Jennie’s team of female missionaries also set up centers for the elderly and a vocational school to prepare the orphaned girls to find occupations (at a time when education for women was limited in China). At the same time, Timothy Richard held regular worship services and trained the boys. The center taught the women to sew, embroider, spin wool, and braid straw. While they worked, the women were encouraged to discuss the “wordless book” first created by C. H. Spurgeon.
In 1875, a serious drought in the north of China gave way to a dreadful four-year famine, with millions of deaths and a huge migration of people. Most casualties were in the province of Shanxi (an estimated 5.5 million deaths in four years). Timothy Richard, a Welsh Baptist missionary who had opened an orphanage in the area, wrote the renowned Hudson Taylor asking for some female missionaries to run it.
Taylor had a reputation for sending single female missionaries at a time when the concept was largely criticized. At this time, he was in England, nursing his failing health. After discussing this with his second wife, Jennie Faulding, she offered to go while he stayed in England with their children. She left with two single women, Anna Crickmay and Celia Horne. Anna and Celia were the first unmarried western women to go as missionaries into deep inland China.
Their courage was typical of female missionaries in China. Taylor’s first wife, Maria Dyer, had fought off a group of rioters in their home by stopping the hand of a murderer, grabbing and dragging into the house a man who had tried to throw a missionary off the roof, and then jumping off a fifteen-foot-high window to save her life. All this, while being six months pregnant. About ten years earlier, she had escaped from the same window by a rope on the day before she gave birth to her first daughter.
One of her predecessors, Mary Ann Aldersey (the first single woman missionary in China), helped two girls to escape their persecuting families by smuggling them out of their country.
The stories of these strong women could make for an exciting action movie. I might describe them more carefully in other articles. Here, however, I will focus on the work of Jennie Faulding.
Moving to China
Born in 1843 in London, Jennie graduated in 1865 from the Home and Colonial Training College. Graduating with her was her inseparable friend of thirteen years, Emily Blatchley. The same year, Jennie and Emily met Hudson and Maria Dyer Taylor at a prayer meeting. Deeply moved by the Taylors’ appeal for more missionaries, the young women continued to attend their meetings. By October, Emily had moved in with the Taylors as Hudson’s secretary and governess for their children: Grace, Herbert, Frederick, and Samuel.
In 1866, Jennie and Emily joined a group of volunteers in accompanying the Taylors back to China. Emily’s parents, who didn’t profess to be believers, didn’t have any objections, while Jennie’s father, a long-time supporter of Hudson, was hard to convince. The team finally left in May the same year, on the Lammermuir.
Once the ship arrived, all the missionaries dressed in Chinese clothes (the men even wore a fake braid, with the intent of letting their hair grow). This raised outraged objections from missionaries who found their attire unnecessary and demeaning, as well as a compromise with an idolatrous culture.
But Jennie soon discovered what Hudson had believed from the start: wearing Chinese clothes fostered acceptance and removed unnecessary obstacles. “If I had on English clothes,” she said, “the [Chinese] women would at first be afraid of me and, if I succeeded in winning their confidence, my dress would be the one subject of their thoughts.”