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Changing Motivations of Missionaries


Viette Brown Sprague, MHC class of 1871, teaches a music class in Kalgan, North China. The music was presumably religion-based. Courtesy MHC Archives.


A group of Yenching College girls return from a day of fundraising for famine relief, 1920. The focus has seemed to shift to the social welfare of others. Courtesy MHC Archives.


"The missionary's wife, as well as himself, should be a sort of moving commentary on the Bible; every thing she says or does should remind the hearer or beholder of something in the Bible; her whole life should be altogether a New Testament life." (2)

At the height of its popularity, missionary work carried with it an immense devotion to religious endeavors. As seen in the preceeding quote, all efforts were centered around Christian conversion. Lucy Lyon, the niece of the infamous Mary Lyon, even reported in an 1854 letter from China that it was "a privilege to suffer anything, if, by our sufferings, we could produce their [the heathens'] salvation." (2)

This ideal, however, changed dramatically in China with the start of the 20th century. By 1905, it was clear to see that the bulk of Alice Browne Frame's attention in China was directed toward the welfare of Chinese women and children. This differed greatly from missionary work happening in India and Hawaii.

In speaking about her first experience at a Chinese school, Frame explained that "if you could've seen their [the children's] faces, you would've surrendered at once. With bright sparkling eyes, smooth olive cheeks that showed a dimple now and then, I thought they were just dear, and I know you would've agreed with me." (3)

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.



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This page was created by Rebekah Dutkiewicz '09 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 -