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‘The One for the Many’: Zeng Baosun, Louise Barnes and the Yifang School for Girls at Changsha, 1893–1927

2019-06, Bond, Jennifer

This article explores the role of Chinese Christian women in the internationalization of Chinese education in the early twentieth Century. In particular, it examines the changing relationship between Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionary Louise Barnes, and Zeng Baosun, the great granddaughter of Zeng Guofan. Zeng Baosun was born in 1893 in Changsha, educated at the CMS's Mary Vaughan School in Hangzhou, and became the first Chinese woman to graduate from the University of London, before returning to China to establish a Christian school for girls in Changsha (Yifang) in 1918. Although an extraordinary example because of her elite family background, Zeng's story highlights how Chinese women used the networks to which their Christian education exposed them on a local, national and international scale to play an important role in the exchange of educational ideas between China and the West during the early twentieth century. The story of the relationship between Zeng and Barnes also reveals the changing power dynamics between foreign missionaries and Chinese Christians in the process of indigenizing the church in China: the roles of teacher and pupil were reversed upon their return to Changsha, with Zeng serving as headmistress of her own school and Barnes as a teacher.