1837  — 1890

Anna Cunningham Safford

Missionary educator of women in China.

A native of Athens, Georgia, and principal of a women’s college, Safford applied to the (Southern) Presbyterian Church, U.S. (PCUS) for missionary service in 1873. She was appointed for women’s work in Soochow (Suzhou) and sailed shortly thereafter. As a seasoned educator, she developed a systematic, holistic approach to the cause of women that included village itineration, home visitation, and special classes and worship services just for women. Because of poor health, she was often in pain; during such times when she was unable to itinerate, she turned to the preparation of literature, her most lasting achievement. She wrote or translated a dozen or more books and pamphlets in a style that simple women could understand. As editor of the interdenominational magazine Woman’s Work in the Far East, she was invited to address the historic 1890 missionary conference in Shanghai, but illness prevented her attending, and her paper was read to the assembly by a colleague. She died soon afterward and was buried in Shanghai.


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.


  • Letters from Safford describing her work among women appear in the Missionary (Southern Presbyterian missionary journal), 1873-1883. Her Chinese books and pamphlets include Anatomy, Physiology and hygiene, Child’s Catechism, Child’s Universal History, A Form of Prayer, God in Nature; or, Reasons for Familiar Things, Important Doctrines of Jesus, Line upon Line, and Peep of Day. Biographical data appear in P. Frank Price, Our China Investment (1927) and James E. Bear, “The China Mission of the Presbyterian Church in the United States” (1965), vol. 3 (manuscript in the library of Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Va.).

About the Author

G. Thompson Brown

Emeritus Professor of Missions and World Christianity, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia, USA