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Viette Brown Sprague

Challenged, Yet Determined

 

Viette Brown Sprague, MHC class of 1871, served as a missionary in Kalgan, China from 1893-1910. Courtesy MHC Archives.

 
 
 

"Today is 'Devotion Day' at home, and I suppose flowers are abundant.  We have just put out our house plants; do not have any wild flowers here; had radishes from our garden yesterday for the first time.  I wonder whether you are having an early or late spring at home, and what sort of a winter you have had.  It has been a long, cold one here." (6)

 

Viette Brown Sprague was the third of ten children born to her parents in 1846 in Newark Wayne County, New York.  She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1871 and went on to teach in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. (7)

Her missionary work began at a somewhat older age than most, as she left for China in 1893, making her nearly 50 by the time she arrived in Kalgan, China, where she served. 
Sprague’s letters are often tinged with a hint of melancholy, suggesting that she had somewhat of a hard time adjusting to the life of a missionary or fitting in with others serving in Kalgan.  She claims that she was not “in real missionary work as people would naturally suppose.  You know I came to China late in life (47 years old.) I studied hard the first seven years and learned to recognize characters enough to be able to read the Bible quite well.  But as for understanding and being able to talk the Chinese language I am woefully dull." (6)

This melancholy way of speaking, or of expressing self-doubt, might have been partly due to the fact that perhaps Viette Brown Sprague’s experiences weren’t all that positive as compared to those of Alice Browne Frame.  Sprague was faced with conflicts having to do with the Boxer Rebellion immediately upon her arrival, forcing her to flee her Misson Compound and temporarily relocate to Mongolia. (7) These first experiences were dramatically different than those of Frame, and being surrounded by violence and a threat of injury undoubtedly held some weight in Sprague’s overall feelings towards China.

Nevertheless, Sprague and her husband were in China off and on until 1910. 

 

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This page was created by Rebekah Dutkiewicz '09 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 - rsdutkie@mtholyoke.edu