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Title pageAbout the Book

Gamewell, Mary Porter.

Mary Porter Gamewell and Her Story of the Siege in Peking.

Edited by A. H. Tuttle.

New York: Eaton & Mains; Cincinnati: Jennings & Graham, 1907.



Mary Porter Gamewell (1845-1906), for thirty years, served the remarkable western missionary effort (largely American and British, and protestant) to China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a young woman, she traveled with one of the first Methodist missions to Beijing (Peking) in 1871 where she worked for more than a decade to build a school for girls. After her marriage to another missionary, Francis Dunlap Gamewell (1857-1950), she followed him in his work to Chongquing (Chungking) and then again in Beijing.

Mary Porter Gamewell's family gathered her accounts of these years after her death, and her brother-in-law, A. H. Tuttle, edited them into this work. More than two thirds of the book remains in her exact words, however, and these words provide an insight into the life and pressures of the work of missionary women in China that may be representative. A keen observer of people and landscape, she does provide accounts of travels in northern China, including a journey up the Chang Jiang (Yangtse) to Chongquing. She also recounts the decision to combat female foot binding by allowing no pupil to enroll in the Beijing school unless unbound. Above all, she makes telling personal descriptions and comments on the great difficulties faced by Christian intruders into the heart of the intensely conservative Chinese culture. Barely begun, her husband's mission to Chongquing was sacked in 1886. The couple and other Christians in the city were forced to flee back down the river. The second half of the book is given over to her account of the anti-western Boxer Uprising and the besieging of foreign residents in the British Legation in Beijing in 1900. Her husband played a large role in fighting off the attacks, and Mrs. Gamewell provides a long, valuable, and highly detailed account of the arrangements and the efforts women made to support the defense.

Compiled and published immediately after her death, the book provides an unreconstructed personal snapshot of Methodist faith and the remarkable endeavors it produced in so many during this time. Her words also address, in their matter-of-fact and accepting way, the position of women in the missions; her marriage to a man who just arrived in China meant that she was no longer considered, or paid, as a missionary, despite her twelve years in the work. Useful, too, are western reactions to the native cultural resistance - passive and otherwise - against the tireless but often futile attempts to "bring the Light to China." Mary Porter Gamewell published magazine articles and delivered fund-raising lectures following her final return from China, broken in health; to the end, she never gave up that particularly Anglo-American faith that "China calls across the water to us."

Researched and authored by John Osborne, Ph. D.


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