Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ancestor Highlight: Myrtle Bell Bailey, 1880-1970, Pentecostal Missionary to China and Hong Kong, My Great-Grand Aunt


Myrtle Bailey lived a fascinating life in some of the most tumultuous times and locations of the Twentieth Century. I was tempted to call it an adventurous life, but in researching her life for this essay, I was reminded of a quote from a book by Holly Lisle (The Silver Door), “Adventures are only interesting once you've lived to see the end of them. Before that, they are nothing but fear, and being too cold or too hot or too wet or too hungry, and getting hurt.” I expect Myrtle felt the same, given some of what she went through.

Myrtle Bell Bailey was born in Richmond Kansas to EdwardCarleton and Martha Emily (Wolfington) Bailey on January 2, 1880. She had four brothers and one sister. The family had moved to Findlay Ohio, by the time she was twenty.[i]   She joined the Assemblies of God mission Church in Findlay, and became active in the church. [ii]

Myrtle was born into a time when women’s primary role was as wives and mothers and keepers of the home; few women held jobs outside of their households.  But it was also a time when education was becoming mandatory for both genders in many states (so that the women could properly instruct children in the home), and if a single woman wanted more independence she could become a school teacher or a nurse, until she married. While women could not yet vote (and wouldn’t be able to until 1920, when Myrtle was over 40), the movement for women’s rights was becoming active in the country.

Myrtle Bailey lived at home with her parents until she was in her mid-thirties. She worked as a nurse at the Old Home and Hospital on Main Street in Findlay, and then attended and graduated from the Christian and Missionary Alliance College in Nyack NY.[iii] She became her church’s first foreign missionary in 1917, when she was sent to Fat Shan, China, which was a city near Canton. [iv] (picture of passport renewal application, from China, 1919. Found at Ancestry.com. Click to embiggen.)

Myrtle Bailey passport renewal application China 1919; Climbing My Family Tree


The Protestant foreign mission expansion movement was also underway during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was initially held a field solely for men as it was considered too dangerous for women. But as the mission field expanded into China, it became obvious that women missionaries were needed since men were forbidden to talk to Chinese women. Many missionary women believed that the home was the most important institution of society, and thus, by reaching Chinese women, the women missionaries could influence Chinese families as well. Missionary women were also drawn to working to improve the lives of women in China, taking up the activist mantle working against foot-binding, infanticide of girl babies, and championing education for women to increase their standard of living. Ironically, while working as missionaries American women were freer, more independent, and more respected in China than in America, as they had to take up more responsibility to achieve their missionary goals. Their stature grew in America as well, as missionary women were periodically rotated back home and required to go on speaking tours to raise money for the support of the missions (during a time when most women were not allowed to speak from the front of the church or serve on church boards) because women wholeheartedly supported other women and were better at raising funds than the men.[v]

Myrtle Bailey lived and worked in Fat Shan, China for five years before being rotated home in the last six months of 1923 to go on a speaking fundraising tour of churches and other mission meetings in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri.  She returned to China shortly after January 1924.[vi] In July 1925, Myrtle was caught up in the beginning of a revolution that swept through China after an incident on May 30th where Sikh police under British command fired on a crowd of Chinese demonstrators in Shanghai, killing 9 and wounding many more. Wide-spread strikes against the British and Japanese followed involving hundreds of thousands of workers, along with mass protests and riots across the country.[vii] Anti-British pamphlets spread around the country, headed with a dagger through a heart.[viii] Myrtle’s co-worker, Mattie Ledbetter, of Alabama, had left Fat Shan because of ill health. On her way to Hong Kong she saw a fleet of gunboats loaded with soldiers formerly commanded by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (one of leaders of the revolution whose death in March 1925 increased instability in the country) who were on their way to attack the Yuananese troops that occupied Fat Shan and Canton.  "Miss Ledbetter immediately dispatched word to Miss Bailey, informing her of the situation. Quickly assembling her belongings, she left posthaste for Hong Kong. Shortly afterward, the American Consul ordered all American citizens out of Fat Shan and Canton to prevent their lives from being endangered by the warring factions. So great was the necessity for speed that those washing their clothing packed the garments while they were still wet."[ix]

Arriving in Hong Kong on July 17, 1925, Myrtle immediately wired her home congregation in Findlay Ohio asking for $400 for her passage from China to Findlay [context: more than the cost of a car then]. When the message calling for financial help was received by the Assemblies of God Church in Findlay, a campaign was immediately launched to secure the $400 asked for. The amount of the money, however, was borrowed and wired that day to the Secretary of the Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, who, in turn, cabled it to Hong Kong.[x] She embarked for America on the Empress of Australia. She arrived in Findlay, on Sunday September 25, 1925.[xi] She was home when her father died in March 1926.[xii] (Photo of Passenger Registry for Empress of Australia, MB is on first line. Found on Ancestry.com. Click to embiggen.)

Passenger Registry for Empress of Australia, 1925; Climbing My Family Tree: Myrtle Bailey


Myrtle returned to China either in late 1926 or early 1927. An article in the Findlay Morning Republican on March 26, 1927, reported “Findlay persons who have journeyed to the Orient in hope of spreading the gospel are apparently in no immediate danger according to their friends and relatives who have been keeping close touch with the China situation. …Miss Myrtle Bailey, also of Findlay, and a graduate of the school [Christian and Missionary Alliance College], is reported safe in China.”[xiii] Civil war had broken out in China between the Nationalists and the Communists. In April, 1927, the Communists were crushed by Chiang Kai-Shek in what became known as the Shanghai Massacre wherein hundreds of communists were rounded up, arrested and tortured; most were executed or assassinated. It triggered a nationwide purge of Communists called The White Terror, which eventually caused the deaths of almost 50,000 communists.[xiv]

Upon her return to China, Myrtle moved her ministry to Hong Kong, China, a colony of the British Empire, which is located on a peninsula and several islands on the south coast of China, which neighbored what was then the Canton province.[xv] She lived on the peninsula, on the edge of Hong Kong’s foreign district.  While there she founded two “English” schools, one for boys and one for girls, and two Bible schools, and ran them with the help of three assistants. In 1935, she was seriously injured when struck by a streetcar in Hong Kong. She spent some time in the hospital and then was forced to take a two year furlough back in Ohio. She spent much of 1937 staying with her sister, Mrs. Pauline (Phillip) Snyder.[xvi] During her visit, Myrtle addressed numerous gatherings telling them of her missionary life and cause.[xvii]

Having received a “go-at-your-own-risk” permit issued by the State Department, Myrtle left Findlay, Ohio, on December 12, 1937, to return to Hong Kong, China, happy in the knowledge that she would soon be with her Chinese boy and girl students. Having lived among her charges so long she had become deeply attached to them and regards Hong Kong as her home. Her three assistants had been conducting the two English and Bible schools she established during her absence.[xviii]

Although the country was not then as peaceful as when she left, Myrtle did not fear for her safety. Despite the fact that severe fighting was going on in many regions of China, Hong Kong had been comparatively unharmed since it is a British Colony and the section was heavily patrolled by the British army and navy so that anxiety was minimized, her sister, Mrs. Phillip Snyder, told the local paper. “The greatest existing danger, Miss Bailey told her sister, is that huge quantities of munitions are stored in several secret ammunition dumps in the Hong Kong district and a stray shell or other accident might set one of them off and probably cause a heavy loss of property and life.”[xix]

Myrtle moved back to her home on the mainland at the very edge of Hong Kong’s foreign settlement, next to the Chinese section, and continued her ministry.  She had established two missions, two schools, one for boys and one for girls, opened a Bible school, and kept 15 orphans in her home. She was 57.[xx]

On December 7, 1941, coordinated with the attack on Pearl Harbor, were surprise attacks by the Japanese against Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, and other Far East areas where many Assemblies of God missionaries were serving.[xxi] Myrtle said that “Hong Kong thought it was prepared, but it was caught off guard. The Japanese crept in from the back, camouflaged by weeds and grass. They were in front of Hong Kong before the British saw them move.” Later, on a ferry, one British soldier told her that the Japanese outnumbered the Allies in Hong Kong 20 to 1. She described the night, “The attack was sudden. First the bombers set fire to the aerodromes then they stormed the warehouses where a two year food supply was stored. The Allies could do nothing but retreat to Hong Kong Island.” She said that most of the damage was done in the tenement districts; most of the government buildings and banks were saved. The Japanese took the house opposite her for Red Cross headquarters [Note: referring to Japanese high command, per the Red cross on Japanese flag and not the international relief agency, I think]. Three other houses near hers were taken for barracks. One Japanese officer lived on the second floor of her home. “They just took what they wanted,” she told her sponsoring church, many months after the ordeal.[xxii]

Myrtle was “lucky” in that she was never interned in a camp; on the other hand, she was kept virtually a prisoner in her own home for seven and a half months by the Japanese. Myrtle told her hometown newspaper that she had eight large bags of food, supplied by the Red Cross (the international relief agency) in her home when the bombings came. Fifty people were in her home during the bombings, between the school children, other missionaries, and an elderly Chinese woman who could not walk because her feet had been bound as a child; Myrtle, 61, tried to take care of all of them. The Japanese rationed out one handful of rice per person per day. “I know what starvation is,” Myrtle said. “The older girls knitted for the Japs to get food, and the younger girls sold candy and cakes on the streets. We sold our furniture – everything, even to the typewriter.”[xxiii] It was reported to the Assemblies of God church by other sources that a thousand people a day were dropping dead in the street a day due to starvation. In one hospital alone 600 people died daily from starvation.[xxiv]

Finally word came through a Red Cross relief agency representative that she could leave but could only take four suitcases with her.[xxv] The American government had arranged a repatriation exchange of Japanese diplomatic and business civilians who were in America and Brazil, when the Pearl Harbor bombing occurred, for diplomatic and other official government personnel, businessmen, teachers, missionaries, tourists and others trapped in Japan and China. The Americans chartered the Swedish liner Gripsholm to carry the 1500 Japanese Nationals and make the exchange.[xxvi] Myrtle departed Hong Kong on the Japanese ship Asama Maru, on June 30, 1942. There were 500 to 700 missionaries on the ship, she said.[xxvii]  After embarking at Hong Kong, the Amasa Maru, went to other ports picking up refugees for repatriation.  The ship transported 1,500 Americans and allies from the Japanese Empire and the ports of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Saigon.[xxviii]

Departing the United States east coast, the Swedish ship Gripsholm had a huge sign painted on the sides signifying the vessel as "Diplomatic. “As it steamed toward its destination it was ablaze at night with lights to alert Allied submarine captains not to attack.  The Asama Maru had large white crosses painted on its sides, hopefully to mark safe passage from marauding American submarines. Since the advent of hostilities the Japanese would not permit their exchange vessels to cross the Pacific. As a result, the East African port of Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) was selected for the exchange as it was the closest neutral territory to Japan.[xxix]
Climbing My Family Tree: Myrtle Bailey, Gripsholm Repatriation voyage 1942

Upon arriving at the east African port on July 24, the transfer of passengers from one ship to another took about four hours, as the ships moored alongside one another. The Japanese disembarked from the Gripsholm, on one gangway at the bow, while the Americans embarked on another at the stern. On board the Amasa Maru, the refugees had lived, in horribly unsanitary conditions, and were fed two cups of rice per day, from which they had to spend 30 minutes taking the worms from the rice before eating. Once, loaded on the Gripsholm, the 1500 Americans and allied refugees had to wait on Gripsholm’s deck while the cabins were cleaned. There were buffets prepared on the decks, and many Americans kneeled and prayed when they saw the food, while the Swedish crew wept. The Gripsholm left Lorenco Marques (Mozambique) with 1,510 passengers on board, of whom just under 600 were missionaries and their families and 300 were children. It traveled south, around the cape of Africa to South America, where it stopped at Rio de Janeiro, on August 1, to drop off South American diplomats and their families.[xxx] Myrtle Bailey was able to mail a letter to her sister, Pauline Snyder, to tell her that she would be arriving in approximately two weeks (it was the first letter Pauline had received from Myrtle since November 1941). On August 25, 1942 the Gripsholm docked on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.[xxxi] [First picture is of the Passenger list for the Gripsholm, noting departure from Lorenco Marques. MB is on Line 6. Found at Ancestry.com. Second picture is of the Gripsholm itself, with the word "DIPLOMAT" painted in huge letters on the side. Click to embiggen. ]




Climbing My Family Tree : Passenger list Gripsholm repatriation voyage 1942



Myrtle was very weary when she arrived, so she intended to rest for a few days in New York before going on to Ohio; but when she received the sad news of the death of her niece, Mrs. Christine Buntz, victim of an auto accident the prior week, she immediately left for Findlay, Ohio, where she stayed with her sister, Mrs. Pauline Snyder.[xxxii] Following her recovery, she spoke at various mission meetings & services in October 1942 (per newspaper invitation squib, she graphically described the bombings) through early November, 1944.[xxxiii]

On September 20, 1947, the local paper noted, “Miss Myrtle Bailey, who has been visiting with her sister, Mrs. Pauline Snyder, 535 Tiffin Avenue, will leave today for San Francisco where she will embark for Hong Kong to return to her work in the mission field which was interrupted by the Japanese Invasion five years ago. The mission school and girls school has resumed operation while Miss Bailey hopes to get a Bible school and a boys school started.”[xxxiv] On July 22, 1948, the paper printed a one sentence notice that, “Miss Myrtle Bailey, former Findlay resident, now serving as a missionary in Hong Kong, may be reached through General Delivery, Colony of Hong Kong.”[xxxv] She stayed in Hong Kong until she retired in 1954 at the age of 74.[xxxvi]

Myrtle moved back to Ohio, where she joined the Christian Women’s Temperance Union, and gave talks about her missionary experience.[xxxvii]

Myrtle had one more adventure that made the local newspaper. This one was much more of the fun sort. On March 30, 1964, the Findlay Republican Courier ran a picture of her and the actor Vicktor S. Yung, with the following caption: “Hop Sing (Victor S. Yung), cook in the television show “Bonanza”, displays some of his culinary art in preparing an Easter dinner of Chinese food for Miss Myrtle Bailey here yesterday. Miss Bailey is a great-aunt of Mrs. Jack Snyder, Elm Rd, in whose home the meal was prepared. Miss Bailey, a retired missionary, spent 33 years in China. Upon reading of Mr. Yung’s visit with the Marathon Oil Company here, she called the actor at his hotel and the two engaged in a true Cantonese conversation. The Chinese food for the retired Miss Bailey was the result.”[xxxviii]  Click to see (I hope - I've tried several different ways to set this up): Newspaper photo

On October 27, 1970, Myrtle B. Bailey, 90, of 1102 Hurd Ave., died at 2:15 p.m. at Blanchard Valley Hospital. She had been ill for the past month. She had been living with her grand-niece Mrs. Jack (Betty) Snyder. A sister, Mrs. Phillip A. (Pauline) Snyder, at 719 E. Sandusky St, survived her, as did many nieces and nephews. Funeral services were held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, October 30, at the Kirkpatrick-Hawkins Funeral Home, with the Reverend Howard Spriggs officiating. She was buried in Maple Grove Cemetery.[xxxix]

[Myrtle Bell Bailey's sister Pauline Bailey Snyder is my great-grandmother -- my mother's paternal grandmother.]





[i] 1900 Federal Census.
[ii] HISTORY OF FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD, The Republican Courier (Findlay Ohio),28 June 1976, p. J5 [Newspaperarchive.com]
[iii] HANCOCK COUNTY, FINDLAY AREA DEATHS, Myrtle B. Bailey, The Republican Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 29 October 1970 p. 14 [Newspaperarchive.com];1900 & 1910 Federal Census; 1916 passport application National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Passport Applications for Travel to China, 1906-1925; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 1244180 / MLR Number A1 540; Box #: 4428; Volume #: 15. (found at Ancestry.com U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.)
[iv] HISTORY OF FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD, The Republican Courier, supra.
[v] Hunter, Jane (1984), The Gospel of Gentility: American Women Missionaries in Turn-of-the-Century China, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
[vi] The Morning Republican (Findlay Ohio), 16 June 1923.p. 5 , p. 5; 21 June 1923 p. 5; 26 June 1923 , p. 12; 31 August 1923 , p. 6; 30 January 1924, 2  [Newspaperarchive.com]
[vii]  MISSIONARY TO BE RETURNED TO FINDLAY, The Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth Ohio), 17 July 1925 p. 2 [Newspapers.com]; CABLES $400 TO FINDLAY WOMAN TO ESCAPE ORIENT, The Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio) 19 July 1925, p.2 [Newspaperarchive.com]; http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/01/lec2-j06.html
[viii] MISSIONARY, COMPELLED TO LEAVE CHINA, RETURNS HERE, The Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 12 September 1925 p.9 [Newspaperarchive.com]
[ix]  MISSIONARY, COMPELLED TO LEAVE CHINA, RETURNS HERE, The Morning Republican (Findlay, Ohio), 12 September 1925 p.9 [Newspaperarchive.com] and http://alphahistory.com/chineserevolution/shanghai-massacre/
[x]  MISSIONARY TO BE RETURNED TO FINDLAY, supra; CABLES $400 TO FINDLAY WOMAN TO ESCAPE ORIENT, supra.
[xi] MISSIONARY, COMPELLED TO LEAVE CHINA, RETURNS HERE, supra
[xii] Edward C. Bailey, death date: Ancestry.com and Ohio Department of Health. Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
[xiii] CHURCH WORKERS BELIEVED SAFE, The Morning Republican (Findlay Ohio), 26 March 1927 p. 9 [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xvi]  WAR TORN CHINA GOAL OF WOMAN, The Republican Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 12 December 1937 p. 5 [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xvii] Per The Republican Courier of Findlay Ohio [Newspaperarchive.com] and the Times Recorder of Zanesville Ohio [Newspapers.com], (multiple dates) MBB speaks at various Mission meetings & services on November 15, 24, & 25, 1936, April 19, 1937 and August 21, 1937.
[xviii] WAR TORN CHINA GOAL OF WOMAN, supra.
[xix]  Ibid.
[xx] MISSIONARY TELLS OF JAP BOMBINGS, The Republican Courier, 21 September 1942, p. 3 (Findlay, Ohio) [Newspaperarchive.com]; Obituary, The Republican Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 28 October 1970 p. 12 [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxi] Assemblies of God Heritage Magazine, Vol. II, No. 4, Winter 1991-1992, p. 4
[xxii] MISSIONARY TELLS OF JAP BOMBINGS, The Republican Courier, 21 September 1942, p. 3 (Findlay, Ohio) [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxiii] Ibid, and family stories.
[xxiv] Assemblies of God Heritage Magazine, Vol. II, No. 4, Winter 1991-1992, p. 7.
[xxv]  MISSIONARY TELLS OF JAP BOMBINGS, supra.
[xxvi] http://www.saipanstewart.com/essays/firstexchange.html; http://www.combinedfleet.com/Asama_t.htm
[xxvii] MISSIONARY TELLS OF JAP BOMBINGS, supra; http://www.combinedfleet.com/Asama_t.htm
[xxviii] http://www.saipanstewart.com/essays/firstexchange.html; http://www.combinedfleet.com/Asama_t.htm
[xxix]  http://www.saipanstewart.com/essays/firstexchange.html
[xxx] http://www.combinedfleet.com/Asama_t.htm; http://www.saipanstewart.com/essays/firstexchange.html; http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:UHJX9mBoR3QJ:ftp://coyftp.cityofyonkers.com/Historic%2520Photos/Historic%2520Photos%2520n%2520Plaques/Joan%2520Jennings'%2520Postcards/Gripsholm%25201925.doc+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
[xxxi] MISSIONARY RETURNS, The Republican Courier, 18 August 1942 p. 13 (Findlay Ohio); MISSIONARY NOW HOME, The Republican Courier, 14 September 1942, p. 12 (Findlay Ohio); MISSIONARY TELLS OF JAP BOMBINGS, Supra.   [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxxii] MISSIONARY NOW HOME, supra.
[xxxiii] Per various articles in The Republican Courier (Findlay, Ohio) [Newspaperarchive.com], MBB speaks at various mission meetings & services on October 10, 22, & 29, 1942, January 14, 1943, February 6, 1943, March 18, 1944, April 20, 1944, June 27, 1944, and November 3, 1944.
[xxxiv] LEAVING FOR CHINA, The Republican Courier, 20 September 1947 p. 9 (Findlay Ohio) [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxxv]  The Republican Courier, 22 July 1948 p. 5 (Findlay Ohio) [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxxvi] HANCOCK COUNTY, FINDLAY AREA DEATHS, Supra.
[xxxvii] The Republican Courier (Findlay Ohio), 13 December 1954  [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxxviii] The Republican Courier, 30 March 1964, p. 4 (Findlay Ohio) [Newspaperarchive.com]
[xxxix]  The Republican Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 28 October 1970 p. 12; The Republican Courier (Findlay, Ohio), 29 October 1970, p. 14 [Newspaperarchive.com]

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