John Allen Moore
know about Lottie Moon. She rendered sacrificial missionary
service in China long ago.
know she aroused Southern Baptists to begin a Christmas offering
for foreign missions and that the offering bears her name.
did you know that a leading Southern Baptist educator called her
"the most cultivated woman" he had ever known? She
belonged to the first small class of Southern women to receive a
university-level master of arts degree.
you know that, even in the days when male predominance was
unchallenged, the corresponding secretary of the Foreign Mission
Board consulted her repeatedly for her wise counsel with mission
you know that although she fully accepted the idea that men should
do the preaching and the leading for mixed groups, she once
offered her resignation when the board seemed to be preparing to
deny the vote to women in its missions? Her own mission in North
China gave women full voice and influence, but Miss Moon refused
to serve under an agency that denied this on other fields.
you know she was quoted by one who knew her as having said she was
only 4 feet, 3 inches tall? This was a recollection after many
years and not quite accurate; though not a dwarf, she was petite.
Digges Moon, born Dec. 12, 1840, grew up in an eight-room
plantation house—Viewmont—on extensive Harris-Moon land
holdings just south of Charlottesville, Va. Viewmont had 50 or
more slaves to attend to every manual task. Lottie, as she came to
be known, was the third of seven children. Private tutors came and
went teaching the youngsters in the classics, French and music.
Lottie was 12, her wealthy father died of a heart attack or stroke
while on a business trip traveling by boat from New Orleans to
Memphis. His widow, Anna-Maria Moon, then 44, assumed family
leadership. A cultured, rather well-educated Southern lady, she
held staunchly to her Baptist faith, though some other members of
the family became Catholics or members of the Christian Church.
She conducted Sunday worship in her home, unless some itinerant
Baptist preacher came by.
Moon children-even the girls, although contrary to Southern
custom-received the best possible education. Each was left free to
choose his or her own course. The eldest, Thomas, became a doctor
but died early in his career while tending patients in a cholera
Lottie's older sister, flying in the face of tradition, received
her M.D. degree from a Pennsylvania medical college in 1857. She
and a North Carolinian were the first women of the South to earn
degrees in medicine.
was sent in 1854 to a girls' school run by leading Virginia
Baptists and boasting a hundred boarding students. Most of each
day was rigorously scheduled. Lottie distinguished herself in
studies, especially Latin and French. She belonged to a literary
society and helped edit its paper. Her worst grades were in math,
science-and "deportment." Early on April Fools' Day her
second year she climbed the school's bell tower and muffled the
bell with towels and sheets. Classes started late that day.
A. Broadus, Baptist pastor in Charlottesville, along with Crawford
H. Toy and other Baptist scholars, began Albemarle Female
Institute in the city; all teachers held master's degrees, unique
for women's schools. Its basic premise was that women should have
educational opportunities equal in excellence to those offered
men. Lottie enrolled at the institute.
a beauty, but vivacious and fun-loving, she became one of the most
popular students. She soon gained the reputation of being a
"brain." She did well in everything she tried. She
excelled in language, becoming proficient in Latin, Greek, French,
Italian and Spanish.
professor-Crawford Toy, probably the one who later courted
her-said, "She writes the best English I have ever been
privileged to read." Toy also suggested she take up Hebrew,
and gave her a Hebrew Bible, inscribed to her. She followed his
was also the institute prankster. She called new non-Baptist
students aside and told them they would have to join the local
Baptist church. To their tearful protests that they did not wish
to become Baptists, Lottie replied that since the principal was
Baptist, he expected all students to join. The poor girls would
flee in distress to a professor, only to be informed with a
patient sigh that this was just another of Lottie Moon's practical
student asked what "D" stood for in the middle of her
name. Lottie shot back, "It stands for 'Devil'-don't you
think it suits me excellently?" The nickname stuck. She
signed a poem for student publication, "Deville."
including her closest friend, thought her a skeptic. A student
once noted she hadn't seen Lottie at church on Sunday. The reason,
Lottie retorted, was that she hadn't been there; she'd been lying
on a haystack reading Shakespeare-much better than a dry sermon.
Broadus, already invited to help open Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Greenville, S.C., conducted a series of evangelistic
meetings in his church in December 1858. He directed appeals for
life dedication and Christian service mainly to students.
students at the institute held sunrise devotional and inquiry
services. Lottie's name was prominent on their prayer list. In the
midst of one gathering Lottie surprised everyone by appearing. She
told how she had attended the service the evening before, then
left it "to scoff." But in her room she couldn't sleep
because of a barking dog. Her rambling thoughts finally turned to
her spiritual condition. She decided to give Christianity an
honest, intellectual investigation. This lasted with
soul-searching prayer, all night.
she had made her choice-for Christ-and would join the church.
There was rejoicing at that meeting and later in the church
service. She gave her testimony at church, the only kind of
occasion on which a woman was allowed to speak to a mixed
student Julia Toy, sister of her English and Greek professor and a
lifelong friend, said of her: "She had always wielded an
influence because of her intellectual power. Now her great talent
was directed into another channel. She immediately took a stand as
pastor kept before students and others the challenge to ministry
and mission. Among the many to respond were Crawford Toy and John
L. Johnson, who later would marry Julia Toy. Both men surrendered
for mission service. The Foreign Mission Board appointed them to
open work in Japan, but health and other reasons prevented them
from going. Lottie also evidently felt the beginnings of a call to
foreign missions. She remained at Albemarle Female Institute four
years and received both the full-course degree and the master of
this time the Civil War was on. Many suppose that Toy, who served
in the Confederate chaplaincy, proposed marriage to Lottie at this
time. If so, she did not accept.
seems to have spent most of the war years at Viewmont, helping on
the plantation and tutoring younger sister Edmonia-"Eddie."
Lottie was at Viewmont when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at
nearby Appomattox and the Confederacy crumbled.
mother at the start of the war loyally converted all cash assets
into Confederate money and bonds-now a total loss. She let son
Isaac sell most of her land for a pittance to secure enough to
live on. She leased remaining land, except the house and immediate
surroundings. But debts could not be collected; cash was very
were not as bad in border states, and Lottie applied to teach in
the Danville (Ky.) Female Academy, operated by the local First
Baptist Church. She taught there five years-history, English
grammar, rhetoric, literature-even after the school merged with
another run by the Presbyterians. Active in the church and as
popular there as in the school, she assisted the pastor in various
ministries and taught teen-age girls in Sunday School. In Danville
she met returned Southern Baptist missionaries who had served in
China. Lottie's mission interest deepened.
situation at Viewmont steadily grew worse. Lottie divided her
wages with her mother
to pay interest on debts and avoid foreclosure on remaining
property. Mrs. Moon died, in peace and faith, in June 1870.
Viewmont was divided among the children, but legal battles dragged
on until 1884, when Lottie got a very small settlement and Eddie a
bit more (originally meant for her education).
Lottie and Eddie rode horseback over the estate after their
mother's burial, Eddie revealed her dreams of being a missionary
to China. Converted at age 16, she had received strong impressions
while at college from reports of foreign work, especially those of
Martha (Mrs. T.P.) Crawford in north China. Lottie confessed she
had felt similar impressions, but squelched them due to family
her last year in Danville, Lottie developed an ardent friendship
with another young woman teacher, "A.C." Stafford, who
taught the subjects most troublesome to Lottie: math, natural
philosophy, astronomy. A.C., a Presbyterian, like Lottie was
interested in foreign missions.
Moon, Lottie's distant cousin and a merchant in Cartersville, Ga.,
with other men of the town opened a school for girls. Lottie and
A.C. became teachers and co-principals, starting the summer of
1871. The school's advanced section was equal academically to the
best female colleges. Opening with seven students, the school soon
enrolled a hundred.
and Eddie gave through the Foreign Mission Board to aid Martha
Crawford's school for girls in China. Lottie also gave-always
anonymously-to other projects, including a Baptist church building
in Rome, Italy.
board at the time was not appointing single women missionaries.
Martha Crawford wrote pleas for such appointments, explaining that
men could not render the needed service among women in the homes
of China. H.A. Tupper, the board's new corresponding secretary,
proved an advocate of women's work in and for missions.
21, more than 10 years younger than Lottie-on impulse wrote Tupper
asking to be permitted to go to China with a missionary couple who
were to be accompanied by the wife's unmarried sister. Eddie
offered to pay her own expenses until support could be arranged.
However, women of five Richmond churches organized to support her.
Salary: $400 a year. She sailed with the group and by June was in
China. Her letters beckoned Lottie.
interested, Lottie wondered whether a single woman could find
fulfillment in light of restraints placed on women in any kind of
public ministry. She had taken part in a continuing controversy in
Baptist papers of Virginia and other states about women's role.
She researched work of deaconesses in European churches and
recommended that Southern Baptist churches, especially larger
ones, employ deaconesses "to minister to the poor and
suffering, establish Sunday Schools, sewing schools, night
schools, mother's meetings."
added, "Our Lord does not call on women to preach, or to pray
in public, but no less does He say to them than to men, 'Go, work
in my vineyard.'"
felt her call to China "as clear as a bell" in February
1873 after the Cartersville Baptist pastor preached about
missions. Lottie left the service to go to her room, where she
prayed all afternoon. A.C. also felt led to join a Presbyterian
mission in China. Students wept when the teachers said they were
July 7, 1873, the Foreign Mission Board appointed Charlotte Digges
Moon. She was asked to join her sister in Tengchow. About to sail
from San Francisco, Lottie got word Baptist women in Cartersville
would support her.
steamship Costa Rica carried a large number of missionaries of
several denominations bound for the Far East. Lottie wrote that
they never expected to see home again. Missionary appointment
generally was "for life." There were no regular
furloughs or retirement.
25 seasick days for Lottie, the ship docked at Yokohama. She went
ashore-also later at Kobe and Nagasaki-and fell in love with Japan
and its people. En route to Shanghai, the ship was caught in a
hurricane, and the crippled vessel limped back to Nagasaki.
and the others finally reached Shanghai Oct. 7. Matthew T. Yates
and T.P. Crawford, veteran Southern Baptist missionaries, welcomed
Martha Crawford, Lottie traveled by boat northward along the coast
to Chefoo. Shantung, the province then considered the most densely
populated on earth. Tengchow and Chefoo were among port cities
forced open by foreign powers for trade and mission work in 1858.
Foreigners were subject not to Chinese authorities but to their
own. The imposed treaties guaranteed toleration for foreign and
even Chinese Christians.
Chefoo, Lottie traveled the 55 miles to Tengchow in a shentze.
Shaped like a huge barrel on its side, open at the front and
heavily padded inside, a shentze had a long, supporting pole on
either side attached to mules in front and behind. This afforded a
jery-for Lottie, a sickening-two-day ride. Exhausted, she arrived
Oct. 25 in Tengchow, to be her home for 39 years.
province was home of the honored teacher of ancient times,
Confucius. Tengchow, the chief city, had a static population of
80,000. Massive walls of gray stone, dating from before the time
of Christ, surrounded the city. The narrow streets were paved with
and Eddie, delighted to be reunited, moved into quarters in T.P.
Crawford's compound. J.B. Hartwell, the real pioneer in Tengchow,
had begun a church years before in the northern part of the city,
but the two men could not get along, disagreeing on almost
everything. Crawford started his own congregation, Monument Street
Baptist Church, and completed its Western-style building with
tower-highly offensive to Chinese-the year before Lottie arrived.
saw at once that it was not wise for her and Eddie to live with
the Crawfords, though she would continue through the years to
attend Monument Street church. She and Eddie moved to the mission
compound of the other church. In her first week at Tengchow,
Lottie wrote Baptist women of Richmond and other points suggesting
funds be raised to build a house for the Moon sisters. On the
property to be purchased, Eddie and Lottie also wanted to open a
girls' boarding school.
J. Holmes, slightly older than Lottie and a pioneer in north
China, lived with her young son in a Chinese house near the
Crawford compound. She and her husband had worked in the area
before treaties opened it to foreigners; brigands had murdered
Holmes. Now Mrs. Holmes conducted a girls' boarding school. She
turned over to Eddie a small day school for boys and traveled to
villages, evangelizing among women house to house.
was the custom for new missionaries, an educated Chinese man was
engaged as Lottie's language teacher. He visited her home daily,
pointing out Chinese characters with his scholar's inches-long
fingernails and hearing her pronounce words after him until her
intonation satisfied him. It usually took about two years for a
foreigner to get a good working knowledge of the spoken language;
there were many local dialects. Lottie progressed rapidly and
became interested in Chinese history and culture.
weeks she was visiting with Sallie Holmes or Martha Crawford in
Tengchow homes. Then she began country work. Sallie took the lead,
riding her braying donkey; the other women, sometimes including
Eddie, rode in sedan chairs borne by coolies. If a tour was to
last several days, another donkey would be laden with bedrolls and
provisions. The experienced missionaries would tell the gospel
story to crowds of women and children in each village and teach
hymns and a catechism Martha had prepared. Sometimes a Chinese
deacon would go along and, if village men gathered also, he would
recreation, Lottie enjoyed occasional social gatherings of Baptist
and Presbyterian missionaries in Tengchow. She swam in the sea,
rode donkeys sidesaddle, collected seashells, took walks on the
city wall and embroidered. A.C. Stafford, stationed in a
Presbyterian mission near Shanghai, remained a good friend. She
and the Moon sisters exchanged visits, and she made suggestions
that Lottie followed, such as securing Bible picture cards from
the United States to give to Chinese children.
kept up extensive correspondence with Tupper at the Foreign
Mission Board and with women across the South, especially in
Virginia and Georgia. She begged for missionary recruits,
including single women. She wrote articles for the Virginia
Religious Herald and other Baptist papers, urging women to
organize more mission societies, pray for worldwide work and give
generously for it. At board headquarters and elsewhere her letters
in faultless prose were copied and recopied and sent to women's
groups throughout the convention.
Hartwell-Crawford controversy made mission work difficult in
Tengchow. Lottie tried to mediate. She wrote Tupper and the board
in 1876, outlining the situation impartially about differences in
mission theory and personality and the mission properties on both
sides. Board members marveled at her ability to lay out the
complicated case succinctly and convincingly like a lawyer before
a high court. She warned the board not to view the situation as
hopeless or even unique-other mission agencies also had disputes.
The problem was not finally solved, however, until Hartwell
resigned three years later.
Moon, obviously immature and emotionally unstable, faced one
health problem after another. She often was irascible and
contentious. When she first set foot on Chinese soil in 1872,
culture shock had been so great she wanted to return home at once.
A Shanghai doctor pronounced her "hysterical." She
settled down a bit, did well with the language, taught in Sunday
School and led the boys' school.
a wintry day early in 1874 Edddie, Lottie, a deacon and other
Chinese Christians went to a village to hold services. Upon
return, Eddie was weak and ill. Pneumonia developed, then typhoid.
Late that year she suffered respiratory problems. She sought help
Yates saw that Eddie's condition was more than China missionaries
could deal with; she took her to Japan and sent word to Lottie to
meet them in Nagasaki. Both older women saw that Eddie must return
home permanently, and Lottie would have to go along. Three days
before Christmas 1875 the Moon sisters reached Viewmont. Eddie was
put to bed at once; three doctor relatives treated her.
Prescription: cod liver and whiskey.
was eager to return to China, but not until Baptist women in
Richmond raised needed funds would she be able to reach the field
once again-in December 1877.
more of her story: Part 2: The
offering begins | Part 3: Her
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