An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Burnham, Mary Douglass

(May 13, 1832-Dec. 26, 1904). Leading deaconess and founder of the Dakota League. She was born in Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1852 she married Wesley Burnham. He spent most of his time working in the Sandwich Islands in the sugar cane industry. In 1864 she founded the Dakota League and served as its president until 1875. The Dakota League supported Indian mission work and was a predecessor organization for the Woman's Auxiliary to the Board of Missions, which was formed in 1871. She established the Woman's Auxiliary in the newly created Diocese of Central New York. Burnham was set apart as a deaconess there on Apr. 22, 1876. She served as head of the Diocesan Deaconess Order and Superintendent of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd at Syracuse. Following a winter holiday in St. Augustine, Florida, she persuaded Bishop Frederic Dan Huntington to seek the transfer of Cheyenne Indian David Oakerhater from the military prison in St. Augustine to Central New York. Oakerhater was educated in New York for what became his fifty-year ministry in Oklahoma. Burnham then went to Boston, where she became superintendent of the Home for Incurables and president of the Diocesan Woman's Auxiliary. In 1892 she moved to Yonkers, New York, where she became superintendent of St. John's Hospital. The last years of her life were spent as hostess of a home for visiting missionaries in New York City. She died in New York City.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.