Review: Fall 2005.
THE IDA PRUITT
MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP PROJECT
At the Shandan Bailie School
Benefiting girls in rural Gansu Province
Marjorie King, Ph.D.
One of the
founding members of the USCPFA was Ida Pruitt, a tiny woman who fiercely
fought to promote Chinese-American friendship. Ida was born in Shandong
Province in 1888, the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries. She
worked in her mother country for fifty years as a teacher, social worker,
writer, translator and political activist.
lifetime, China suffered from the poverty and warfare that accompanied
the end of the Qing Dynasty and foreign occupation. As a teacher and
social worker, she realized that education and employment were crucial
for the survival and dignity of the nation and individuals. She recognized
the importance of offering extra support to women, whom tradition had
put at a disadvantage. Ida adopted two Chinese daughters and one Russian
daughter, taught in a girls’ school, published the stories of
several elderly Chinese women, trained the first professional women
social workers, and supported women’s cooperative enterprises.
the twentieth anniversary of her death in 1985, a scholarship project
has been recently started. Its mission is to honor Ida and to support
girl students at the Shandan Bailie School, which she fought hard to
Bailie School was first established to help refugee children who were
orphaned by the Japanese occupation of China after 1937. The School
was named after a 19th Century American missionary, Joseph Bailie, who
devoted his life to helping China’s common people learn the agricultural
skills necessary to support themselves. New Zealander Rewi Alley organized
the school and George Hogg, a young Englishman, became the first headmaster.
American citizens donated the bulk of the initial funding through the
umbrella organization United China Relief. Ida Pruitt spearheaded the
fund-raising and oversaw the difficult task of sending material, machinery,
books, teachers, technicians and even food to the school.
province was selected as the site of the Bailie School because it was
far from both the Japanese military forces in China’s cities and
the corrupt Nationalist Chinese government in “Free China.”
Gansu is one of the cradles of Chinese civilization, located in the
upper reaches of the Yellow River in northwest China. The ancient Silk
Road runs through the province, which is home to Kazak, Mongolian, Tibetan,
Hui, Dongxiang, Tu, Yudu and Manchu ethnic groups.
population is 20.7 million, dispersed over an area of 390,000 sq. km.
It is one of the poorest of China’s provinces. Many Gansu farmers’
income is less than $300 a year, eked out on parched land and supplemented
by sheep-raising. Most farm work is done by women because men migrate
to cities looking for jobs to supplement the meager family income. Farm
income can be raised through crop specialization and diversification.
However, many rural women lack the means to become literate, attend
school, and learn modern farming technology. Of the 85 million illiterate
and semi-literate Chinese, the majority live in rural areas of western
China and 65% are women.
Alley, the school’s curriculum offered many practical vocations.
His philosophy, “Hand and brain together, create and analyze”
is still displayed on campus. Today, eleven vocational courses are offered,
including agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry as well as secondary
education, adult education, and short-term training courses.
Bailie School students are taught how to organize and administer their
own small businesses. Job creation is a crucial but often overlooked
component of education in rural China, where 70% of Chinese still reside.
The Canadian Cooperative Association and the International Committee
for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, a Chinese non-governmental
organization, have initiated a joint project in the city of Shandan
to train Bailie School students and city residents in cooperative business
governance and management. The goals are to increase economic efficiency
and management effectiveness, as well as to raise gender awareness.
One of the
two current scholarship recipients, seventeen-year-old Wu Jing, studies
Electrical Technology. Since her father’s paralysis ten years
ago, he has not been able to work and her mother recently lost her job.
After Wu Jing graduated from middle school, her mother pressured her
to leave school and find work to help finance her brother’s education.
Wu Jing desperately wanted to stay in school. “Mother ran back
and forth, with tears in her eyes, seeking money from all sides, and
got just enough financial assistance from relatives and friends for
our studies. Facing our family’s poverty, and unable to exert
any strength, father tried to kill himself nine times. The tears of
his wife and children convinced him (not to kill himself.)… I
think at the Bailie school I can study technology, then find a good
profession in the future in order to repay my debt to my parents.”
ago, Ida Pruitt and many other Westerners responded to China’s
wartime needs and began friendships that still continue. Now, the needs
are somewhat different. For all of China’s impressive development,
the women of the rural western provinces feel the brunt of growing social
inequality. China is the only country in the world with a higher suicide
rate for women than for men. According to Chinese government officials,
three quarters of the 300,000 annual suicides occur in the countryside.
Bailie School, true to its namesake, is offering China’s rural
youth the means to support themselves in today’s changing world.
Currently the enrollment is 1800 students in grades 7-12. Annual tuition
and expenses total $300 (U.S.), of which the Chinese government pays
half. Families must pay the remaining $150. Fully 20% earn less than
this amount per year.
The Ida Pruitt
Memorial Fund offers scholarships of $150 a year to needy, academically
qualified girls. If you would like to help sponsor a student, you may
send your contribution to the USCPFA, Tucson Chapter, P.O. Box 41598,
Tucson, AZ 85717. For more information, check out the website www.idapruittproject.org
or contact Marjorie King at firstname.lastname@example.org. (or email@example.com)
more about the Shandan Bailie School and Chinese girls education, consult
the following sources:
Canadian Co-operative Association www.coopscanada.coop
- Gansu Basic Education
- “Gender equality
and poverty reduction in China: issues for development policy and
practice,” by Du Jie and Nazneed Kanji, August 2003, Department
for International Development, UK.
- International Committee
for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives www.iccic.org.cn
- New Zealand China Society
King was privileged to know Ida Pruitt. Her biography of Ida’s
life, China’s American Daughter: Ida Pruitt, 1888-1985, is now
available through Columbia
Look for a new article and update on the
Scholarship Project in an upcoming issue of