• “There’s a big difference between a life that’s a performance, and a life that’s an offering. One holds us captive. The other sets us free.” – Susie Larson

Eliza Ellen Leonard 1866 ~ 1924

Born at Kossuth, Iowa, USA, in November 1866, graduated from Parsons College in 1888 and from Michigan University Medical College in 1894, Dr. Eliza E. Leonard arrived in North China in the autumn of 1895, appointed to the charge of the Women’s Medical work of the Peking (Beijing) Station of the Presbyterian Mission, then located at Drum Tower West. In 1900, she took a prominent part in the ministries of the improvised hospital in the British Legation during the “Boxer Siege,” and in the months of recovery and reconstruction which followed; then, after furlough, developed the station’s medical work for women in its new location on Second Street and under its new name of “Douw Hospital.” When the work outgrew its equipment, she was largely responsible for the securing of an excellent new plant on First Street and the development of its school for nurses.

In 1915, in cordial co-operation with the women of other missions, she planned and established the Women’s Union Medical College, of which she was chosen Dean, first for some years in Beijing, then in Tsinanfu (Jinan), to which place the college, by general agreement, was transferred to form a part of the Medical College of Shantung (Shandong) Christian University. In all these plans and changes Dr. Leonard impressed her associates with her rare judgment and foresight, ability to see the point-of-view of others, and fine unselfishness in subordinating personal preferences, ease and comfort to the general advantage. And the staff of the University at Jinan (Tsinanfu) came, in the few months of her life among them, to admire and love her as she spent strenuous days in the transfer, the building and the reorganization of the medical college as department of the university.

As for her old mission, North China, and the members of its Peking Station who were most intimately associated with Dr. Leonard for many years, her departure was felt keenly. In council, in administration, in emergency, Dr. Leonard they saw her to be “one of the strong men of the mission,” while remaining a woman of tender sympathies, of warm friendships, and of spiritual devotion. Always ready to bear more than her full share of the burdens, and with amazing patience with details, she yet refused to allow routine to kill joy or limitations to obscure vision. In presenting her missionary cause to the home constituency, or discussing its many problems with secretaries of the Board, she so showed herself mistress of facts and principles as to convince the doubter and arouse the interested to enthusiasm. She hated shams and pettinesses, low ideals and narrow partisanships, but was staunchly loyal to her convictions and her friends. Three times she had bravely bore the experience of helpless weakness and faced the prospect of leaving dear friends and loved work while in the full maturity of strong womanhood, and she endured with equal courage the weariness and the suffering of the her months. Less emotional than many in her religious life, she was known nevertheless for her strong, simple faith in Jesus Christ as her own personal Savior, her alertness to the spiritual opportunities of her profession, and the keen interest which she took in every department of mission work.

Doctor Eliza E. Leonard died on October 17th, 1924, after months of pain and weakness, mourned by her friends and remembered by many Chinese students and associates.


Adapted from the Chinese Recorder.

About the Author

By Cui’an PengAssistant Manager, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity.



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  • “They only did what God permitted them to do, which enabled me always to keep God in sight… When we suffer, we should always remember that God inflicts the blow. Wicked men, it is true, are not infrequently His instruments; and the fact does not diminish, but simply develops their wickedness. But when we are so mentally disposed that we love the strokes we suffer, regarding them as coming from God, and as expressions of what He sees best for us, we are then in the proper state to look forgivingly and kindly upon the subordinate instrument which He permits to smite us.” – Madame Guyon

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But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. — James 3:17-18 (NKJV)

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