Excerpt: "Rather than being an American innovation which was spread to missionary contexts abroad, the deaconess movement in the Methodist Episcopal Church began on the Methodist missionary frontiers of India and Germany in the late 19th century. The appeals to General Conference in April 1888 to establish the office of deaconess originated in the Bengal Conference in India and the Rock River Conference in Illinois. Bishop James Thoburn, a well-known missionary from India, led the petitions through the intricacies of the General Conference with the urging of his missionary sister, Isabella Thoburn, who had recently joined forces with Chicago's Lucy Rider Meyer in their common cause to gain General Conference recognition of the deaconess movement."
Hartley, Benjamin, "Salvation and Sociology in the Methodist Episcopal Deaconess Movement" (2002). Faculty Publications - College of Christian Studies. 296.