Gladys May AYLWARD [1902-1970]

Submitted by Aldi on Mon, 02/06/2023 - 04:29
Gladys May
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Gladys Aylward was born in London in 1902; she was an evangelical Christian missionary to China and her story is told in the book The Small Woman by Alan Burgess.   

Following a calling to go to China as a missionary, she approached the China Inland Mission but failed in her attempts to learn the Chinese language.  Undeterred, she used all her savings to purchase a train ticket to China in 1930 (Yangcheng, Shanxi Province) where she worked with an older missionary for a time.  She also worked for the Chinese Government as a ‘foot inspector’, helping implement a new law which had been passed prohibiting the practice of foot binding in young girls.  She was very successful in this. 

In 1936 she adopted Chinese nationality and was a revered figure among the people.  She took in and adopted orphans, and when the region was invaded by the Japanese in 1938, she led 100 of them to safety over the mountains. 

She returned to Britain in 1949, but after her mother died she sought unsuccessfully to return to China.  She therefore went out to Hong Kong in 1957, where she lived for a time and worshipped at St Andrew's Church. While in Hong Kong, she helped start The Hope Mission, which served the needs of refugees from mainland China. 

Hollywood made a film of her story, ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’, which caused her much distress as it rode roughshod over sensitive personal details and, she felt, damaged her reputation, with Hollywood-embellished love scenes.  

In 1958 she settled in Taiwan, founding the Gladys Aylward Orphanage, and (ironically) teaching Mandarin Chinese, in line with the regime's policy.  She lived and worked here until her death in 1970.

Source: Mostly Wikipedia - 

Here with a picture 

See also this account of Alicia Neve (nee Berwicke) and her campaign against footbinding at the end of the 19th century.

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In her autobiography, China in Life's Foreground, Audrey Donnithorne mentions the practice of footbinding when talking of her younger years in China around 1926

I quote, 'Much of my care devolved upon our two amahs, kindly country women whom I remember as Wang Wang and Gu Gu.  Like most Chinese women of their generation, they had bound feet, and I fear I took advantage of this when, at my bedtime, they tried to catch me as I dashed furiously away from them in my little pedal car, which someone, probably my father, had improvised from tin cans!'