Lydia Lord Davis

Academic and Career Accomplishments

Educator, missionary and humanitarian Lydia Lord Davis left her home in Ravenna at the age of 22 in 1889 to embark on what proved to be a lifelong mission to better the lives of the people in China. An 1885 graduate of Ravenna High School, she traveled to China with her husband, the Reverend Francis Davis, on an evangelical mission to Shansi Province where she established the first school for girls, a break with tradition in Imperial China, where women traditionally were denied formal education. The school later was named in her honor. The murder of Reverend Davis in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion left her a widow at 33, with three sons under the age of 7. Even though China was the scene of the greatest tragedy of her life, she bore no animosity toward China or the Chinese people during a widowhood that lasted more than 50 years. She helped to establish the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, devoting herself to furthering educational and evangelical work in Shansi and ensuring that her husband and the others who had ministered there on behalf of Oberlin College did not die in vain. She returned to China for a lengthy visit in 1924; two of her sons later taught in Shansi where their parents had ministered. She served as executive secretary of the Shansi Memorial Association from 1929 to 1941 and remained active in missionary endeavors following her retirement, opening the doors of her home in Oberlin to Chinese students. She was honored by the First Congregational Church in Ravenna in 1947 in recognition of her association with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which spanned for more than 40 years. She died on November 30, 1952, in Oberlin, at the age of 85.

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