1845  — 1924

Harriet Newell Noyes

American Presbyterian missionary and educator in China.

Noyes came from a Presbyterian pastor’s family from which one son, two daughters, and two grandsons would serve as missionaries in China. Named after Harriet A. Newell, a pioneer American missionary, Noyes was accepted as a missionary with the American Presbyterian mission and arrived in Canton in 1868. She ministered there for a period of 50 years, with most of her time devoted to educational work. Within two months of her arrival she established a girls’ day school in Wa-lung li, near Canton (Guangzhou), employing Chinese Christian women as teachers.

In 1872, after four years of involvement with other girls’ day schools, she organized and became the first principal of what became True Light Seminary. One department of this school was the Training School for Women, which was supported largely by the Woman’s Work for Foreign Missions in connection with the Presbyterian Board. The purpose of this work was to enable students to become Bible women and teachers and leaders among the neglected women of China. In the period that Noyes was associated with the school it trained 6,000 women. The influence of its graduates led in 1923 to the founding of the Women’s Service League, an interdenominational organization that coordinated Bible classes for women.

In 1886 Noyes attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and signed a letter of protest to the U.S. government over its unfair treatment of Chinese in America. The last five years of her life were spent in the United States, where she died.


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.


  • Harriet Newell Noyes, A Light in the Land of Sinim (1919) and History of the South China Mission of the American Presbyterian Church, 1845-1920 (1927). Obituary in Chinese Recorder, March 1924, pp. 185-186.

About the Author

Ralph R. Covell

Formerly Professor of World Christianity and Academic Dean, Denver Seminary, Denver, Colorado, USA