In April 1942, Edith Frances Millican was authorized for medical work by the New Mexico Board of Medical Examiners. Born in 1914 in China, where her parents were stationed as missionaries, Millican devoted her life to helping others. She earned a medical degree from the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia.

In 1941, Millican had been appointed to the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.’s China Council, although her journey to China was postponed on account of World War II. While she waited to head overseas, Millican joined the staff of the Embudo Presbyterian Hospital in Embudo, New Mexico. She worked there until 1943, when she left for China, where she was put in charge of the Chenhsien Hospital in Hunan.

During a 1948 furlough, Millican enrolled in a 2.5-year residency at her alma mater in Philadelphia. After completing her residency, she returned to the Embudo Hospital and spent the next five years there.

Back in 1941, Edith had been appointed as resident physician at the Board of National Missions' Mora Valley Medical Unit in Cleveland, New Mexico. Before she could take this position, she needed to submit her medical license to the New Mexico Board of Medical Examiners — thankfully, as shown in the image above, she received authorization.

The Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) from 1951 through 1966, met President John F. Kennedy in 1961, shortly after Kennedy’s inauguration. This letter, stored in PHS’s archives, had been sent to Blake by Kennedy when he was still a senator from Massachusetts.

Kennedy writes that he “would like very much to talk with” Blake, but that if an in-person meeting could not be arranged maybe Blake could “discuss some of these issues with my assistant — for I think you know how very interested we are in making certain that the best communication and understanding be maintained.”

What had Blake written in his letter from March 28? At the time, he was heading a delegation from the UPCUSA regarding the end of racial segregation within churches; perhaps Blake was hoping to sit down with Kennedy for a discussion on civil rights.

Only a couple of years after his first meeting with President Kennedy, Blake would participate in the March on Washington alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blake and other march leaders met with Kennedy at the White House before the event.  

Blake invited the president to speak at the December 1963 meeting of the National Council of Churches of Christ. After Kennedy’s assassination, the scheduled keynote address became a eulogy, delivered by Blake himself. You can listen to this speech here.

April 1961 saw students of Baghdad High School participating in Sports Day. The image above, and the other images of life at Baghdad High School that can be found in PHS’s digital repository, Pearl, are from the Margaret Purchase Papers. Purchase was a UPCUSA missionary who served as a teacher and administrator at the school from 1956 to 1969.

During those years it was called the American School for Girls in Baghdad; it was later renamed Baghdad High School in Mansour. Purchase taught English, Bible and physical education — perhaps Sports Day was her idea. At one point, she served as school principal.

You can view other digitized images from the high school here.

The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon at the opening of the Center for Womanist Leadership.

The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Canon (second from left) and friends. Image courtesy of Union Presbyterian Seminary.

In April 2018, the Center for Womanist Leadership — an organization spearheaded by the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, the first African American woman to be ordained in the UPCUSA — celebrated its opening by welcoming 1,500 guests to its inaugural gathering. The conference, “Bearing Witness to Womanism,” began with a free event — an appearance and address given by author Alice Walker. In the following days, a sold-out crowd of 250 participants convened to discuss womanist theory, thought and theology.

Four months after the gathering, Dr. Cannon passed. In 2019, Union Presbyterian Seminary Trustees named the Center in her memory — it is now known as the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership. Dr. Cannon’s legacy lives on in the work of the center that she helped establish.

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