Caroline Gates Collection

Scope and Content

This collection consists of material relating to the life and work of Caroline Gates who worked as a missionary in China between 1887 and 1927. The material includes a published tribute to Caroline Gates, scripts and cassette tapes relating to a slide show and commentary, and printed extracts from letters by and referring to Caroline Gates.

The collection also contains 51 glass lantern slides and two boxes of 35 mm slides which include images of Caroline Gates and her fellow missionaries in China, her three adopted daughters, the areas she visited, local families and people at work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Caroline Gates made the decision to become a missionary in China at the age of 19 or 20. She completed a short course on 'practical medicine' in London and began to study the Chinese language. On 10 March 1887 she set sail on the P&O ship Mirzapore in a group of 100, travelling with the Reverend J. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. She arrived at her destination Fan-ch'eng in Hupeh province (now Xiangyang, Hubei) by New Year's Day in 1888. She established a girls' school in Fan-ch'eng and was based there until 1891 when she moved to Ta-t'ung. Like other missionaries at this time Caroline Gates adopted native dress and became a fluent Chinese speaker. In May 1893 she returned to England on furlough where she remained for two years.

In February 1895 Caroline Gates returned to China and by January 1896 she was in Lu-gan Shansi (now Changzhi, Shanxi) where she was living and working with Mr and Mrs P. Smith. Later this year Caroline Gates and missionary Alice Troyer had moved to a new home and they went on to establish another school. Here they were working with Archibald Glover and his wife Flora who was expecting her third child.

The 'Boxer Rebellion' took place in Northern China between 1899 and 1901, an anti-imperialist uprising against the spread of Western and Japanese influence. By July 1900 the uprising had reached the capital Peking (Beijing) and on 7 July 1900 Caroline Gates and her fellow missionaries fled south under the constant threat of attack. They arrived safely in Hankow (Wuhan) on 14 August 1900 although Mrs Glover and her third child died shortly afterwards. Out of 88 missionaries in Shansi only 41 survived the rebellion.

On 27 October 1900 Caroline Gates again returned to England on furlough before leaving for China in September 1902 where she was based in Shansi and Lucheng. During this period she became increasingly concerned about the needs of people living in Inner Mongolia. The China Inland Mission believed it was too dangerous for a single woman to live and work in this area so she continued work under the Echoes of Service, a missionary support charity.

Between 1920 and 1921 Caroline Gates adopted three Chinese girls, Mary (Feng), Grace and Ruth (Tsai) from parents who were unable to look after them. They lived with missionary Florence Merrington until 1927 when they travelled to England. Caroline Gates intended to return to China but stayed in England due to her failing health and the political situation in China. Her adopted daughters were naturalised as British Citizens at the age of 16. Caroline Gates died in England on 3 June 1947 at the age of 81.

Archivist's Note

The letters in this collection were catalogued by Clare Connolly.