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57th Annual Arthur L. Throckmorton Memorial Lecture

Date: 5:30pm PST February 27 Location: Miller Hall, Room 105

Miller Hall, Room 105

Missionary Daughter to Daughter of the Revolution: Isabel Crook’s Journey to the Great Hall of the People

Professor Emerita of History Jane Hunter taught U.S. social and cultural history at Lewis & Clark beginning in 1990. Her first book, Gospel of Gentility:  American Women Missionaries in Turn-of-the Century China, won the Governors’ Award from Yale University Press at its publication and came out in translation in China in 2014. She has spent over four years living in East Asia, first teaching English in Hong Kong from 1971-73, and then in 2003-4 teaching American studies as a Fulbright lecturer in Shanghai, and again in 2012-13 at Sichuan University in Chengdu. This fall, she was a fellow at Shanghai Normal University Guangqi International Center working on this project.  (Another book, How Young Ladies Became Girls:  The Victorian Origins of American Girlhood won the 2004 outstanding book prize from the Society for the History of Education.)


Missionary Daughter to Daughter of the Revolution: Isabel Crook’s Journey to the Great Hall of the People

Daughter of missionaries, born on a university campus in West China, Isabel Brown Crook converted from her parents’ Protestantism to Communism after marrying a politically likeminded British Jew. During the Chinese Civil War they lived with revolutionary soldiers in liberated areas, entering Beijing with the victorious People’s Liberation Army in 1949. She is now 104 years old, still living on the campus of Beijing Foreign Studies University where she and her husband David taught English for decades, with the exception of several years during the Cultural Revolution when they were both detained as “spies.” She has co-authored several books about China in English, but her own extraordinary life story has not been told.

Isabel Brown Crook’s journey from Christianity to Communism offers a case study of the impact of the missionary experience on the identity and commitments of the children, who learned early to navigate two divergent worlds. An earlier era’s “Third Culture Kid,” Isabel grew up with inspiring parents in a family wedded to Western Christian customs and governed by high expectations for moral conduct and accomplishment. Beyond the gates of the mission compounds, she observed a world that was a subject of intense curiosity and growing social and political awareness. She especially took to heart one strand of her parents’ missionary message—the “social gospel” that made Christians attend to the conditions of the poor. For an idealistic, duty-bound daughter growing up in China, it was not hard to see the resemblance between this message and the revolutionary promises of Communism. While most missionary children did not follow her radical path, Isabel Brown Crook has never forsworn it.

In this talk, Hunter will explore transnationalism through the prism of one extraordinary life and a range of English and Chinese sources, including letters, diaries, and autobiographical statements, as well as many hours of conversation with Isabel Crook herself and her family.


***Please register your car here to avoid a possible parking ticket.

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