1890  — 1936

Ding Shujing

The first Chinese woman to head the YWCA in China

Ding Shujing was born in February 1890 in Linqing in western Shandong Province. She had at least one brother. Her parents, who had been devout Buddhists, converted to Christianity when Ding was ten or twelve. Ding attended mission schools, first in Dezhou and later in Tongzhou. In 1907 she enrolled in North China Union College in Beijing, the first Christian college for women, and in 1911 was among the first women to graduate from an institution of higher learning in China. Ding taught briefly before joining the staff of the city’s YWCA in 1914.

By late 1925, she became the first Chinese leader of the national YWCA, based in Shanghai. During her tenure, Ding sought to promote women’s leadership in all walks of society, to have the YWCA model true international cooperation between Chinese and others in partnership, and to deepen the prospects for world peace.

Over the years, Ding served on the executive bodies of a number of other organizations including Jinling College in Nanjing, Yanjing University and Bridgeman Academy in Beijing, McTyeire School for Girls in Shanghai, and the National Council of Women of China. She also served with national and municipal welfare associations, as well as the National Christian Council of China.

With war clouds looming over Asia, in 1936 the World YWCA invited Ding to work for them as a permanent representative of Asia on the World Council. But before she could consider this major new step, Ding Shujing suddenly was hospitalized and died in Shanghai at age 46 on July 27, 1936.


  • Elizabeth Littell-Lamb, “Ding Shujing: the first Chinese woman to head the YWCA in China” Carol Lee Hamrin, ed., with Stacey Bieler, Salt and Light: Lives of Faith that Shaped Modern China (Eugene, OR., Wipf and Stock Publishers, Pickwick Publications, 2008).

About the Author

Carol Lee Hamrin

George Mason University Research Professor and Senior Associate for Global China Center