Gladys May Aylward

by Olivia Neer from San Diego, California (United States)

"Oh God, here's my Bible, here's my money. Here's me. Use me, God." -Aylward

129893Children that Gladys (Michelle Palmer)The sun sweating down her back and a tiny, crying child in her arms Gladys sang a song, a song that would later be famous. Children surrounding her joined in, singing along while trudging across the sloping hills and dipping valleys of the Shanxi Mountains. The song echoed along the pass as the midday sun turned to a peachy dusk and their breath clouded up into the frigid air. Nudging the sleepy children awake she pointed far ahead of her into the darkness being broken by the streetlamps of an invisible city. She was pointing to their safety that was the town of Sian. Aylward’s most famous act of persistence, determination, and compassion was over. Who would have known that the intrepid parlour maid Gladys Aylward from Edmonton, North London would become a missionary to China. Or that she would single handedly save over 100 children from the danger that was the Japanese/Chinese war. One thing that is known however is how Gladys Aylward, “The Little Woman,” was not just a hero because of her persistence found in her faith and mission but also from her love and caring nature for those around her.

129749Artwork of her trek across the Shanxi Mountainswww.historywomen.comGladys Aylward, the “Virtuous One,” showed her heroism through her persistence seen in her mission to China and the determination to move her adopted children to safety. But First she had to be a missionary. To become a missionary China Gladys, the intrepid parlour maid, had to pass an interview about living in a different country unlike her own. She failed the interview and couldn’t speak the language: “But not knowing Chinese did not stop Gladys, and undaunted she went to help an elderly Scottish missionary Jeannie Lawson in China.” (“Gladys, A true heroine.”) This shows how Gladys was persistent because even though she didn't get the title of missionary by her interviewers, she was determined to follow in the Lord’s footsteps and become one anyway by helping an older missionary run an Inn called The Inn Of Sixth Happiness. But then they started taking children in off the streets. Gladys found herself looking after over 100 homeless children, turning the rest stop into an orphanage. However with the Japanese/Chinese war raging over their heads she was forced to move them to a safer place. First to the town of Shenshi, but then realizing that they were not safe there either, Gladys pulled up her hiking boots and walked all 100 children through the Shanxi Mountains and across the Yellow River to the city of Xian: “Like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn she set out through the countryside with a hundred children in a long trail behind her. She carried the little ones in turns and the older children did the same. But even Shensi wasn't a safe place for them… taking a hundred children over mountains thousands of feet high to reach the safety of Sian. For twelve days they walked, begging in little villages for food and sleeping in whatever shelter they could find.” (“Howat”) This shows how Gladys was persistent because she was determined to move her adopted children away from the dangers of the war surrounding them. When the first town was not safe she didn’t stop there, she persevered through the mountains and across the Yellow River just to keep the kids out of harm’s way. Overall Gladys was persistent because of her grit and perseverance used in becoming a missionary and how she single handedly saved over 100 kids lives bring them to safety.

129611Aylward and one of her adopted childrenwww.AdsidoChurch.comGladys Aylward, the “Little Woman,” exemplified how she was a hero seen through her compassion and care for the people around her and the children adopted. Before Gladys was running an orphanage at the Inn of Sixth Happiness she was helping an elderly missionary in China. While she was there, she was approached by a Mandarin who wanted her to help him end feet binding and to quench a prison fight: “She calmed the men and after consulting them returned the warden to report their grievances. The prisoners were housed in cramped conditions with nothing to do and with limited food. Gladys suggested that they be provided the opportunity to work to earn money for their food.” (“Adams”) This shows how she was caring because even though she knew no one in the prison she saw the sorry state they were in and decided to fix it. She brought in food and better supplies going so far as to get the wardens and their friends involved. And after that the prison conditions improved and she earned the title “Virtuous One.” Another example of how she cared for others was when she was bringing her adopted kids to safety: “The war crept closer…’You must take these children and leave here,’ a Chinese Army officer told her. Gladys shook her head. ‘God called me here and I’ll stay here. But please take the children to somewhere safe.’” (“Howat”) This shows her compassion and love for the children because even though she would not be daunted by the war over her head, she did not want the kids to get hurt so she persuaded an officer to move them to safety. All of this exemplifying how Gladys is a hero. Through her worry for her children, and the care seen in her solution to please the prisoners.

Whether known as the “Little Woman” or the “Virtuose One” Gladys M. Aylward’s perseverance, grit and determination in keeping her adopted children safe and her care for them and the men living in horrible prison conditions show just how heroic she was. Most people see Gladys as an inspiration because of her persistence when climbing the Shanxi Mountains with over 100 children but another of her famous feats was when after a prison fight she brought some prisoners complaints out to the wardens, “Gladys suggested that they be provided the opportunity to work to earn money for their food and after some of the warden's friends donated looms to weave cloth and a grindstone to grind grain, prison conditions improved.” (“Adams”) Gladys has inspired me in her story to be determined not to give up and to persevere in my school prospects for my future. And as a friendless, introverted, high schooler her persistence has kept my head held high whenever I raise my hand to answer a question, even if I am shy when doing so. And in conclusion, like the exited cries of the 100 children following Gladys through their final steps to safety, we can ring out true that Gladys May Aylward is a hero.

Works Cited

Ann Adams. “Gladys Aylward: The Small Woman Who Did Great Things For God.”

Histories Women, PC Publications,  

129895A book she wrote about her"Gladys, a true heroine." Daily Mail [London, England], 17 Oct. 2012, p. 56. Biography In


936dec26. Accessed 7 Dec. 2018.

Irene Howat. “Ten Girls Who Changed The World. Light Keepers, Christian Focus

Publications, pp 53-pp 65

Page created on 1/9/2019 8:30:04 PM

Last edited 1/10/2019 1:17:43 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Gladys Aylward-Touching with God's Love - This article has more on the prison she helped in and how she helped.
Foot Binding and The Standard of Beauty - This website describes and shows the horrors of foot binding
Gladys Aylward - This video goes into more depth of her life before becoming a missionary and some of her plights after leaving China

Extra Info

On top of being a missionary, Gladys was an innkeeper, a muleteer jockey, and an advocate against foot binding, bad prison conditions and war. She even wrote her own story in her most popular book Gladys Aylward The Little Woman.