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  • Writer's pictureTabibu Africa, Inc

Humanitarian pioneers

Upon searching for early humanitarian pioneers I came across this amazing, strong, and independent humanitarian. Her story brought me to tears and I’m happy to be able to share her story with others.

Miss Annie Clemmer Funk was born on April 12, 1874 in Bally, Pennsylvania - born and raised in a Mennonite community.

After attending primary and secondary school Annie went on to work among the African-American community in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for several years before taking a staff position with the YWCA in Patterson, New Jersey working with young women and the growing immigrant community. She had long dreamed of being a missionary and humanitarian since her youth and as early as 1903 had indicated to the Mennonite Mission Board her availability. This was finally realized in November 1906 when she was sent to India as the first single female Mennonite missionary to be sent oversea!

Annie worked in Janjgir-Champa in India where she lived and worked for several years and learned the difficult Hindu language quickly. In July 1907 she opened a one-room school for girls which was the first school for girls in Jinjgir. Her students loved her so much they raise money to buy Annie a bicycle so she could get around India easier and quicker.

In March 1912 she received a telegram encouraging her to depart immediately: “Come home at once. Mother very ill. Have purchased on two ships, Pastor Shelly.".

Annie left Janjgir by train and boat to Liverpool where she awaited to board her final ship to the United States. Because of the coal-strike her original ship was laid off so Thos. Cook & Sons offered to exchange her ticket for the RMS Titanic for "a few more gold pieces". She bought her second class ticket number 237671 for £13.

Annie boarded the RMS Titanic at Southampton and enjoyed the first days by celebrating her 38th birthday. The night the Titanic hit the fateful iceberg she was asleep in her cabin and was woken by the stewards. She dressed and went on deck to await her place on a life boat. As Annie was singled out to take the last seat on a life boat she noticed a young mother with two children. Annie gave her seat to these three people, saving them while sacrificing her own life. A true humanitarian to the the very end with her family saying upon hearing this news, “that sounds just like our Annie”.

In Annie’s memory the school she had founded in Janjgir, India was named the "Annie C. Funk Memorial Girl's School." Sufficient memorial gifts were given by friends in America to enlarge the school and add a two story dormitory for boarding students which educated over 3500 girls.

A memorial is erected at the Hereford Mennonite Church Cemetery in Pennsylvania. In part the inscription reads “... she (Annie) was coming home in her furlough when death overtook her in the wreck of the steamship Titanic off of the coast of Newfoundland - Her life was one of service in the Spirit of the Master “Not to be ministered unto but to minister.”

Thank you Annie for making us motivated to strive for better and to be better. Thank you.

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