UCC Roots December 2017
The First Woman on the Eden Seminary Faculty
St. Louis’s Lafayette Square, now an affluent neighborhood of restored Victorian homes, was a dilapidated, transient, overcrowded, and impoverished neighborhood in 1936. That year, Anna Astroth became Director of Christian Education at Caroline Mission. Established in 1919 by the Evangelical Synod of North America, Caroline Mission existed to serve immigrants and working class families in St. Louis.
Anna Astroth, born in St. Louis in 1889, was educated in German Evangelical parochial and public schools. After obtaining a B.A. and M.A. in German from Washington University, she studied Christian Education at Boston University. She was energetic, committed, and highly respected. Before her time at Caroline Mission she had served as a national Field Secretary for the Y.W.C.A. and director of Christian education at Back Bay Mission, Biloxi, Mississippi. During her time at Caroline Mission she helped many people navigate the Depression, World War II, and racial integration. In 1946 she was appointed Family Counselor.
That same year, Astroth also became the first female faculty member at Eden Seminary, serving as part-time field-work supervisor for women students. Later, she taught and counseled in the field of social work. Her ongoing passion for peace and social justice involved her in the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the E&R Synodical Committee on Social Action.
Astroth “retired” from her various positions in 1960, but continued to serve as a social worker for Good Samaritan Home in St. Louis, and as Executive Secretary for the St. Louis-Area Division of the Missouri Association of Social Work. Retiring again in 1969, and believing that Christian action deepens faith, she was active until her death in 1976.
Her message was uncomplicated, “Love God, love yourself, and love everyone you meet. Then the theological and religious questions you continue to struggle with will be answered, or they will become unimportant to you.”
Contributor: Scott Holl