Correspondence of Mary Dorothea Hughes

Scope and Content

Weekly letters written to parents and friends by Mary (Dickie) Hughes from Jan 1947 to Jan 1951. The very detailed and vivid letters describe their voyage out to China, their work and life at Yenching University and the people they met, particularly colleagues and students. A number of her former students kept in touch with Mrs Hughes. About these there are recently-compiled brief biographies and accompanying photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Dorothea Kempe who has been known by the name of "Dickie" since she was two years old was born in Murree, Punjab, India in October 1917. Her father was Harry Francis Christopher Kempe, of the Royal Field Artillery, and her mother, Dorothy Garforth. Her parents married in Bombay Cathedral in 1915. Her father served in Mesopotamia during the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross. Later, he became an ordained cleryman in the Church of England and was Vicar of Cuckfield from 1941 to 1957.

"Dickie" Kempe attended schools in Margate and Brighton and went on to take a degree in English at Oxford in 1939 and a diploma in education in 1940. While at Oxford she met Martyn Lawrence Hughes, the son of E.R.Hughes, a former missionary in China who was then Reader in Chinese Philosophy and Religion at Oxford University. Martyn and Dickie were married in 1942. Martyn became an ordained priest in 1945. Both Martyn and Dickie wanted to spend their lives in China and went to London in September 1946 to study Chinese at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In 1947 they sailed for China where Martyn took up the post of New Testament Lecturer and Anglican Chaplain at Yenching University. Dickie taught English. They remained at their posts following the Communist takeover of Yenching in December 1948 but, when the position worsened following the outbreak of the Korean War, Dickie and Martyn decided very reluctantly that they must leave China and returned to England.

Access Information

Some restrictions in the use of recent material.


Acquisition Information

Donated by Mrs Hughes in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Other Finding Aids

This description constitutes the only finding aid at present.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Geographical Names