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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December 2003, 09:49 GMT
My grandma was a missionary in China
We're looking for the best stories of your grandparents, whether they are still alive or no longer with us. Here, Joy Davies (right) tells how bandits and bound feet were all in a day's work for her grandmother, a missionary in 1890s China. Let us know what your grandad or grandma did, using the form at the bottom of the page.

What my grandma did

When my grandma, Ida Susan Davey Mitchel, was quite young, she was converted to Christianity and decided to become a missionary.

My great-grandmother was very against this. She uprooted the whole family from their home in Devon to emigrate to Ohio. This, she thought, would take her daughter away from any missionary influences.

When she was old enough, my grandma came back to England. In one of her letters, dated 1 May 1895, she writes of her calling. "While we were sitting waiting for the meeting to commence, one word came ringing in my ears - China, China - and all through that meeting it seemed as though I was blind and deaf to everything but China..."

My grandma did eventually train as a missionary and her first letter from China is dated 4 Jan 1898. She described how she unbound the feet of a child, and talked of the danger posed by bandits.


There she met and married another missionary, Earnest Adolphus Hamilton. Their four daughters were all born there.

In 1912-13, there was a rebellion. My grandma had to hide in a cupboard with her children, one still a baby in arms. She kept them quiet while bandits ransacked the house. If they had been found, they would have been killed because that was what happened to others. After that she brought the children home to England with a Chinese nurse, while my grandfather stayed in China until 1923.

How I first heard this story
She actually died when I was still very small, so I've heard these stories from my mother all through my life.

And I've always seen lots of photos, many dating from my grandparents' time in China. Both dressed in Chinese clothes while they were there; my sister still has the Chinese silk embroidered wedding dress our grandma was married in.

The influence she had on me
While I don't remember her at all, her influence has come via my mother.

My grandparents passed their faith on to their children. My aunt was a missionary nurse in Brazil, and my mother went to India to care for children. She then married a vicar, and they brought us up as Anglicans. Today I sing in the church choir, and am learning to play the harp.


Tell us about your grandad or grandma, using the form below. Please include contact details so we can get in touch with if we need photographs or more details.

My great grandfather, Edward Selby Little, was a missionary in China from 1890-1910 and founded Kuling. Maybe they knew each other, as the expat community was very strong. I have some photos of their house and friends - who knows, your grandparent might be in them. We have had a huge Chinese influence in our family; we know how to speak Mandarin and have wonderful Chinese treasures around our house, thanks to him.
Belinda de Lucy, London

So was my great grandfather - he left in 1918. While out there he was shot by bandits, a story he used to recount like clockwork at the Christmas dinner table. He still had a piece of Chinese shrapnel in his thigh, which my father would use to set off his metal detector.
Harry Latimer, Winchester

My aunt was a missionary in Burma. Once she and a friend were driving a jeep down a mountainside and were ambushed by dacoits (bandits). They proceeded to unload the jeep, Aunty with the muzzle of a rifle stuck in the back of her neck. She spoke to the man in Burmese and asked if she could have her Bible and prayer book from her case. The man asked "why?" to which she replied "how will I be able to pray for you tonight without them?" He handed them over and they all promptly left without harming the women.
Janet Roberts, Matlock UK

My grandfather (on my mother's side) moved over to China in 1890s and worked for 20 years as a missionary and male nurse. It was a dangerous occupation and he was extremely homesick. He set up a "Saturday club" for missionaries from Britain and other Commonwealth nations. At tea parties they ate scones made from specially imported English flour and buttered with Cornish jam. In time of trouble, and when we faced great challenges, he'd repeatedly tell us that strawberry jam always made things better.
Emilia Tourneur, Dover

My grandfather was also a missionary in China. My mother was born there and lived there until she was 12. The family had to leave very suddenly with only a few hours notice in 1928. My grandfather was the first missionary architect and designed the medical school in Tientsin (which is still there). He also designed buildings in Peking and Shanghai.
Elizabeth Emerson, London, UK

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