Fannie Heck devoted her life to religious work. Born in Virginia to Mattie and Jonathan Heck, a Confederate lieutenant colonel, she was given the inauspicious middle name of Exile. She later adopted the name Scudder. After the war her family settled in Raleigh and built the manor now known as the Heck-Andrews House. She joined the First Baptist Church, engaging in her first mission work, and attended Hollins Institute.
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In 1886 the Baptist State Board of Missions agreed to allow women to organize for mission work. Fannie Heck, age twenty-four, was asked to preside over the Woman’s Central Committee of Missions. She would lead the North Carolina organization until her death in 1915. The Central Committee was permitted by the state board to join the Southern (later national) Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) in 1888 and Heck was elected president of that body in 1892. In terms of varying lengths, she would lead the national organization for fifteen years. Fannie Heck is considered to be the predominant force behind the WMU’s philosophies and ministries. Carol Crawford Holcombe, a Texas Baptist University professor, claims that the WMU’s emphasis on social service can be attributed entirely to Heck, who taught that social service was “an intrinsic part of the missionary enterprise.”
Fannie Heck was among the founders of the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School (now Carver School of Missions and Social Work) in Louisville, Kentucky, and a benefactor of North Carolina’s Baptist Female University (now Meredith College) and helped form the Woman’s Executive Committee of that school. She was the author of numerous books, pamphlets, and articles, including In Royal Service (1913), Everyday Gladness (1915), and Sunrise and Other Poems (1916). Fannie Heck died August 15, 1915, and is buried in Raleigh's Oakwood Cemetery.
Catherine B. Allen, Laborers Together With God: 22 Great Women in Baptist Life (1987)
Dorothy Allred, And So Much More: Living Legacies of North Carolina Women of Mission (2002)
Ethlene Boone Cox, Following His Train (1938)
Mary Lynch Johnson, A History of Meredith College (1956)
Foy Johnson Farmer, Hitherto: History of North Carolina Woman’s Missionary Union (1952)
Mrs. W. C. James, Fannie E. S. Heck: Study of Hidden Springs in a Rarely Useful and Victorious Life (1939)
Mark Wingfield, “Scholar Traces Influence of WMU on Baptists' Social Ministries,” in Baptist Standard, March 27, 2000, available at: http://www.baptiststandard.com/2000/3_27/pages/wmu.html
Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives: http://www.sbhla.org/bio_fheck.htm