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Cythia Farrar (April 20, 1795 in Marlborough, New Hampshire – January 25, 1862 in Ahmednagar, India) was one of the first unmarried American women sent overseas as a missionary. She lived and worked in India from 1827 until her death.

Early life[edit]

Farrar was the daughter of Phinehas Farrar, a farmer, and Abigail Stone. At age 15, she joined the Congregational Church in Marborough, New Hampshire. She taught school in Marlborough and Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

Missionary to India[edit]

In 1826, the Marathi Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions requested that a single female missionary be sent to Bombay, India to direct schools for girls there, thus relieving the wives of male missionaries of the task. The American Board and other American missionary societies had previously been reluctant to send single women missionaries abroad, but recruited Farrar for the position of Superintendent of Girls' Schools. She departed the U.S. from Boston on June 5, 1827 as part of a missionary group bound for India. She arrived in Bombay and assumed her duties on December 29, 1827. Despite opposition from some Indians to educating females, by 1829 Farrar's schools enrolled more than 400 Indian girls.[2]

Farrar took a two-year furlough to the United States in 1837-1838 for health reasons. In 1839, she returned to India and was transferred to Ahmednagar to organize and direct schools for girls there. She lived and worked in Ahmednagar until her death in 1862.[3]


Farrar is often cited as the first single American woman to be sent overseas as a missionary.[4] Actually, she was preceded by Charlotte White in India and Betsey Stockton in Hawaii, but Farrar was the first single American woman to be recruited as a missionary for her abilities and qualifications and the first to spend most of her life as a missionary.


  1. ^ Lindley, Susan Hill ad Stebner, Eleanor J. The Westminster Handbook to Women In American Religious History Westminster: John Knox Press, 2005, p. 74
  2. ^ James, Edward T. James, Janet Wilson, and Boyer, Paul S. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 2, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971, p. 600-601
  3. ^ James, et al, pp. 600-601
  4. ^ James, et al, pp. 600-601

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