Sunday, December 6, 2009

An Aussie gold medalist of a different sort

Following on from the previous post about missionaries, Australians in particular should know about one woman who doesn't feature in the Australian Women's Register and rates less than a single line in the Dictionary of Biography, yet her achievements in China and working with the blind in particular were monumental and for which she was awarded a gold medal ("Order of the Golden Grain") by none other than the President of the Republic of China himself, Hsu Shih-chang (Xu Shichang).
She was Amy Isabel Wilkinson, nee Oxley, granddaughter of Australian explorer, John Oxley, and was also descended from the infamous Reverend Samuel Marsden.
Amy was one of the first female missionaries sent from Australia by the Church Missionary Society to Foochow (Fuzhou), China, where she founded a school and worked at adapting the English Braille system for teaching the blind.
Two researchers, Ellen Hope and Ian Welch, have produced a wonderful document of her letters which is freely available here online, but they state that nothing is known of Amy's life after about 1903 which is incorrect. Through a good friend who has been researching Amy's famous grandfather, John Oxley, I have obtained a copy of an article written by Amy herself, in which she details her very busy charitable and religious work in England in the 1920s. In it, she also describes the ceremony in 1918 in which she received her gold medal. (Original article held by Berrima Historical Society archives.) Photo from the Hassall Family history, page 4


Elyn MacInnis said...

A high school student at a school where I work in Shanghai is making a documentary about Amy Oxley. Would it be possible to have a copy of the writing that details her life in England after they went back? Also - the description of the ceremony of receiving the award of the Award of the Golden Grain was detailed by Sophie Newton, but we have not seen the writing by Amy herself. Is there any way we can obtain a copy of these writings?

Regina of Arbeia said...

Thanks for your comment.
Unfortunately, it is quite a long time ago since I posted this blog and am unsure if I still have the article but will investigate my archives in the hope that it is still there.
However, what is certain is that the information originally came from the Berrima Historical Society and that you would need to contact them directly for a copy and also get their permission to use the information it contains. Someone there should be able to assist you.

Elyn MacInnis said...

Thank you for the information and for your help - I will check and see.