China Diary: The Life of Mary Austin Endicott

Article excerpt

China Diary: The Life of Mary Austin Endicott. By Shirley Jane Endicott. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2003. Pp. xv, 251. Can$24.95.

Born to a life of privilege as the daughter of a wealthy town mayor, Mary Austin had nothing in her background to prepare her for the hardships she would face as a missionary wife in China from 1926 through the 1940s. In 1925 she married James G. (Jim) Endicott, the China-born son of a pioneer of the Canadian Methodist West China Mission, and, in her words, "married China." Mary Endicott did not actually keep a China diary, but she was a dedicated correspondent; over 5,000 of her letters survive in the Endicott Collection at the National Archives of Canada. Part of a Life Writing series, this book is a judicious presentation of many of these letters, skillfully woven into a coherent biography by her daughter Shirley, who taught sociology at the University of Toronto. The result is an unusually frank, intimate, and detailed account of her marriage, her life as a prominent missionary wife, and her struggles with faith and family.

Although she rebelled early against her family's strict Methodism, Mary Austin retained both a deep faith and an interest in missions. As a university student she became involved with the Student Christian Movement and sought a more personal faith. …

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