Monday, April 24, 2017


Dorcas is a name not heard very often today. But it was popular in the nineteenth century, especially on Ocracoke Island. At least six women on Ocracoke were named Dorcas.

Dorcas, also called Tabitha (Dorcas is the Greek translation of the Aramaic word for gazelle), was a character in the New Testament who was devoted to good works and acts of charity (see the Acts of the Apostles, 9:36-42). Dorcas Societies are church-sponsored groups that provide clothing to the poor.

Below is a photograph of a stained glass window in St. Michael's Parish Church, Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire U.K. depicting Dorcas. (source: 

Photo by Alsto911

One of the last Ocracoke women named Dorcas was my cousin, born 1962. Although she does not live on the island, she traces her family roots directly to William Howard, colonial owner of Ocracoke Island.

Several years ago Dorcas and her husband were standing in line to purchase tickets for a recently released popular movie. The line was long, and moving very slowly. Impatient, her husband turned to her and said, "Do you really want to stand here any longer just to see this movie, Dorcas?"

Hearing Dorcas' husband's comment, but never having heard the name before, a woman in front of them turned around, directed her steely gaze directly at Dorcas, and admonished her firmly: "I would not tolerate him speaking to me that way!"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:59 AM

    Did any of these women from OI take their name to heart? DId they commit themselves to collecting clothing for the poor as their namesake? Is there a church on the island that accepts donations of clothing to help the less fortunate? Perhaps if visitors to OI were to leave something of themselves behind i.e. donate clothes to a " Dorcas Society" what a way to feel even better about your visit, you helped somebody out!

    1. On Ocracoke Island (or anywhere else for that matter) you don't need to be named Dorcas to help the less fortunate. As just one example, when Raul's house burned recently islanders came together immediately with clothes, toiletries, housing, and money to help him recover. Their is no Dorcas Society on Ocracoke, but we do have a thrift store where you can donate items (but check with them before donating clothes; they often have plenty of clothes).