Henry Theodore Hodgkin was born to Jonathan B. Hodgkin and Mary Anna Pease on April 21, 1877 at Elm Ridge, Darlington, England. He was born into a Quaker household and began his education at the Society of Friends’ school, Bootham in York. He continued his education at another Society of Friends’ school, Leyton Park School in Reading. When Hodgkin’s days for university came, he attended King’s College in Cambridge as a medical student. Hodgkin then furthered his medical studies at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London where he met his future wife, Elizabeth Joy Montgomery, a nurse there.
After his formative years in education, Hodgkin began becoming more involved in missions work. Hodgkin was an active member of the Student Volunteer Missionary Union and served as chairman of the union from 1902-1905. Once his time as chairman came to an end, Hodgkin and his little family decided to move to the mission field. Hodgkin, with his wife and son Herbert, arrived in Chengdu, China on May 1, 1905, where they remained until 1910. Though they came to China through the Friends’ Foreign Mission Association (FFMA), they also worked closely with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). While in Chengdu, Hodgkin attended the second West China Missionary Conference of 1908. Before the Conference began, a business committee formed to discuss important responsibilities, such as recording and publishing the proceedings, which needed to be delegated. By the end of the business committee’s meeting, Hodgkin was appointed as one of the secretaries. He also worked with and promoted the West China Christian University. Students’ love for Hodgkin was evident in 1908, as he gave several Sunday Morning Addresses which attracted students from various other schools. During the fruitful, busy years of life on the mission field, the Hodgkin experienced the joy of new life as their second son John Pease was born on January 12, 1909.
After his time living in China, Hodgkin returned with his family to London where he was appointed to be secretary of the FFMA. During his position as secretary, which he held until 1920, Hodgkin traveled and spoke numerous times in countries across the globe. During those years, Hodgkin became the Chairman of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), serving from 1915-1920. The FOR was founded upon the principles of opposing WWI and seeking peace; Hodgkin played a significant role in creating the organization. As a Quaker, he was a staunch pacifist, and he opposed war on all grounds. Opposition to Hodgkin’s stance on the war quickly mounted and, on multiple occasions, Hodgkin and the FOR were met with violence. In the Constructive Quarterly, Hodgkin wrote, “The Church stands aside ashamed to confess that the eternal ideals of the Kingdom of God do not move men as do the passing ideals of national welfare.” Hodgkin saw the power that war had over people, and in that power, he saw a weakness of the Church. He called upon the Church to be united and not to lower but to raise its standards, living uncompromisingly with the world during the war period. He believed that only then would people “rally to her flag.”
Once his time as chairman of the FOR came to an end, Hodgkin served as secretary of the National Christian Council from 1922-1929. By then, through the various positions Hodgkin held, he was established as a strong speaker and Christian leader, and his brothers and sisters in Christ from Great Britain to China respected him. In 1927, he was invited to join the British delegation to attend the Pacific Institute at Honolulu. Additionally, in 1929, Hodgkin was asked to help create Pendle Hill, a Society of Friends graduate school in Pennsylvania.
Hodgkin’s life was deeply impacted by China, from his years of personal ministry in the region to his continued contact with his brothers and sisters in Christ after he left. He wrote several books including Friends beyond Seas (1916), The Missionary Spirit and the Present Opportunity (1916), The Christian Revolution (1923), China in the Family of Nations (1923), and Living Issues in China (1932). Not only did he write a plethora of works on ministry and Christianity in China, he also corresponded with missionaries and Japanese Christians whom he had visited in Japan in 1922 and 1928. He was known as a bridge builder between Chinese and Japanese Christians and a promoter of “Chino-Japanese Friendships.” In 1931, Hodgkin became ill, suffering from neuritis. His health worsened, and by May of 1931, he experienced attacks of jaundice and underwent an operation. Though he was relatively young, fifty-six years old, when he died on March 27, 1933, many felt the impact Hodgkin had either on them personally or on the cause of Christianity in China.
1. Hawkings, A.J. “Obituary: Henry Hodgkin,” Chinese Recorder, May 1933, 316.
2. Wood, H.G. “Henry T Hodgkin: A Memoir,” Chinese Recorder, October 1937, 642-644.
3. “Missionary Journal,” Chinese Recorder, June 1905, 322.
4. Rev. Steward, J.L. “The Second West China Missionary Conference.” Chinese Recorder, April 1908, 188.
5. Wood, 642-644.
6. “Our Book Table,” Chinese Recorder, November 1908, 636.
7. “Missionary Journay,” Chinese Recorder, March 1909, 170.
8. Hawkings, 316.
9. Wood, 642-644.
10. Hodgkin, H.T. “The Church and War,” Chinese Recorder, May, 1915 [insert page number from Chinese Recorder]. Reprinted from Constructive Quarterly, March 1915, 272.
12 Hawkings, 317.
13. Ibid, 318.
15. “Tokyo Memorial Meeting for Dr. Henry Hodgkin,” Chinese Recorder, August 1933, 544-445.
16. Hawkings, 318-319.