1886  — 1941

Minnie Vautrin

Wilhelmina "Minnie" Vautrin

American missionary who heroically saved the lives of many women at the Ginling Girls College during the Nanjing Massacre.

Born in Secor, Illinois, Vautrin graduated from the University of Illinois in 1912. She was sent to China by the United Christian Missionary Society (Disciples of Christ) in 1912, where she first served as a high school principal in Luchowfu and then became head of the education department of Ginling College when it was founded in 1916 in Nanking (Nanjing). She served as acting president of Ginling College from 1919 to 1922, when President Matilda Thurston returned to the United States for fund-raising. With the Japanese army advancing on Nanking in 1937, Vautrin was called upon to take charge of the college campus, as most of the faculty fled Nanking and established a refugee campus in western China. Her diary and reports provide a detailed account of the situation in Nanking under Japanese occupation, especially the atrocities known as the Nanking Massacre, which continued into the late spring of 1938. In the last entry of her diary; April 14, 1940, Vautrin wrote, “I’m about at the end of my energy. Can no long forge ahead and make plans for the work, for on every hand there seem to be obstacles of some kind. I wish I could go on furlough at least once.” Two weeks later she suffered a nervous breakdown and returned to the United States. A year to the day after she left Nanking. She ended her own life.


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.


  • Mary B. Treudley, This Stinging Exultation (1972). Vautrin’s 526-page diary, covering the period 1937 to 1941, is in the Special Collections of Yale Divinity School Library.

About the Author

Martha Lund Smalley

Curator, Day Missions Collection, Yale Divinity School Library, New Haven, Connecticut, USA