American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin

American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin

American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin

American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin


The Japanese army's brutal occupation of the city of Nanking during the 1937 Sino-Japanese War is known, for good reason, as "the rape of Nanking". As they slaughtered an estimated three hundred thousand people, the invading soldiers raped more than twenty thousand women -- some estimates run as high as eighty thousand. Hua-ling Hu presents here the amazing untold story of the American missionary Minnie Vautrin, whose unswerving defiance of the Japanese protected ten thousand Chinese women and children and made her a legend among the Chinese people she served.

Vautrin, who came to be known in China as the "Living Goddess" or the "Goddess of Mercy", joined the Foreign Christian Missionary Society and went to China during the Chinese Nationalist Revolution in 1912. As dean of studies at Ginling College in Nanking, she devoted her life to promoting Chinese women's education and to helping the poor.

At the outbreak of the war in July 1937, Vautrin defied the American embassy's order to evacuate the city. After the fall of Nanking in December, Japanese soldiers went on a rampage of killing, burning, looting, rape, and torture, rapidly reducing the city to a hell on earth. On the fourth day of the occupation, Minnie Vautrin wrote in her diary: "There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today.... Oh, God, control the cruel beastliness of the soldiers in Nanking".

When the Japanese soldiers ordered Vautrin to leave the campus, she replied: "This is my home. I cannot leave". Facing down the blood-stained bayonets constantly waved in her face, Vautrin shielded the desperate Chinese who sought asylum behind the gates of the college. Vautrin exhausted herself defyingthe Japanese army and caring for the refugees after the siege ended in March 1938. She even helped the women locate husbands and sons who had been taken away by the Japanese soldiers. She taught destitute widows the skills


How grateful I am to Hua-ling Hu for writing this book that tells of the courage of Minnie Vautrin. We still need heroes, and Hu has found a noble one.

Who would guess that a girl who grew up in a small village in central Illinois, Secor, population 389, would emerge half a world away as the person to stand up to Japanese soldiers and protect the lives of so many during one of the most infamous episodes of this century-- the Rape of Nanking?

Hua-ling Hu has done her homework. Relying on original documents and interviews with people like Minnie Vautrin's niece, the book gives us an insight into one life, one period of our history, and into what takes place regularly during a war. Through the centuries, men who have been trained to kill as a patriotic duty have found no barriers of conscience to raping and plundering. The eyewitness accounts-- one witness the author quotes called it "hell on earth"--are graphic reminders of the need for peace as well as for growth in sensitivity to human rights.

Contrary to the "wisdom" of some, humanity can make progress. The cynics say that history simply repeats itself over and over, with different leaders and different ethnic groups and in different lands, but that the brutality of human beings toward each other never diminishes.

That is simply wrong. That is a misreading of history.

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