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Sylvia M. Jacobs

traveling preacher, social worker, and missionary, was born in either Fredericktown, Maryland, or Fredericksburg, Virginia. Little is known of her life before 1880. In that year she visited relatives who had emigrated to Liberia, and then she spent a year traveling throughout that African country preaching and comforting the needy. It was on this trip that she became interested in African missionary work.

Gorham settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where she joined the Charles Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. She became active in humanitarian and volunteer work with her church, assisting needy families with food and clothing and educational and social welfare projects. Between her move to Boston in 1881 and her travels to Sierra Leone in 1888, she was employed as a social worker by the Associated Charities of Boston.

In 1888 at age fifty six Gorham offered her services as a missionary to ...