Ruth Xu (Xu Shuwen) was born in New York City on February 27, 1901, the fifth daughter of Xu Qin (Huie Kin), pastor of the First Chinese Presbyterian Church, and Louise Van Arnam. Ruth attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and then married Zhou Xiezhang (Henry Chou), born near Tianjin in 1892. They were married at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City in 1923 and together had five children.
In 1926 Zhou became professor and chairman of the education department at Yanjing University in Beijing. Ruth taught physical education at both Yanjing and Beijing Universities. In the mid-1930s he became dean of the college of arts and letters and she became the official hostess for Yanjing.
After the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, John Leighton Stuart, an American missionary, became President and Chancellor of Yanjing University. However, on the morning of December 8, 1941, Japanese police arrived at the campus and arrested some students and fifteen of Yanjing’s Chinese faculty members, including Zhou The professors were first detained at the police headquarters, then moved to a military prison, where several were soon on the verge of death due to typhus and dysentery. Because the campus had been evacuated to western China and the men received no salaries, their families lived hand-to-mouth in Beijing for the next three years until the Japanese surrender.
In 1945 Zhou died at the early age of 52 from poor health due to mistreatment while in detention. Ruth continued to serve as the official hostess of Yanjing until she retired. In 1985 she and her son Henry moved to the United States, where she later died on July 6, 1990 in Silver Spring, Maryland and was buried in the Huie family plot in New York.
- Dwight W. Edwards, Yenching University (New York: United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, 1959).