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,
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."