Embroidered Chinese shoes & model

Scope and Content

Two Chinese embroidered shoes for bound feet [foot binding; footbinding], the smaller of which contains a plaster model of a bound foot with a handwritten label written by Bessie Buck.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gladys Aylward was born on 24 February 1902 in Edmonton, North London. Following service as a housemaid, and rejection by the China Inland Mission, she went to China as an independent missionary. Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Tientsin she then continued to the province of Shansi in North-West China, where she worked from 1931. She became a Chinese citizen in 1936. In 1940, against the background of civil war between Nationalist government troops and the Communists, Japanese invasion, and the threat of bandits, she led a group of orphans on a perilous journey to Sian. She returned to England during the Second World War, but returned to work with children at the Gladys Aylward Children's Home in Taiwan from the late 1940s until near her death on the 3rd January 1970.

Her life was the basis of the 1959 film 'The Inn of the Sixth Happiness' starring Ingrid Bergman. A number of books have also been written about her life including: Gladys Aylward, One of the Undefeated by R O Latham (1950); The Small Woman by Alan Burgess (1957); London Sparrow by Phyllis Thompson (1989); and Gladys Aylward: the Courageous English Missionary by Catherine Swift (1989).

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated to SOAS Library in June 2018 by the grand-daughter of Mrs Bessie Buck.

Archivist's Note


Conditions Governing Use


Custodial History

The shoes and model were given to the donor's grandmother, Mrs Bessie Buck, by the missionary Gladys Aylward. Bessie Buck (1900-1976) was a committed supporter of overseas missionaries, and many of them went to stay with her at her home in Preston when they were on leave.

Related Material

Papers relating to Gladys Aylward available at reference MS 291571.


Geographical Names