Wiseman, Caroline Meta (née Shum)

She was born in Bath, the youngest daughter in the prominent Shum family, and bacame the influential secretary of the Ladies' Auxiliary (later Women's Work) of the WMMS. As a young woman in Bath she taught in a Ragged School, and following the 1870 Education Act was the first woman in England to be appointed to a School Board. In 1874 she married the widower Luke Hoult Wiseman, at that time a Secretary of the WMMS. After his death nine months later, her home in Barnsbury became a headquarters for the work of the Ladies' Auxiliary. As its Secretary from 1874 to 1912, she transformed it into a much larger organization, including medical work, which began during her period in office. Despite having to overcome a natural shyness, she was sometimes too outspoken, but also had great charm and was an inspiration to others with whom she worked. She travelled extensively overseas, especially in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and, in 1903, in China and energetically supervised and publicized the work of women missionaries. She was a member at Liverpool Road WM chapel, and later at Muswell Hill. She died on 14 July 1912. 'Wiseman scholarships', from a fund raised in her memory, were granted to support girls from the various missionary districts she had visited in furthering their education.


'Mrs. Wiseman's appointment as Secretary was the beginning of a great change. As she went from place to place holding women's meetings and describing with graphic power both there and in the homes where she stayed, the wrongs and woes of India's women, she roused an extraordinary amount of interest and inspired numbers of missionary volunteers and other workers. At one time, nearly all our local officers and collectors had begun thgeir work under the spell of her influence. She was the leader and the moving spirit of the Auxiliary for over thirty years and it owes her a measureless debt.'

A.M. Hellier, Workers Together (1931) p.53

  • Methodist Recorder, 18 July & 8 August 1912
  • Lena Tyack, Caroline Meta Wiseman (1915)
  • Anna Maria Hellier, 'Just Nothing', memories of Caroline M. Wiseman and her work (1925)
  • Anna Maria Hellier, Workers Together: the story of the Women's Auxiliary of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (revised edition, 1931)
  • Christi-An C. Bennett, 'Women's Work: the role of women in Wesleyan Methodist overseas mission in the nineteenth century', in Methodist History, 32:4 (July 1994) pp.229-36