Of all the names from the distant past of our congregation, the name Sara Hart is probably better known than any other, except perhaps Jesse Higbee. J. Madison Williams, Thomas J. Dow, Carlos Rowlison, Irving Wade, all are forgotten. Yet they were all ministers who had a positive impact on our church’s history. Sara Hart stands out as an example of dedication to her church, devotion to her faith and determination to accomplish her mission despite seemingly overwhelming obstacles.
Sara Hart was a public school teacher in the Iowa City school system, and from at least 1905 on was principal of Shimek elementary school. In addition, she was a devoted Sunday School teacher in First Christian Church. But her burning desire was to be a missionary in a foreign land. She did not, however, have sufficient education to qualify, and so was denied this opportunity. Not deterred she continued her education by taking night classes and summer classes at the University of Iowa. She finally fulfilled the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in 1915 and graduated from the university. By this time, however, she was 48 years old, too old to qualify under the foreign mission board’s requirements. She continued to teach school in Iowa City until the opportunity presented itself to teach in a home missions school in eastern Kentucky.
As nearly as can be determined, she resigned her post in Iowa City in 1917 and left for Kentucky. Church memory states that she taught at the Hazel Green Academy, a mission school of the Disciples of Christ in Wolfe County, Kentucky. If she did, it was very briefly, and I have been unable to find any record of it. The record shows that she taught at Morehead Normal School, another Disciples mission school, located in Morehead, Kentucky. She taught there at least from 1918 until June of 1921 and then returned to Iowa City. The Morehead school was taken over by the state of Kentucky in 1922, and reopened in 1923 as Morehead State Normal School, the forerunner of Morehead State University.
In the fall of 1921 Sara Hart left for Oregon City, Oregon where she had received an appointment as school principal and eighth grade teacher. Less than six months later, she was appointed principal of the Chinese Mission School in Portland, Oregon, a mission of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. She taught here for more than two years before returning once again to Iowa City.
In October 1924 she accepted yet another position, this one in Toledo, Ohio on the staff of the Ohio State Juvenile Home as a teacher. Although not a church mission, the position required all of her considerable skills as a teacher. She was still on the staff of the Juvenile Home in November 1926. She died December 25, 1928 and is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Cedar County, Iowa, the county of her birth.
Sara Hart has been rightly honored by the name of a woman’s group in the church, the Sara Hart Missionary Circle. Although it is no longer in existence, from it’s founding in February 1919, it continued for more than eighty years to be a force for good in our church--a fitting memorial for Sara Hart.