Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Women of the China Inland Mission: Emily Blatchley and Jennie Faulding

More on this topic here. Primary Source: Not Less Than Everything, by Valerie Griffiths.

Photo: public domain image of Emily Blatchley; reprinted in Wikipedia here.

When the CIM was founded in 1865, its leaders approached many things differently than the existing agencies did. While some of us might consider the CIM’s policies and practices enlightened and ahead of their time, others were less impressed.
“None [of Hudson Taylor’s] policies was more radical than his decision to send single women as well as men to go to China as equal members of the mission. He scandalized Victorian Britain, just as Florence Nightingale had done ten years earlier when she took nurses to the Crimean War. In England, unmarried women lived with their families and never set up house on their own. However… [Taylor] knew that without the help of Christian women, the women of China were inaccessible.
“The call went out for single women to be equal members of the mission with men, and before they sailed, he realized that since he expected the married women to work alongside their husbands, they too should be recognized as full members. Later he would spell it out even more clearly to recruits.
“‘It is most important that married missionaries should be double missionaries… unless you intend your wife to be a true missionary, not merely a wife, homemaker, and friend, do not join us…’

"Taylor was indeed breaking new ground." (Griffiths, p. 56)
Taylor’s wife, Maria, was a tremendously hard worker. She’d begun her ministry in China while still in her teens, and with marriage increased her stresses and responsibilities much more than they would today: Back in England (while keeping house, raising children, and suffering a great deal in pregnancy), she served as secretary to her husband, taught Chinese to new recruits, worked on Bible translation, and ran the new mission agency when her husband was sick or traveling.

Among those who served alongside these the Taylors were two young women whose parents had entrusted them to the couple’s care. Jennie Faulding and Emily Blatchley were barely out of their teens.

Emily became the governess for the Taylors’ four children, running the household when Maria was on bed rest or coughing up blood (!) from a lung disease. (Maria’s health was always a problem). Jennie helped with correspondence. The four of them and more than a dozen more (the Lammermuir party) left for China in 1866.

Yes, some disapproved; when rumors flew, the Taylors had to put much energy into proving that there was no impropriety in the situations concerning the single women. [And Hudson, the dear man, had to stop giving the two 'girls' goodnight kisses (!)]

Emily’s Story

When they got to China Emily continued to care for the care for the children and also stepped into Maria’s shoes as Taylor’s secretary. Together she and Maria weathered the difficult summer when all the children had the measles, two of them apparently at death’s door. Maria was pregnant again and nursing a very sick baby when the house was attacked by an angry anti-foreign mob. The crowd set fire to the house. The missionaries staying there threw mattresses down and made a rope ladder out of sheet which they used to lower several of the women and children down before the crowd set the mattresses and rope on fire. Maria and Emily had to jump from the roof and both were injured.

By 1870 it became apparent that the two older Taylor children ought to return to England for schooling, and the younger two had health problems which suggested they would do better in England as well. One, in fact, died before they could be sent away. Reluctantly Hudson and Maria decided to send their other children home, keeping only the baby with them. Who did they send home with the kids? Emily. Emily was like a second mother to the children. Maria sent her with a letter encouraging the grandparents to consider her one of the family.

Emily was heartbroken at leaving China but it seemed necessary. Emily’s health was also suffering: She had tuberculosis, and it was spreading. Moreover, the home office of the CIM needed someone with her skills and insight. That's right, though only 25 years old, she knew much more of China than those on the council back in London.

The men who formed the London Council were not very responsible and did not appreciate what it really took to keep the mission running. They were happy to leave as much responsibility as possible to “competent, reliable Emily” without actually giving her much authority. Meanwhile, her strength was ebbing away. Imagine what it would be like, especially without today's advances and conveniences, to practically be a single mom to three kids and run a ministry (while appearing not to) at the same time. Oh yeah, and slowly dying of TB. 

But if being a single missionary woman (on the field or on the home front) was challenging, being a married missionary woman (in either place) was more so. With so much illness and high maternal mortality rates, getting pregnant could almost be a death sentence. Evidentally birth control was either unavailable or not considered an option. Back in China, Maria had not lived long after saying goodbye to her older children. She died at age 33 shortly after giving birth to her sixth child. 

Hudson was far from well himself. He had faced great criticism from all sides, and stress always brought on an attack of dysentery. He had lost his wife and two children in five months, and he was still carrying tremendous responsibility for leading, caring for, and tending to the medical needs of many others.

Within the year his mother wrote to him suggesting he marry again. He needed a wife; his children needed a mother. Naturally, she suggested Emily. Her son, though, recognized that Emily was probably too ill and frail to step into the gap. (Not that his health was that good, but his body would never pay the price of childbirth.)

But remember Emily's good friend Jennie Faulding, the other adopted member of the family? Though much stronger, she was also exhausted by her five years in China and a battle with malaria. She had to go back to England for a rest, and she and Taylor ended up on the same ship.

He liked her. She liked him. By all accounts she was very congenial. By the time they reached London they were engaged.
“One of Taylor’s hardest tasks was to break the news to Emily Blatchely by letter before they reached home.” (Griffiths, p. 38)
How hard it must have been on Emily! Was she in love with the man? I don't know. But what is clear is that she truly expected to be the next "Mrs" as was sorely disappointed when he married her friend instead. Emily continued to raise the kids and run the home office while Hudson and Jennie got well and got to go back to China. If Taylor chose Jennie over Emily because he did not think Emily was strong enough, we was proven right: she was not to live long.

Jennie, of course, has a story of her own. I’ll save it for another day.


Megan Noel said...

very interesting. are you going to research any lesser known women missionaries and write your own book? in the late 1800s and early 1900s there seem to have been a fair number of adventurous young women going off on adventures and then returning and writing their memoirs. dale has some in his collection of vintage travel books -- though most were not missionaries. still, pretty interesting. i suppose some of those books would now be in public domain, too!

Marti said...

It is interesting. But I'm too practical to write a book without reason to believe it would find a market. I don't have the academic qualifications (or the skills and know-how they represent) to pull off something that claimed to be serious history, very well.

And for a more popular audience - well, then the idea would probably be to inspire and motivate others to go and do likewise. But old missionary stories tend to have the effect of reinforcing rather than correct people's stereotypes about what it's like to be a missionary, and I don't want to do that. More effective mobilization to write something modern? T.H.E., which is that, has not found a very large audience (publisher says we've moved 2282 copies). I don't know who would be interested in publishing something with a smaller audience than that.

But reading the old stuff and blogging, pulling it into my writing projects, or speaking and teaching about it are all avenues that are open to me. I'm scheduled to teach missions history six times in the fall. Not the lesson that would include this kind of material, but the lesson that comes before it which focuses on the first 15 centuries. If I get asked to do the next one I could probably do some additional compressing of the 'required' material (which focuses on four men who are considered the main pioneers of modern missions) to give equal space - or at least more space than they usually get - to the pioneering women. (For starters, the four men, among them, had eight wives!)

Looks like I'll have a chance to do my 'snapshots of missions history' talk I put together last month again, next month, here in Colorado.