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Eliza Jane Gillett Bridgman

1805 ~ 1871

A school principal, Gillett had wanted to be a missionary since childhood. After the death of her widowed mother, she was free to apply to the Board of Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Appointed a missionary teacher, she sailed to China in 1844. She immediately met Elijah Coleman Bridgman of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, who believed her to be God's answer to his prayers for a wife. They married, she transferred to the Congregational Church, and the Bridgmans began work in Canton.

They adopted two small girls, and after the Bridgmans had transferred to Shanghai, Eliza began a girls' school that became the first Protestant school for girls there. Her successful school work continued until 1862, when her health broke following the death of her husband. After a furlough in America during which she was run over by a sled, she resumed work in Peking in 1864. There she opened Bridgman Academy, the predecessor to the Woman's College of Yenching University. Bridgman was widely acknowledged to be an exceptional teacher, and she gave money liberally to Congregational missions in China. After returning to Shanghai to help open a new school, she died and was buried beside her husband.

About the Author

By Dana L. Robert

Professor of International Mission, Boston University School of Theology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

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