restricted access Biographical Sketches
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5 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES  Minnie Vautrin (1886–1941) On her tombstone at Shepherd, Michigan, four Chinese characters, Gin Ling Yung Shen (Ginling Forever), are engraved on the top. On the lower section, the inscription reads: Minnie Vautrin Goddess of Mercy Missionary to China 28 years 1886–19411 Minnie Vautrin was born on September 27, 1886, in Secor, a small town in central Illinois. Her father, Edmund L. Vautrin, was a blacksmith who worked a small farm to supplement the family income. When Minnie was six years old, her mother, Pauline Lehr, died in childbirth. The little girl learned hard work as a child. She was a born student who dreamed of being a teacher and traveling around the world when she grew up. However, her father could not financially support her schooling. Vautrin realized that if she wanted to be educated, she must earn her own way—and she did.In the meantime, she often did volunteer work at the local churches in Secor. Her first teacher commended Vautrin, saying, “She could excel in most anything she tried, and was a genuinely Christian girl.”2 After graduating in 1907 from Illinois State Normal College (today’s Illinois State University), which was then a two-year teachers’ college, Vautrin taught at a high school in LeRoy, Illinois, for several years. She then enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana to pursue a bachelor of science degree, paying her own way through school. +X%LRVLQGG $0 6 BIOGR APHICAL SKETCHES While at the University of Illinois, Vautrin became interested in foreign missions . At the time, the missionary movement in the United States had become a crusade and was generating unprecedented enthusiasm on college campuses across the country for student volunteers to serve in foreign missions. Many young men and women went to foreign countries as missionaries, over one-third of them to China.3 At the time, China had become more receptive to Western missionary activities. After the Boxer debacle of 1900, even the de facto ruler, the Empress Dowager of the Manchu court, was convinced that China must reform according to Western ways. The country wholeheartedly sought missionary help for its modernization, especially for overhauling its educational system. In 1911 the success of the Chinese revolution led by American-educated Dr. Sun Yat-sen generated even greater American zest for missions to China. In 1912, after graduating from the University of Illinois with honors, Vautrin joined the Foreign Christian Missionary Society4 and was sent to Hofei, China. At the time, she was twenty-six years old. In Hofei, Vautrin was moved by the pervasive illiteracy she found among Chinese women and by their extremely inferior status compared to men. She determined to devote her life to promoting women’s education and to helping the poor in the community. In the summer of 1918, after establishing San Yu Girls Middle School in Hofei and serving in China for six years, Vautrin returned to the United States for furlough and enrolled at Columbia University for a master of arts degree in education. One year later, she graduated from the university and was scheduled to proceed to Nantung Chow to establish a new girls’ school. However, Ginling College in Nanking invited her to be its acting president while its current president returned to the States for furlough. Vautrin was very excited by the Ginling offer and wanted to accept it. At the time, she and her fiancé, who was also a missionary to China, were planning to be married soon. Further, the Foreign Christian Missionary Society had already assigned her to Nantung Chow. After continuous negotiations, the missionary society agreed to loan Vautrin to Ginling College. To everyone’s surprise, Vautrin postponed her wedding to devote all her time to Ginling. Before long, she broke the engagement. In the fall of 1919, Vautrin became the acting president of Ginling College and chairwoman of the education department.5 At Ginling, she devoted herself to promoting women’s education and improving the college’s curriculum. Also, she launched a “good neighbor” policy to serve the poor in the vicinity of the college. She guided her students to open an elementary school and establish a free clinic for the poor of the neighborhood. In July 1937, at the outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese war, Vautrin was very worried that the spreading conflict would bring devastation to the Chinese people and property. She decided that she should not leave China when it was +X%LRV...


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Subject Headings

  • Ginling College (Nanjing, Jiangsu Sheng, China) -- Officials and employees -- Biography.
  • Women missionaries -- China -- Diaries.
  • Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945 -- China -- Nanjing (Jiangsu Sheng).
  • Vautrin, Minnie, 1886-1941 -- Diaries.
  • Tsen, Shui-fang, 1875-1969 -- Diaries.
  • Nanking Massacre, Nanjing, Jiangsu Sheng, China, 1937 -- Personal narratives.
  • Nanjing (Jiangsu Sheng, China) -- Biography.
  • Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945 -- Atrocities.
  • Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945 -- Personal narratives.
  • Nanjing (Jiangsu Sheng, China) -- History, Military -- 20th century.
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