Missionary remembered for saving women during Rape of Nanjing
An American missionary who came to China in the early 1910s is best remembered in Taiwan for her efforts to care for and protect many women and children during the Rape of Nanjing by Japanese soldiers in 1937 during the Republic of China’s War of Resistance against Japan that ended in 1945.
The heroic acts of Minnie Vautrin have been a focus of a series of events in Taiwan in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war that will run through October.
As part of the commemoration, the government invited her great grandniece, Cindy Vautrin, to Taiwan for a weeklong visit that concluded Saturday.
On behalf of her great-great aunt, Cindy Vautrin received a medal from President Ma Ying- jeou ( ) earlier this week in recognition of the U.S. missionary’s acts during the war.
Born in 1886 in Illinois, Vautrin came to China in 1912 as a missionary and served as principal of a Christian girls’ high school there.
She later took up a position as dean of the education department of Ginling College when it was founded in Nanjing in 1916 and years later, she became the director of education affairs of the college’s liberal arts and science division.
After Japanese troops broke through Nanjing’s defenses and entered the then-capital of the R. O. C. Dec. 13, 1937, Vautrin chose to stay to protect the college campus and used it to shelter more than 10,000 women and children.
The Japanese forces occupied the city for more than a month, during which the troops carried out atrocity after atrocity, butchering hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians in an incident known as the Rape of Nanjing or the Nanjing Massacre. Along with other foreign nationals in Nanjing, Vautrin also helped create a safety zone there in 1937. The zone provided shelter for more than 200,000 civilians and prevented them from being slaughtered by the Japanese.
One of her most admirable acts was to face up to the Japanese troops to prevent them from entering Ginling College, although she had to suffer a beating from the Japanese soldiers.
Vautrin also kept a diary from 1937 to 1940, writing down what she witnessed during the occupation of Nanjing and her feelings in the face of wartime brutality.
Despite her courage in confronting the Japanese troops, their brutality was too much for her to take.
“I’m about at the end of my energy. Can no longer forge ahead and make plans for the work, for on every hand there seems to be obstacles of some kind,” she wrote in an entry dated April 14, 1940. She returned to the United States two weeks later.
Vautrin committed suicide May 14, 1941 in her apartment, probably due to suffering from severe stress and mental trauma after going through the war in China.
Although she died, her diaries provide an account of her life and help people to learn more about that part of history through her eyes.
Her stories will be passed down from generation to generation, to serve as a reminder of the horror of war.