Gladys Aylward, otherwise known as ‘The Little Woman’, had a film made about her life called The inn of the sixth happiness (staring Ingrid Bergman). I went to watch it once but then discovered that it went for almost three hours. That was the end of that.
You can watch the trailer here though, which is much shorter. I believe there is a significant amount of fiction in the film and a warning that the opening of the trailer feels just a touch racist to me…
I thought I had her autobiography (called The Little Woman) on my shelf but I can’t find it… and am now wondering why I knew about it so vividly…
Like Hudson Taylor, Gladys was a missionary in China and like Amy Carmichael, her mission work was associated with orphans.
(Seriously all these people are so amazing, it just makes you feel pathetic reading about them…)
Gladys Aylward’s time in China was so epic I hardly know where to start. Even getting herself there in the first place was problematic when she was left in the freezing snow in Siberia because the train driver refused to take her through a war zone. Undeterred, she took herself on foot through the night to the next train station… in Siberia remember.
This was somewhat of a foreshadowing of her epic journey from (I think) Jincheng to Xian later during her time in China. Due to the building conflict and tension with Japan in the 1930s, Gladys took herself and a bunch of Chinese orphans (94 actually) to safety. Regardless of the fact that they were a woman and children, the killings had become merciless. No one was safe.
Unsurprisingly, this journey had a significant impact on her health, but she continued her work with the children afterwards, as well as sharing the gospel, reforming prisons and caring for lepers. In the late 1940s she returned to the UK for a decade to share news of her work and to advocate for China’s needy.
Unable to gain access into China again (although I read somewhere that she became a citizen) she went to Hong Kong in 1957 and established a mission there. In 1970 she died in Taiwan of pneumonia, aged 67. Her grave is in Christ College, just outside of Taipei.
Among other things, Gladys gives the little woman writing this blog some hope that her Mandarin speaking skills might reach fluency one day. Interestingly, the China Inland Mission (no longer run by Hudson Taylor at this point) told Gladys that she was too old to learn Mandarin.
What extraordinary lengths she went to, to prove them wrong.
Yours in liking this woman more and more,