incredible novel on Minnie Vautrin! Discover the great energy of Minnie
Vautrin and uncover her life's work!
photos from Ms. Hua-ling Hu's book, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking, The Courage of
in Secor, Illinois, Minnie Vautrin moves to China and begins the
challenging work of starting a school for girls. She succeeds as an educator and missionary, but this becomes torn
apart during the rape of Nanking, when she dedicates all her energy to
Vautrin loses her mother at the age of 6 and fears she will become a
burden to her father. So she
works hard at school and puts her own self through college. She joins the Foreign Christian Society to become a missionary and
chooses to go to China. There
she must fight the Chinese culture of believing that girls should not be
educated and remain ignorant. She
makes a middle school for girls a success and this leads to her
appointment at Ginling College, where she must again face the difficult
task of educating Chinese women and ensuring that the college grows. This success becomes overshadowed by war where she fights with all
her strength to save thousands of Chinese during the rape of Nanking.
There is loss of a loved one and the pain thereafter that
becomes a motivation. There
are father-daughter conflicts. There
is the choice of making a home in a foreign land. There are challenges and difficulties of starting a school from
nothing. There is romance. There are female issues. There
is war and everything that comes with it. Finally, there is faith.
Toward the end of her life, Minnie Vautrin sent this poem
to a friend:
years from this tonight,
climbs the sky
swift snow will still the roofs
mad stars run by.
will know of China's war
gas in Spain
dead...they'll be forgotten, lost,
they lose or gain.
beauty, only truth
a thousand years.
It’s understandable why Minnie Vautrin would take special
note of this poem, especially after being witness to the Sino-Japanese
War. It has been proposed
that, like all the soldiers who died, she, too, was another unfortunate
victim of the war.
There have been plays written about her life. She was a big supporter for the performing arts. She and her students performed many stage plays for good reasons
such as raising funds for an elementary school to educate the poor
children living near the college. She
gave a speech to the League of Nations and visited Europe, to observe their schools, noting a folk school in Denmark,
and returned to China to apply those methods for the good of the Chinese
people, especially the poor. But
war got in the way.
Whether her life is celebrated in a play, biography, movie,
or novel such as this one, the issues, questions, and resolutions her life
bring about make this novel a must-read for anyone wishing to be
passionate about the good and great potential of the human spirit, the
kind Minnie Vautrin lived.
Thank you to the books on Minnie Vautrin by the late Iris
Chang who included Miss Vautrin in her best-selling book, The Rape of
Nanking. Thank you also to Ms. Hua-ling Hu for her excellent
biography, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking, The Courage of
This novel would not have been written without these two
books. Thank you also to the
websites and pages that first introduced me to Minnie Vautrin. After reading about Miss Vautrin online on the few pages
available, I knew this was a life that interested me and made me want to
take time out and stay up late into the hours writing, because like many
of us, we have families to attend to first.
One website talked about the preparations for Minnie
Vautrin Day in Secor, Illinois, where Miss Vautrin was born. Unfortunately, Miss Vautrin never made it to this big welcome home
celebration due to the tragic end of Miss Vautrin’s life. Another website includes a testimonial from a lady who had just
read about Miss Vautrin. This
same lady, I believe a member of a book club, claimed that Miss Vautrin is
one of her heroes.
There are also book review sites and libraries where you
can obtain historical documents and data about Miss Vautrin’s life,
including the Yale University Library, Divinity Library Special
Collections, which claims that individuals making documentaries are
usually the ones who go through the information surrounding Miss Vautrin
and especially her work in China. There
is also a museum in Nanking, China that shows her own personal belongings
which has been visited by her grandniece.
Thank you to all these little bits of information and the
books by Ms. Iris Chang and Ms. Hua-ling Hu, I have been provided enough
to feel comfortable in capturing the spirit of Miss Vautrin’s life.
Thus, this novel, Minnie Vautrin, places Miss
Vautrin in the decision-making moments of her life and how these decisions
lead to her greatness no matter what tragedies have befallen her.
The first three-fourths of her life is my favorite and I
wish I could end the novel there. However,
to truly write a novel based on her life, the story about the
Sino-Japanese War needs to be included. I have great respect for Asian cultures, including the Japanese and
the Chinese cultures. Unfortunately,
the clashing of the two in the early decades of the twentieth century
exploded around Miss Vautrin’s life.
So based on her true story, in this novel, you will
discover the life, fate and faith of Minnie Vautrin. In the end, you may have the same conclusion. You may find yourself asking many more questions, but at least, her
life provides a fundamental focal point, that greatness in goodness is
something we need to recognize, refocus in ourselves, and be thankful for
in others who have meant the same in our own lives.
a museum in Nanking, China, an old woman looks at several glass displays
cases, and because she doesn’t quickly find what she came to see, she
hesitates when she does recognize something she’s seen before. She remembers the joyful energy, the drive to learn, the love for
all, from the person who held the hairbrush, framed certificate and book
inside a display case.
next to the startled old woman who is locked in memory, is a young girl,
no more than six years old. She
asks, “Grandmother Ze, what are you looking for?”
earlier, six-year old, short-haired Minnie, brushes her dark strands of
hair. She feels hair does the
opposite of a good night’s rest. Rather
than look peaceful and fall into shape nicely, the strands appear woken up
by a windstorm.
the kitchen, she looks out the window and sees wild cottontail rabbits
romping all over the vegetable garden and feeding on saplings. She pulls open a drawer and grabs a folded kitchen towel.
As she runs outside
barefoot, she feels her toes get soaked in cool, morning dew. Minnie waves the towel in the air and the cottontails scurry away
with no plan as to which direction, except to be far from the young girl
guarding the garden.
Vautrin joins her daughter to look over the garden situation. To her surprise, she has a little difficulty bending down to prop
up a broken tomato plant. She
sighs at the zucchini saplings with the tender leaves eaten.
who likes to look at the positive, whenever she’s with her mother, says,
“More leaves will grow, right, Mom?”
Vautrin smiles at her daughter’s lively spirit that looks for the good
in things, and for some reason she feels a need to reveal to her unworldly
daughter her hidden dreams.
“Did I tell you, when I
was in elementary school, I had dreams of seeing the world?”
“Why didn't you leave
“Because I realized home
was with your father. And my
world became you, your brother, and your dad. This is enough.”
smiles at her pretty daughter who observes the plants carefully and
can’t wait when the tomatoes are ready to pick.
“Do you still wonder
“Yes. I sometimes wonder, imagine--speaking another language.” When she tries to get up, she can't. “I can't even leave my own vegetable garden.”
takes her mother's hand. “I'll
help pull you up.”
As a mom who wonders when
is ever a good time to speak serious with one’s child, Pauline asks for
Minnie’s undivided attention. “Minnie,
please look at me. Do not be
lazy. Study, be smart, be strong, be good.”
helps her mother stand and notices her mother’s lack of strength but she
disregards this, because like many her age, she believes her mother will
walk to the house and for Pauline, this takes great effort, especially for
something that was effortless before.
“Funny--why is it so
hard to walk now?”
“You were walking good
reach the back door and while Minnie reaches for the screen handle, she
helps to hold up her mom as they enter the kitchen.
behind them, the screen slams shut as Pauline tries to hold a dining chair
to rest on, but she instead falls to the floor.
Worried, Minnie shouts,
“Mom. Mom. Mom!”
the backyard, Edmund Vautrin and his son, Louis, are putting up fence
posts around the yard when they hear Minnie cry out. They hurry to the house.
looks at the wet dew on the floor from her feet. She wonders if she were the cause of her mom falling because she
made the floor slippery.
Louis, Minnie’s brother,
enters the house first, sees his mom and becomes worried. “What happened? Mom!”
Vautrin hurries to his wife. Concerned
and not knowing what to expect, nothing becomes more important than his
wife at that instant. “Pauline! Are you all right?” He
picks up his wife and hugs her, crying as he looks at his son and daughter
who are also crying.
photos from Ms. Hua-ling Hu's book, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking, The Courage of
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