Evangelist and teacher among Chinese women. Second wife of J. Hudson Taylor and mother of two children by him. Pioneer woman missionary. Leader of CIM famine relief work in Shanxi 1877-1878. Founder of orphanages. Indispensable helper to her husband as wife, mother, administrative assistant, fellow missionary, editor of China’s Millions, mother-figure to hundreds of members of the CIM, and exemplary Christian.
Jane E. (Jennie) Faulding was born in 1843 the daughter of William F. Faulding, a manufacturer of piano frames and frets, whom Hudson Taylor had known before he left England for China the first time. Mr. Faulding was an early supporter of Taylor and the CIM. Jennie met Taylor when she was nine years old; he told stories to her then. While Taylor was in England after his first term of service in China, Mr. Faulding brought his now-nineteen-year-old daughter to Taylor’s house to give a donation. Thereafter, Jennie would drop by from time to time to help out with various tasks and showed up on key occasions, eventually becoming a regular attender of the Saturday prayer meetings.
As Taylor and others were preparing to sail for China, in December, 1864, she wrote to Taylor’s wife Maria, “When you come to see us … bring … some work for me to do … I am so happy resting in Jesus, and my heart is raised to Him I can’t tell you how often for you and China. I know He will send more labourers, whether He send me or not.” (Broomhall 3.401-402)
She spoke with her friend Emily Blatchley about her desire to serve God as a missionary in China. Her parents tried to slow her down, but the minister of their church, Dr. William Landels, pastor of Regent’s Park Chapel, took her part. They then said she could go to China, but only after two years. She wrote Taylor, “If I should go with you, I will pray and strive to be to you a sister, a comfort, and a blessing, and I have the fullest confidence that you would fill to me as far as possible the place of the dear ones I should leave behind.” (Broomhall 3.406)
Taking young, unmarried women to China would be a conscious break with precedent for Taylor, but he believed that his wife Maria’s experience and character would enable her to shepherd them; being young, they would learn the language more quickly; young women were needed urgently to share the gospel with Chinese women; and single women would be needed for lonely bachelor missionaries or those who had lost their wives.
Gradually, Jennie’s mother’s objections to her going receded, and she and several family members began visiting the CIM house. “Cheerful and outgoing, an enthusiast about the cause she had taken up, Jennie was its tireless ambassador. She was being taught Chinese by Maria [Taylor] and sometimes Hudson Taylor and began teaching Emily Blatchley what she had learned. Having known [Taylor] since she was nine, and loving Maria from the first, Jennie developed a relationship with them “that was more that of a young sister than a friend. .. . Before long, Mrs. Faulding agreed to Jennie’s going, on condition it was with them.” (Broomhall 4.65)
From the beginning, she assisted in any way she could. For example, when a new hand printing press arrived, she learned how to use it, and she helped proofread Taylor’s book, China Its Spiritual Need, and Claims. As soon as it was published, she hurried off to sell as many copies as she could.
Leaving home with the first party of the CIM to go out with Hudson Taylor on the Lammermuir in May, 1886, she wrote, “Through the Captain’s glass I watched Father till he landed at Deal and disappeared behind houses, then I went into my cabin and … cried myself to sleep.” (Broomhall 4. 164) On the voyage, she continued studying Chinese, making fast progress in the written language.
After they landed and had begun to settle in China, she quickly began to evangelize the Chinese with whom the CIM party for a while shared cramped premises. “With her cheerful, extrovert personality and strong family circle, Jennie had no lack of friends or home letters,” unlike her good friend Emily Blatchley. (Broomhall 4. 253) She herself wrote home frequently, so that her letters form a major source for Taylor’s modern biographer A.J. Broomhall, who frequently quotes her first-hand descriptions of his life and leadership.
Maria Taylor had put Jennie in charge of accounts with the Chinese cook, so that her Chinese vocabulary grew quickly. Soon, “more of the women were inviting her to their rooms to read to them” the Romanized Ningbo New Testament that Taylor had worked so hard to revise. (Broomhall 4. 257) Within a month of arriving in China, “her time was full with missionary work. And so much time spent with the woman was quickly giving her a grasp of the colloquial” dialect. (Broomhall 4.258)
Hangzhou 1866 - 1875
Despite her sunny personality, Jennie knew that danger surrounded them and that they could face violence at any time, not to mention the illnesses, discomforts, and privations of missionary life. Though still only twenty-three, after being stationed in Hangzhou with Emily Blatchley, she wrote to her mother:
“It is a joy to feel that God can and will supply all our need individually and as a mission; that He will overrule all things so that His own glory may be promoted, that with Him on our side we need no other else. I never realized so much before the fullness of blessing that there is in Christ for each one of us.
“There is, and I believe there always will be, very much of trial, now from one source and now from another in this work – very much need of self-crucifixion – and yet because it leads one to lean only upon God and because I believe He will be glorified by us and in us, I am full of adoring thankfulness that I am here. There is nothing that I would rather do, nowhere that I would rather be – indeed no thing, no place that I would like half as well as this… Dangers are on every hand, but God has delivered us from them and He will deliver … If He were not working for us we would not stand secure a single day.” (Broomhall 4. 267-168)
Some of the men were rebelling against Taylor’s clearly stated policy of having them all dress like the Chinese, but Jennie found it to be a great advantage in drawing closer to Chinese women, many of whom invited her into their homes. Of one such visit she wrote:
“I had about thirty for a congregation … The woman gave me tea and cakes, and begged me to come often; in fact, they all seem pleased … The woman next to me said, with an air of satisfaction, ‘Your clothes are like mine.’ … If I had on English clothes, the women would at first be afraid of me and if I succeeded in winning their confidence, my dress would be the one subject of their thoughts.” (Broomhall 4.275-276)
Through hearing her read about Christ in their own dialect, which she transposed from the Ningbo New Testament, many Chinese, both men and women, began to seek baptism. As more and more women issued invitations, including the wives of officials, “her fluency and knowledge of Chinese customs increased accordingly. Soon mandarins’ ladies were sending their sedan chairs for her. ‘I have only to … pass along the streets, and houses are opened to me,’ she wrote. Friendliness was more powerful than any propaganda” that was spreading lies about the missionaries around the city. (Broomhall 4.310)
Her respect for, and devotion to, Hudson Taylor increased as she saw him doing all he could to help the young missionaries settle in: “He … is just overwhelmed with work, yet he goes so quietly and calmly on always, just leaning upon God and living for others, that it is a blessing just to see his life, and Mrs Taylor too is so good … “ (Broomhall 4.310)
A few months later: “I feel I have known him under all kinds of circumstances … If you could see him daily, you would indeed admire his self-forgetfulness, his humility, and quiet, never-flagging earnestness. Very few in his place would have shown the forbearing, loving spirit that he has done … No one knows how much he felt our troubles … Grace, not natural temperament, supported him.” (Broomhall 4. 316)
Her letters home did not neglect less positive aspects of life in China, for she wrote of “the intolerable itching of her hands and feet (from insect bites) and the nightly visits to her bedroom of two or three rats who had eaten her candles, flowers, stockings and atlas. Only her mosquito curtains deterred them from climbing over her as she slept.” (Broomhall 4.310-311)
She responded to the triviality of some articles about Chinese dress and customs in a magazine from England this way: “How I wish that burning soul-stirring words could be written, words that would induce wrestling prayer and earnest effort … How few are those who live for souls as worldly men live for riches, from year end to year end … One longs for men of strong purpose, whose whole being is wrapt up in love to Christ and a determination to make the salvation of souls their life-long end … Everywhere hearts seem prepared for the truth … If I could have fifty lives, I would live them all for poor China in its terrible destitution.” (Broomhall 4. 336)
When Wang Lae-djun was made pastor of the new little church and Mr. Tsiu appointed church-evangelist, she rejoiced. “Everything will not be so immediately dependent on Mr Taylor … (The) organization and responsibility thrown upon the (Chinese) will be for good … We want to see large flourishing churches in this city and (Chinese Christians) to go and proclaim the truth with power … in other parts.” (Broomhall 4.337)
After the Taylors left for Yangzhou, Wang Lae-djun served as pastor of the church in Hangzhou , assisted by John McCarthy and his wife, Jennie, and Mary Bowyer. Intent upon affirming the leadership of Chinese, and of men in general, Taylor gave Jennie detailed instructions on how to play a supportive role:
“You should help Lae-djun to act in matters of receiving and excluding (candidates for baptism) as far as you can. You can speak privately to (them) and be present at Church meetings and might even, through others, suggest questions to candidates. Then after the meeting you can talk privately with Lae-djun … so he may have the help he needs, and yet there will be nothing which any can lay hold of and charge as unseemly” for a woman serving among men in what was usually the role of a male missionary. (Broomhall 6.232).
Jennie, “more than ever in demand, … was being invited into more homes than she had time for. Always riding the crests herself, she raised the tone of the household and set a standard for the less buoyant.” (Broomhall 5.48) She had opened a school, which soon had to turn away prospective pupils for lack of space. She managed the school and taught in it. After a while, the school was financially independent. Years later, Wang Lae-djun said that at least fifty people in the church had come to Christ because of Jennie.
Contrary to widespread reports that missionaries saw the Chinese as inferior, she reflected the views of many when she wrote, “Sanctified by His love what fine people they would make! Sensible, plodding, stable, how well they stand compared to other nations.” She was happy for the church to hold special services during Chinese New Year, saying, “We want them to feel that Christians may have more joy at such seasons than they have ever known as heathens. We do not wish to make foreigners of them.” (Broomhall 5.49)
In the spirit of Hudson Taylor, she was frugal and very happy to live sparingly and in the Chinese style. Likewise, when bands of thugs began to invade homes in Hangzhou, she remained firm in her faith: “What may be in the future, we cannot tell; trials there are sure to be, perhaps dangers and sorrows and hardship which as yet we have not dreamed of, but God is with us, and He will keep our hearts in perfect peace.” (Broomhall 5.82)
Even in these early days, Hudson Taylor felt free to confide his inner feelings to her, without any hint of excessive intimacy. For example, as Broomhall writes, “The way he became physically ill under emotional stress was an affliction he was not ashamed to admit to Jennie. She knew him too well.” (Broomhall 5. 76) He often wrote her asking prayer in times of special need. His love and devotion to Maria were always clear, however; he saw Jennie as a dear sister, even as a member of their family. The same was true for Emily Blatchley.
In early 1870, Jennie went to Suzhou with Mrs. Wang Lae-djun to say goodbye to her friend Emily, who was going home to England because of bad health. (Though sickly and frail, Emily would continue to care for the Taylor children and manage the home office in London).
Broomhall writes, “A new believer at Suzhou name Ren was so impressed by her prayerful spirit and accounts of the spiritual life and influence of the New Lane church in Hangzhou, that he ’longed to be in that atmosphere.’ After being baptized … , he went to Hangzhou as a teacher in Jennie’s school and, in the course of years, married Wang Lae-djun’s daughter. When Wang … retired, Ren succeeded him as pastor of the whole Hangzhou circuit of churches - ‘one of the most gifted and devoted Chinese pastors in China.’” (Broomhall 5. 233)
Marriage to Hudson Taylor
After Maria’s death, Taylor’s mother had urged him to marry again. He increasingly felt the need to do so, not only to assuage his profound loneliness but also to help him minister to the women in the CIM. Emily Blatchley and Jennie had long been like sisters to him, equally loved, but Emily’s poor health ruled her out as a possible wife. With growing certainty, he realized that Jennie was “the only one possessed at once of the heart for the Lord’s service and of that peculiar preparation for sharing my peculiar duties,” but he thought that her joy in her work in Hangzhou would lead her to reject any proposal from him. (Broomhall 5.325)
His health had deteriorated dangerously, and he was needed in England; he was now convinced him that he must return soon. Jennie’s mother had long been expressing anxiety for her safety in troubled China and had often reminded Jennie of her promise to go to China for only five years. Meanwhile, Jennie had developed a tenacious case of malaria.
Taylor told Jennie that she had his permission to return home on furlough, though he was by no means issuing an order to do so. He left the decision with her. Her failing health tipped the scales. In August she joined him and James and Elizabeth Meadows on a French mail ship for England. With long hours together on board and in ports along the way, Taylor became aware that “the expression of [his] feelings became irrepressible and incapable of further delay.” Then, to his surprise – for Jennie had always been careful not to express how she felt toward him – he found that “my love and my feelings [were] … fully reciprocated.” (Broomhall 5.325)
But what about his abiding love for Maria, who had died only a year previously? “Jennie’s logical habits of mind so closely resembled Maria’s that they talked about her, the first true love he could never forget nor put from his thoughts. Jennie knew and had faced it already. She loved Maria too. They would always be able to talk about her unreservedly. There was no need to delay their marriage.” (Broomhall 5.325)
Of course, he had to write Jennie’s parents for permission to marry their daughter, and to Emily explaining frankly, with great affection, what had taken place. Though heartbroken and lonely, Emily replied bravely, congratulating them and wishing them all happiness. Jennie’s parents at first insisted that they wait a year before getting married, but she and Taylor finally persuaded them to allow an early wedding. The ceremony took place November 28, 1871. “So began his life with Jennie, as romantic as it was sacrificial, of nearly three times as many years as the twelve he had enjoyed with Maria, and as rich.” (Broomhall 5.329)
From then on, her career followed that of her husband, with notable exceptions, which we shall briefly describe. She traveled with him, ministering to women in the CIM and helping him with administrative tasks. All the while, she cared for his four children and the children she bore to him (Ernest Hamilton 1875-1948; Amy Hudson 1876-1953), along with Millie Duncan, a CIM orphan girl whom they had adopted.
In London 1875-77
Hudson Taylor was almost at the point of death, but he slowly recovered. The evangelical revival in Great Britain and North America produced a rising tide of interest in missions in general and China in particular, greatly increasing the number of new applications and the work needed to process them.
When Taylor returned to China in 1876, Jennie helped with the administration of the CIM home office and was assistant editor of China’s Millions, the name for which she had suggested. From China, Taylor would send articles and comment upon new issues, often criticizing her and others for less-than-perfect productions, though also commending her for good work. “Love letters had to turn to business, even if it meant a string of painful strictures.” (Broomhall 6.154)
She opened letters and passed them on to the home council members and others responsible for different spheres of the work. “Her work was to be confidential and crucial… So while Jennie could not be in charge, she had to be Emily Blatchley all over again, the life and soul of the London headquarters while appearing not to be. At the same time, she was mother of the six Taylor children, including her own two, no easy task while Herbert and Howard (fifteen and thirteen) were forever ‘sparring with each other.’” (Broomhall 6.61)
Their long separation caused them both immense emotional pain, but she wrote, “I do not want you to come, darling, before you have finished the work God has for you to do there.” He agreed, but added, “Almost sick at heart at our long absence – I hardly know how to finish my notes.” (Broomhall 6.155)
When the great famine of 1876-77 began, Taylor realized that the CIM must do its part to relieve the almost unimaginable suffering of millions of Chinese. He appealed for funds and ordered that more children be taken under the care of CIM missionaries, but this was not enough. After he returned to England, the horrendous plight of millions of women and children, who were the first to be abandoned or sold, required radical action, so he suggested that Jennie lead a team of women to the stricken area.
The sacrifice would be great. Not only would they have to part again, but she was thirty-five and had two infants not quite three and two years old. After much prayer, and despite strong criticisms from others for abandoning her children but with Hudson’s firm support, Jennie decided to go. Her children would be taken care of by loving friends and relatives.
Not long after reaching China, she came down with cholera but quickly recovered. A great deal of prayer, and seeking advice from Timothy Richard, led Hudson Taylor to send her and two other CIM women to Shanxi, the heart of the famine disaster area. Only there could they gather orphans into homes without suspicion that they were going to kill them, as rumors consistently claimed. Arriving in Taiyuan in November, 1878, she quickly set up an “industrial school” for destitute women and began to take in orphans. Between Timothy Richards’ work and that of the CIM, they were soon caring for 1,156 orphans and elderly people.
She was the “first Western woman to go deep into inland China, at a time of extreme famine, to show the love of Christ in action. In courage and ability, she and her companions had proved [Taylor] right” that unaccompanied women could perform valuable service in China. (Broomhall 6.233) At a meeting in London chaired by Lord Shaftesbury to commend the famine relief work of Timothy Richard, David Hill, and others, Alexander Wylie of the London Missionary Society paid this tribute: “Among the earliest volunteers were members of the China Inland Mission… . here is one fact … of such a noble character that I think it should be held up to view, I mean the conduct of the heroic lady Mrs Taylor.” (Broomhall 6.186)
The Director’s wife
In February, 1879, she was able to hand over this relief work to two other CIM women and leave Taiyuan for Shanghai, where she met Hudson Taylor, who had arrived with new missionaries. In the face of huge difficulties, including Taylor’s poor health, she remained joyful:
“I have been thinking of them (the difficulties) with something of rejoicing. What a platform there will be for our God to work and triumph upon! And how clearly we shall see His hand! … In the Master’s presence the servant’s only responsibility, and his sweetest joy is to obey … Surely to need much grace, and therefore to have much put upon you, is not a thing to be troubled about. Don’t you think that if we set ourselves not to allow any pressure to rob us of communion (with the Lord) we shall live lives of hourly triumph, the echo of which shall come back to us from all parts of the Mission?” (Broomhall 6.196)
She faced daunting problems with firm confidence in the God who had promised to answer prayer, and repeatedly found her trust rewarded.
Taylor’s health demanded a move to a cooler climate, so they went to Yantai, where he began to recover, and where he soon laid the foundations for what became known as “Chefoo,” the haven of rest and recuperation for Westerners. At Chefoo, Jennie often nursed missionaries who hovered between life and death.
Both of their mothers died in 1881, and his father was ill. They decided she must return to England to care for family affairs. While at home, she supplied him with information through frequent letters, slightly assuaging his loneliness in the midst of overwhelming difficulties. “He had no one but Jennie in whom to confide, and she kept his letters,” providing indispensable material for a balanced biography of this very sensitive, emotional, and physically weak man. (Broomhall 6>308) For Taylor, their time of separation was “a great trial,” almost more than he could bear. He returned to England in March 1883 but had to leave again when the Cambridge Seven departed for China. They both knew that each parting could be their last. Finally, in 1890, after too many years apart, he wrote, “I think that we must not separate as we have done,” again and again over twenty years.” (Broomhall 7.148)
When he did return, it was to plunge furiously into an endless round of speaking at meetings, conversations with members of the CIM council and other supporters, interviewing new candidates, and dictating or writing thirteen or more letters a day. “He believed in giving himself to the hilt and resting when he could keep going no longer.” (Broomhall 7.40) Worried, Jennie wrote him, “Do, as a duty, get all the rest you can … Do rest before it is too late. It will not pay to kill yourself, even to get the 100” new workers for whom they had asked prayer, and who were now applying for admission. Again, “Darling, my heart trembles for you. I wish you had declined speaking this evening when you had three engagements for tomorrow.” He began writing her how much rest he had gotten each day. (Broomhall 7.51)
Partner in ministry to the CIM
Aside from her love, companionship, administrative assistance, and editorial work on China’s Millions, Jennie made another contribution to the CIM: Her uncle in Australia had left her a large legacy. When it came under her control, she said, “The whole is the Lord’s (to be) used for Him and … not for private purposes.” (Broomhall 6.456)
In time, she assumed another crucial role in the CIM: “Years as her husband’s amanuensis for confidential letters led her to her own style becoming almost indistinguishable from his when he was away from home leaving her to keep other directors informed. In spiritual counseling Jennie performed a valued service… Jennie also kept a close watch on the many births to young families, to be sure of writing and of remittances being adjusted to include them.” (Broomhall 7.246)
In September, 1899, Taylor and Jennie (now more frequently called Jenny) left China for what would be her last time. By then, “she had become a mother-figure to the predominantly youthful members of the mission.” (Broomhall 7.310)
They sailed first to Australia and New Zealand and then to New York, where Taylor lost his train of thought and repeated himself while speaking at a prayer meeting. He immediately cancelled all further engagements, and they sailed for England soon afterwards. The Boxer rebellion began not long after they arrived home. As news of one atrocity after another came in, Jennie told him only as much as he could bear, until at last she withheld all news from him.
From England, they moved to Switzerland, where Jennie nursed her husband slowly back to recovery. They finally realized that his active days were over, and settled in a pension not far from Geneva. He handed over leadership of the mission to Dixon Hoste. With his responsibilities ended, he began to grow stronger.
In July 1903, however, Jennie, who had been losing strength, was found to have an inoperable abdominal tumor. Contrary to expectation, she did not experience pain until just a few hours before her death. She was tired all day, but continued to have what a French friend called “tranquil serenity.” Someone asked her whether she thought about the joys of heaven coming soon. She replied, “The Bible says more about Him than it does about heaven. No, I do not often think of heaven. He is here with me, and He is enough.” To the end she was “always bright and patient, enquiring about one’s health, et cetera,” wrote another friend. (Broomhall 7.502). She died on July 30, 1904.
Jennie Faulding Taylor maintained a consistently cheerful Christian character all her life, constantly encouraging others to trust God. Her dedication to God, to the gospel, to the Chinese, to the CIM, to her children, and to her husband knew no bounds. Always, she happily chose to be “the servant of all.” She consistently made light of her troubles and sufferings, including serious illness.
Without her, Hudson Taylor would probably have broken down and died several times. Certainly, he could not have accomplished a fraction of what he did, had she not been at his side, or managing things at home and in the CIM office. He chose wisely when he asked her to lead women into the interior to bring relief to sufferers of a horrific famine, and especially to care for destitute women and children. When he was not at home, he knew that she would deal with correspondence and other matters with wisdom, tact, and Christian love. From the time she landed in China, she wrote letters to family and friends that provided an accurate picture of not only Hudson Taylor but all those people and events she witnessed. She cared for his four surviving children by Maria, her own two by him , and an adopted daughter with a mother’s tender heart.
In sum, she was a worthy consort to one of the greatest missionaries of all time, a worthy and equally loved successor to his first wife Maria, and a woman of God worthy to be admired by all for generations to come.
- Broomhall, A.J. Hudson Taylor & China’s Open Century. Seven volumes. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
- If I Had a Thousand Lives, Book Three
- Survivors’ Pact, Book Four
- Refiner’s Fire, Book Five
- Assault on the Nine, Book Six: 1875-1887
- It is not Death to Die!, Book Seven: 1888-1988
- Reprinted in two volumes as The Shaping of Modern China: Hudson Taylor’s Life and Legacy. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2005.
- Chang, Irene; James H. Taylor III, and others, Christ Alone: A Pictorial Presentation of Hudson Taylor’s Life and Legacy. Hong Kong: OMF Hong Kong, 2005.