Born near Marshalltown, Iowa, Moninger graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell College (B.A., 1913; M.A., 1922), where she was a member of the Student Volunteer Movement. Following two years’ teaching in high schools, she was appointed by the Presbyterian Board of Missions to Hainan Island, China. She taught or served as principal at the girls’ schools at Kachek, Nodoa, and Kiungchow during most of her career, but also worked as an itinerating missionary. A tireless worker for the cause of female education, she accompanied her students to meetings associated with the May Fourth movement and sought to instill in them a sense of nationalism.
As a hobby she collected botanical specimens which now reside at the National Arboretum of the Philippines and Harvard University. Violence forced her to flee to Haiphong, Indochina, for six weeks in 1925, and to the United States in 1927 to 1929. She was prevented from leaving Nodoa for 15 months (1937-1939) because of Japanese military activities, and was working at Kiungchow in July 1941 when she and her colleagues were formally placed under house arrest. Well treated by the Japanese, she was repatriated first to Shanghai and then to the United States on the Gripsholm in 1942. She died in Marshalltown.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Kathleen L. Lodwick, “Women at the Hainan Presbyterian Mission: Ministry and Diversion,” American Presbyterians: The Journal of Presbyterian History 65 (1987): 19-28, “The Presbyterian Mission on Hainan Under the Japanese, 1937-1941,” American Presbyterians: The Journal of Presbyterian History 70 (1992): 247-258, “Teaching the Chinese Nationalism: Margaret Moninger at the Hainan Presbyterian Mission Schools, 1915-1927,” Journal of Church and State 36 (1994): 833-846, and Educating the Women of Hainan: The Career of Margaret Moninger in China, 1915-1942 (1995).