Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Grace Potts Vaughan '40


Grace Potts was with the China Inland Mission of the World Council of Churches. During World War II, she was a ballistics computer from 1942 to 1944, with the Ordnance Department of the War Office, Philadelphia Computing Unit.

She was in China during the spread of communism.

From a letter she wrote to the Alumnae Office in 1950:
“Since we foreigners can’t do any country work at all, or any traveling except for urgent reasons such as serious illness, we have been glad Pastor Ch’en could go out and preach in many places where the groups of Christians have no pastor. Alas, even he did not have an easy time. We thank the Lord for the amount of liberty we do have here in Suancheng, and we want to appreciate it since we don’t know how long it will last.”

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) February 1951: "Grace Potts reports, as of August 22, that she is quite happy despite war conditions in China. They are forbidden to leave the town where she is living, but she spends her time teaching a class of high school girls."

AQ May 1951: "Grace Potts is in Nanking and from there will go to Hong Kong to await transportation home. She and other China Inland Mission (C.I.M.) missionaries were to be sent home as soon as transportation was available. Their work has been curtailed so that further stay is inadvisable."

AQ November 1951: "Grace Potts arrived home in July and is making her home in Reading. So far her further missionary plans are indefinite, but she will continue mission work after her furlough."

AQ February 1952: "Grace Potts has been home from China since July and hopes to return to some place in the Orient."

AQ May 1952: "Grace Potts will serve in the translation department of the C.I.M. in Hong-Kong where she expects to go sometime in April."

AQ November 1952: "Grace Potts is in Hong Kong China for three years helping in a translation office."

AQ August 1953: "Grace Potts writes of the problems in Hong Kong especially of refugees. She lives on the ground floor of a modern eight-flat apartment house. She says it is often her joy to show visitors around this fascinating city which she finds so different from the little muddy town of Suancheng."

Grace Potts sent greetings to the Class from China. “I am one of two and a half million sitting on the outside remembering those inside. Our mission, the China Inland Mission (which can no longer live up to its name, of course) has its publishing house here in Hong Kong. We are engaged in the preparation and distribution of all types of Christian literature not only Chinese but also in ten other languages of Southeast Asia.Grace and her family returned to the United States in 1960. Grace urges us one and all to be thankful for the freedom, security and many privileges of American life.

Pauline Landes Browne '38

Pauline Landes married the Rev. George C. Browne, a graduate of the Princeton Seminary, in 1940.

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) May 1944: "Pauline Landes Browne, with her husband and two children are now living in California. They are under appointment as missionaries to China and are studying at the California College in China, taking full time language work, preparing to go to China as soon as conditions will allow."

AQ February 1948: "Would that it were possible to let you read, in their entirety, the two letters we have received from China. Both Pauline Landes Browne and Betsie Hopkins Crothers are enthusiastic about their new work.

"Polly lives with her husband, Chalmers, and their three children at Tung Men Wai, Chenhsien, Hunan, China. Chalmers has organized three centers of distribution for the sorely-needed UNNRA supplies; the one in Chenhsien alone distributed food to over 2800 families. In addition to relief work the Brownes are engaged in hospital work and student activity. Polly had 'just had enough of a taste of the life out here, just learned enough to make me want to know a lot more'."

AQ February 1950: "Still away from the Orient are Pauline Landes Browne and her family. They hope to be able to return to China early next year."

AQ May 1951: "Polly Landes Browne has sent a most interesting letter from Brazil where she and Chalmers are starting an appointment of six or seven years."

The Brownes spent many years as missionaries in Brazil and we will catch up with them again when we move on to South America. Their story was included in the book Every Road Leads Home by Jule Spach.

The March 1998 issue of Presbyterian Today highlights Pauline's family which included three generations of missionary doctors. Her father, Dr. Archibald Fletcher founded a hospital in Taegu, Korea. Her brother Archibald, Jr., was a thoracic surgeon in Maraj, India, while his son, Dr. John Fletcher, was sent to the Good Shepherd Hospital in Zaire.




Mary Elizabeth Hopkins Crothers '38

Betsie Hopkins married James Crothers a year after graduating from Wilson College. James was a graduate of the Princeton Seminary.

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) February 1948: "Would that is were possible to let you read, in their entirety, the two letters we have received from China. Both Pauline Landes Browne and Betsie Hopkins Crothers are enthusiastic about their new work. Betsie and Jim, with Johnny, aged 5, Didi who is 3, and 2 year old Helen, are living in Peiping China. Betsie has a class at the Women's Union Bible Training School, is chairman of Presbytery's committee on women's work, and helps in the Sunday School at the Ku Lou Church. Jim works with the Rev. Shao Feng Yuan on the youth program of Presbytery, is comptroller of Truth Hall Middle School, teaches Bible classes and directs a choir."

AQ August 1949: "A long and most interesting letter has come from Betsie Hopklins Crothers, written in January from Yenching University near Peiping, China. Communist-occupied territory. If only you could read all of it. She tells how they stayed on during all the dangers of the occupation. She says that during it all their great joy has been the calm faith of most of the Chinese Christians and their steady persistence at their jobs."

AQ November 1949: "Through the blockade which evidently cuts off ingoing first class mail, comes another letter from James and Betsie Hopkins Crothers at Yenching, China. Jim will continue at the University, teaching English and doing audio-visual work with seminary students. Son John was seven in July, though the festivity was dampened by Sis's chickenpox. The family gets most home news via periodicals. In the American attitude toward the events in China, they hope for one 'without panic and with an effort at sympathy for the tremendous problems ahead without dropping sincere criticisms, too. A mature American calm would do more than all the relief in the world.' Betsie finds the new movements vitally interesting to observe and certainly preserves her faith and tranquility amidst instability and tension."

AQ May 1950: "This year, February 15, brought a touch of Christmas greeting in the form of a printed letter. They are still free to carry on their work at the Yenching University in Peking, China, and are evidently busy and happy in their activity. Jimmy and Helen attend Chinese kindergarten, learning 'an endless number of songs,' Johnny displays his scholastic abilities in a Chinese school, too. Betsie's husband, Jim, keeps up a teaching and recording program and is procuring Bible films to show in churches to aid in presenting Christianity to his students. Betsie teaches English in the University and holds a Sunday School class in Chinese! They say that the University has been an inspiring place to work with its highly efficient co-operative community life. We would not want you to think there are no difficulties. 'The challenge thrown to the Christians is as critical as the Church has ever faced.' A personal lure at the end mentioned 'seeing you' possibly in another two years or so."

AQ February 1951: "Betsie and Jim Crothers left Yenching, China, in August, not because of the communists nor because their mission was fulfilled, but for the sake of their three children's health. Far from being pessimistic about the Orient, they feel that through Christian education there is 'a fire upon the Chinese earth which no communist can put out.' Now Jim is working at the Church Board's office in San Francisco and planning aid to Chinese students at the University of California."

The following are excerpts from the Memorial Service tribute to Betsie Crothers, upon her death, by her husband, the Rev. James M. Crothers: "Mary Elizabeth Hopkins was born May 10th, 1916, in Saint Joseph, Missouri, where her father was the founding pastor of a Southern Presbyterian Church. The event occurred in one part of the manse, while in another part the midweek prayer meeting was going on. When she was a year and a half old her parents took her to China. The young missionary family was assigned to work in cities along the Grand Canal north of Shanghai. At two year intervals three brothers and a sister were added to the family. Betsie remembered her childhood as a very happy one. She played with Chinese children, feeling very close to them. The one sad event for her in these happy days was the death of the brother next in age to herself.

"In the 1927 revolution armies swept back and forth across China. There was much violence, and some missionaries were among the slain. The Hopkins children were sent to the port city of Chefoo for safety. A childhood friend writes about those days, 'Betsie and I spent many hours combing the beach for unusual shells, or climbing the rocky cliffs nearby. How she savored life! Such an imagination! I would turn to her when a story needed to be told, for she would pull from her store all the embellishments to hold an audience captive every time.'

"When she was ready for high school Betsie was sent to Korea, as were many children of China missionaries. At high school Betsie entered into the school life with enthusiam, enjoying both the classes and the extracurricular activities of drama and music. On graduating as class salutatorian, Betsie went back to the China home with very firm plans in her mind for the future. She would go to the leading Southern Presbyterian women's college, Agnes Scott. She would go on to graduate study, she would marry her childhood and high school sweetheart, George Stevens, when he graduated from medical school, and then the two would go to China as missionaries. But suddenly her well-planned world fell apart. After only a 24 hour illness George died of a rare disease. Betsie wept for days, weeks, months. But this year before her return to America did have its plus side, for she was recovering the Chinese language she had lost in four years in Korea. And as she retraced the places she had lived along the Grand Canal, she was seeing the scenes of her childhood with almost adult eyes.

"The family finances had been greatly hurt by the failure of a Shanghai bank. So Betsie did not go to Agnes Scott, but to Wilson College in Yankeeland where an unusual scholarship paid for her college course. These four years were the happiest of Betsie's life. She reveled in what the college offered, growing in many skills. The year after college was spent at the Westminster Choir College in Princeton. During that year we became engaged, and were married in the seminary chapel in June, 1939.

"In addition to the many duties of a minister's wife, for the first three years of our marriage Betsie had to be a nurse and a guardian. Her seriously ill sister was with us for two years, then my sister, a refugee from war in the Orient. The war years of World War II involved much moving, the birth of three children in a little over three years, and such formal study of Chinese as she could manage.

"Christmas 1946 found us boarding a war-scarred refrigerator ship taking supplies to General Marshall's head-quarters in Peking. John, our eldest, had been living for four years in a world where the adults spent most of their time studying Chinese. After arriving in Peking he made a momentous discovery. Rushing into our house he shouted, 'You know what? Out here even the little kids can speak Chinese!'

"Betsie plunged into the work of a missionary. She led a junior choir at the Drum Tower Church, chaired a Presbytery committee on Christian Education, supervised a child care center for refugee children, and lectured at the church training school for women. This last was something I never did - lecture in Chinese. It wasn't easy for Betsie, requiring long hours of preparation. On top of all this Betsie was often called upon to be almost fulltime hostess. The Board of Foreign Missions sent many of the touring dignitaries to our home, for Betsie had the best Chinese of the younger missionaries.

"Then in October, 1948, came the advice from the US government that all Americans should leave North China, especially those with small children. This involved a hard decision: were we missionaries representing America or were we representing a church that had no East or West, no South or North? Betsie was among the tiny minority of missionary wives and mothers who decided to stay on under communism. But now our work was outside the city walls at Yenjing University in which the teaching staff had been seriously depleted. There Betsie taught English to the undergraduates and had classes on Christian Education in the seminary. A fellowship of Christian students met in our apartment. Betsie helped these students conduct a Sunday school. When the Korean War started, however, we felt it inadvisable to stay on, and decided to leave. At a farewell reception in Peking the pastor of the Drum Tower Church expressed especial appreciation to Betsie who had let his children and her children play together on the basis of absolute equality.


A note from a former student: "Betsie leaves a rich legacy - the example of one who cared deeply about other people."

Laura Phillips Abbott '34

Laura Phillips Abbott was raised in Korea. She married Rev. Paul Abbott, Jr. in 1935. She was an accounting supervisor at Campbell Soup Company in New Jersey after serving as a missionary in China.

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) August 1936: "Laura Phillips Abbott and her husband have been appointed to the China Council by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States."

AQ August 1937: "An interesting letter from Laura Phillips Abbott was received at the Alumnae Office, telling of the celebration of New Year's Day in Peiping. She also described the beautiful Lantern Festival. Laura started in the New Year as a language student, and says they have a good laugh every half hour. The Abbotts are spending the summer at Peitaiko, and expected to have all their parents with them."

AQ February 1938: "On her Christmas card Laura Phillips Abbott said that she and Paul and their son were in Korea, her own old home, temporarily, waiting to return to China, and are still learning Chinese. Their life is sometimes fun - sometimes horrible - she wishes to be remembered to everyone."

AQ February 1939: "The Abbotts are now in Nanking, China, where they are picking up loose threads and beginning their church work in the city until conditions permit them to go into the country. They are all fine and send best wishes to us all."

AQ August 1939: "A letter from Paul and Laura Phillips Abbott says they are now nicely settled in a home with some American furniture. Paul is learning to take over all his duties and soon will be in charge. Our sympathy to them both, however, for their second son died of pneumonia when he was a few weeks old."

AQ February 1940: "Another charming letter from Paul and Laura Phillips Abbott. They are now 'home', busy teaching singing among many other things. Charlie is three, and is speaking two languages."

AQ February 1941: "Paul and Laura Phillips Abbott are now in the states, having returned, accompanied by their son Charles, and a new daughter, Eleanor. Eleanor is a twin but Eilene lived only a short time. We are glad to have them back all safe."

AQ November 1943: "Laura Phillips Abbott and her husband returned from South America during the late spring, and Mr. Abbott has taken a stated supply at the College Avenue Church, Alton, Illinois, until they can return to China."

AQ February 1947: "Paul and Laura Phillips Abbott are in Alton, Illinois waiting to be sent to China as missionaries under the Independent Board for Presbyterian Missions."

AQ May 1949: "Paul and Laura Phillips Abbott are now living in Barrington, New Jersey with their five children."

The Abbott eventually had two more children. They never returned to China.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Helen Scott Mahy '30

The Scott sisters, Elizabeth '28, Helen '30, and Beatrice '33, were raised in China by their parents (Dr. and Mrs. Charles E. Scott) who were missionaries. They all returned to China as missionaries, themselves. Helen Scott Mahy returned to China in 1935 under the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church.

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) May 1935: "Helen Scott Mahy and her husband have been assigned by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church to the China Council for suggested location at Shantung."

AQ August 1935: "Helen Scott Mahy and her husband have sailed for China under appointment of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions."

AQ February 1938: "Word has been received from Seattle that Helen Scott Mahy is safe and well."

AQ Frebruary 1942: "The Gordon Mahy family (Helen Scott), with Betty Scott Stam's daughter, Helen Priscilla, are at Montreat, N.C. until such time as they may be able to return to China."

AQ August 1945: "Margaret Mahy Van Dyke spent two weeks with her brother and his wife, Helen Scott Mahy, Ted Stevenson, husband of Bunny (Beatrice) Scott, arrived there for a family reunion after three and one-half years as a prisoner of the Japs in Manila."

AQ May 1946: "Helen Scott Mahy's husband left for China in January. Helen and the children will join him during the summer."

AQ May 1949: "Gordon Mahy has returned recently from a trip into Chinese Communist Territory. The Mahy's feel they will continue to stay in Tsingtao as long as they can help their Chinese Church and friends, but with Communist military successes and U.S. Navy evacuations, they may send the three older children to school in America. Don Mahy, is now a high school junior, and is six and a half feet tall. The other Mahy children are well and growing - typical American children as yours and mine."

AQ August 1950: "Gordon and Helen Scott Mahy and family are now in the Philippine Islands. Helen is teaching there and writes that the family is well."








Helen Fraser West M.D. '25


Helen Fraser West was a missionary with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) August 1929: "Helen Fraser who was graduated from the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia in June, will be an intern in the Presbyterian Hospital of Pittsburgh during the coming year."

AQ May 1930 (paraphrased): "Helen Fraser married the Reverend Kirk West, a graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary. They plan to sail for China under appointment by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions."

AQ February 1935: 'The Wests oldest daughter, Prudence, died at their home in Weihsien, Shantung, China due to pneumonia following bacillary dysentery. She was three years old."

AQ August 1937: "Numerous Wilson alumnae in Shantung: Helen Scott Mahy and Helen Fraser West are next door neighbors. Marguerite Luce is nearby. The Dicksons, who have two daughters at Wilson are neighbors, and Kathleen Neale Kepler was there for a year."

AQ February 1941: "Helen Fraser West and her family have been sent to the Philippines due to the dangerous conditions in China."

AQ August 1942: "The Wests are now in Pennsylvania while on enforced furlough from China."

AQ August 1946: "Helen Fraser West’s husband sailed for China – March 1. Helen and the children expect to sail in August."

AQ May 1947: "Helen Fraser West and her family of four children sailed from San Francisco on March 28 for China. Her husband left about a year ago and has been back in their old station."

AQ February 1947: "Helen Fraser West’s life sounds like a three ring circus. She and her family are in Tsingtao, China. They were not allowed to return to their station at Weihsien as it is Communist country. Kirk is away a great deal on inspection trips. Tuck’s (Helen) house seems to take in and care for everyone." Wilson alumnae during this era frequently used nicknames.

AQ November 1949: "Helen Fraser West and her family arrived in San Francisco in late spring."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Kathleen Neale Kepler '23


Kathleen Neale Kepler studied at the North China Language School in Peiping from 1930 to 1931.

Alumnae Quarterly (AQ) February 1932: "Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kepler are now stationed in Siangton, Hunan, China, where they are doing evangelistic work."

AQ February 1938: "A very cheerful letter has been received by Kay Neale Kepler’s friends in this country, saying she is well and safe."

AQ August 1938: "Kay Neale Kepler, who is in China with her husband and two daughters is three miles outside Tsing Tao, and they are not able to return to their mission station."

AQ November 1942: "Kay Neale Kepler and her family are living in New Jersey until they can return to their home and work in China."

AQ February 1947: "Kay Neale Kepler is in Shanghai, China."

AQ May 1949: “Dear Class of 1923: We five Kepler’s were evacuated from China on a Navy transport, leaving Shanghai in early December. A brief stop in Tsingtao and at Yokasuka Bay, where the Navy planned a day in Tokyo for us and where we saw the bombed areas coming back to life in the remarkable reconstruction of that country, and where we Christmas shopped in the little stalls of the Ginga, Tokyo’s great thoroughfare, and the greatest variety of fellow evacuees, missionary, civilian, and military dependents, all made an interesting trip home.

“Our plans are still indefinite…as we have little chance of returning to China in the near future. That brings me to China, which we so hated to leave. Last summer we realized that our days there were probably numbered, as the situation from the political, financial, and military viewpoint was deteriorating so rapidly. Tension was great a good deal of the fall in Shanghai (near which we lived after we had to leave North China), especially when the food situation became very acute. Inflation made rice jump about six dollars U.S. per hundred pound bag to four hundred U.S. for the same amount, in ten days time, and even at that price you couldn’t get it. Farmers refused to bring in produce, inflation was such that money was worthless to them before they could use it. For a time we couldn’t buy so much as an egg or a potato. Paying up to $2.50 U.S. for a loaf of bread, with queues of waiting people unable to get it at that price, caused the American Council to get bread and sell it rationed at about fifty cents a loaf to Americans. Stores were closed; streets were jammed with idle, restless, panicky people; rioting was constant. The flow of refugees into and out of the city was indescribable.

“Temporary money adjustments eased the tension and the food crisis, but when our government sent evacuation notices, and the school bus stopped for our children, and many of their teachers were evacuating, that - together with other things - made us feel we would have to leave.

“The future no one can predict. Our personal opinion is that China will fall to the Communists eventually, and that it is a Russian Communism. From experience in a city nearest to the “Iron Curtain” for nearly a year, we know it is an anti-God, anti-freedom ideology that denies the one thing China needs - the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Friends who have tried staying ended up practically as prisoners in their own homes, a menace to their Chinese friends or to anyone who showed any connection with them. In our area, we were asked to leave not just for our own but for the sake of the Chinese Christians. Our hearts ache for China.”

AQ May 1956: "Kenneth and Kathleen Neale Kepler have again been called into the missionary field, this time to Formosa (Taiwan)."

AQ November 1956: "Kathleen and Kenneth Kepler sailed from San Francisco September 14 to be gone five years. They will conduct English Bible classes among college and high school students, government workers, lepers, and the aboriginal tribes of Formosa (Taiwan).

AQ February 1959: "Kathleen Neale Kepler believes the light of Christmas is really beginning to shine in Free China. All over the city of Taipei there were groups (both those born on the island and mainlanders who have lost all they had) that were decorating their churches and homes, sending gifts and cards, and letting their neighbors know of the joy Christ has brought them."

The Kepler’s spent another 10 years in Formosa/Taiwan.