good women, but he objected to their vows of celibacy, their conventual life, its secrecy, and to a great many other things in the Latin Church. That to him was no reason why he should not copy what he thought good. He could see no reason in morals or in his creed why good women should not devote themselves as exclusively to religious work as good men. Only, there must be no vows, no resignation of absolute freedom of action. His Sisters were to live in the world, not out of it, and they were to be free to marry. The Head of his Sisterhood, the first and only head, was his own devoted wife, and many of the members of his Sisterhood have married since its foundation. The success of the experiment so far has justified Mr. Hughes' judgment, and his daring example has been widely imitated in Methodism.'

W.M. Crook, in Hugh Price Hughes as we knew him (1902) pp.50-1

  • Dorothea Price Hughes, The Life of Hugh Price Hughes (1904)
  • Dorothea Price Hughes, The Sisters of the People and their Work (c.1905)
  • Katherine Price Hughes, The Story of my Life (1945)
  • Philip S. Bagwell, Outcast London - a Christian Response; The West London Mission of the Methodist Church 1887-1987 (1987), pp.24-35
  • Christopher Oldstone-Moore, Hugh Price Hughes (1999), pp.166-9