1880  — 1963

Sophie Stephens Lanneau

Southern Baptist missionary in China.

Born in Lexington, Missouri, Lanneau moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina, at the age of eight. After graduating summa cum laude from Meredith College in 1902, she pursued her missionary dream under strong influence from the Student Volunteer Movement and arrived in China in 1907.

In 1911 she founded Wei Ling Girl’s Academy in Soochow (Suzhou), Kiangsu (Jiangsu) Province, where she was principal (1911-1927) and teacher (1911-1950). Starting with only seventeen students, between 1911 and1950 she saw more than 1,000 Chinese women graduated from the institution.

In the 1920s and the 1930s, Lanneau also served as a trustee of the College of Shanghai for eight years and was a council member of the East China Christian Educational Association. During the World War II, she was interned by the Japanese but was repatriated in 1943. Immediately after the war in 1946, she rushed back to China to her academy, but retired to Wake Forest after the Chinese Communists took over the school in 1950.

Lanneau remained a devotee of China affairs, giving many reports about China on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board.


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.


  • Li Li, ‘“Sparing Alas! But Strengthening and Strengthening in Soochow’: Sophie Lanneau’s Response to Chinese Nationalist Revolution,” American Baptist Quarterly 13 (September 1994): 249-261, and “Mission in Suzhou: Sophie Lanneau and Wei Ling Girl’s Academy, 1907-1950” (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of North Carolina, 1997).

About the Author

Li Li

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA