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Mary Nourse
Mary Nourse 1966

Full name

Mary Augusta Nourse

Alternative names

Mary A. Nourse

Presence at Shimer


Presence on Earth



University of Chicago 1905


University of Wisconsin 1919


Academy period alum

Mary Augusta Nourse graduated from Shimer College in 1899, during the early Academy period, and subsequently went to China to teach. The 1909 Annual Calendar gives her address as "Wayland Academy, Hangchow, China".

Nourse is listed as a fourth-year student in the Scholastic Department in 1898-1899.[1] However, she does not appear in the lists of students from the preceding two years, suggesting that she placed directly into the final year.

Brief descriptionEdit

This brief description is released under the CC0 copyright waiver.

Mary Nourse (1880–1971) was an American writer on China and the Far East. The best-known of her several books was her first, The Four Hundred Million; it ran to several editions and was translated into German and French. Nourse received her education at Shimer College, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin, where she completed her master's degree in 1919. She was the sister of novelist Alice Tisdale Hobart and economist Edwin Nourse. (from Shimer College Wiki)


  • in "Scattered Family", Frances Shimer Quarterly 1:1, p. 23:
    Miss Mary Nourse, '99, is an instructor in Wayland Academy, Hangchow, China, and writes enthusiastically of her work and life there.



Mary Nourse (1880–1971) was an American educator and writer on China and the Far East, and a co-founder of Jinling College. The best-known of her several books was her first, a popular history of China titled The Four Hundred Million, which was translated into multiple languages.

Early life and educationEdit

Nourse was born to Edwin Henry and Harriett Augusta Beaman Nourse of Lockport, New York on March 11, 1880.[1] She was the sister of novelist Alice Tisdale Hobart and economist Edwin Nourse. Her parents were Edwin Henry and Harriett Augusta Beaman Nourse of Lockport, New York. Later in her childhood, the family later moved to Downers Grove, Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago.

She attended Shimer College, which at the time was located in Mount Carroll, Illinois and served as a women's preparatory school for the University of Chicago, graduating in 1899. She then continued to the University of Chicago, receiving her Ph.B. in 1905.[2][3]

Educational work in ChinaEdit

Our faith in the possibilities of the institution now that the first class is really here are boundless.
—Mary Nourse, 1915[4]

After completing her college education, Nourse briefly taught high school in Rensselaer, Indiana.[3] Soon thereafter, however, she traveled to China to work as an educator and Baptist missionary. She taught for a number of years at Wayland Academy in Hangzhou, where she also served for a time as principal.

Nourse has traditionally been considered one of the founders of Jinling College, in Nanjing, based on her having been one of the signatories of a petition circulated in 1911-1912 calling for a women's college in the Yangtze River valley.[5][6]

Nourse was among the school's faculty when it opened on September 17, 1915,[7] teaching subjects including psychology to an entering class of 11 students. Women's education had been encouraged by an imperial decree in 1907, but Jinling was the first actual women's college to open. Of the 11 women in Jinling's entering class, 5 graduated, becoming the first women in China to receive a baccalaureate degree.[5]

Among these first graduates was Wu Yi-fang, who later became president of the college. Under Dr. Fang's leadership, the school served as a refuge during the Nanking Massacre in 1937-1938.[8]

Nourse taught history and psychology at Jinling College until at least 1918.[9] She left on furlough, but did not return,[10] instead continuing her education in the United States. She enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, where she completed her master's degree in 1919. Her thesis was on the historical development of "Open Door" diplomacy in China.[11]

Later careerEdit

After completing her M.A., Nourse wrote widely on Far Eastern history. Her first book, The Four Hundred Million, ran to several editions in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and was translated into French[12], German[13], Polish,[14] and Hebrew[15]. Reviewing the book in Foreign Affairs, historian William L. Langer called it "a well-written and illustrated survey of Chinese history."[16]

She authored a similar popular history of Japan, titled Kodo: The Way of the Emperor, which was published in 1940. Other works included China, Country of Contrasts (1944) and Ferment in the Far East (1949).

Nourse taught history at Pine Manor Junior College in 1933-1934, and subsequently for many years at Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, DC.[17] She continued to write magazine articles on topics related to East Asia into the 1960s.[18]

Nourse served in the Society of Women Geographers, including a term as president.[19]

In 1965, she received a distinguished alumni award from Shimer College for her contributions to the social sciences.[18]

Nourse died in Washington, DC, in October 1971, at the age of 91.[1]



Works citedEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Mary Nourse". Social Security Death Index. Retrieved 2014-12-16. 
  2. "Alumni Affairs". University of Chicago Magazine (University of Chicago): 346. May. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Alumni Directory of the University of Chicago, 1861-1906. University of Chicago. 1906. p. 139. 
  4. "Our Foreign Mail". Missions: American Baptist International Magazine: p. 242. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Vautrin 2008, p. 234.
  6. The others were Sophie Lanneau, Emma A. Lyon, Katherine E. Phelps, Laura E. White, Martha E. Pyle, Mary Cogdal, and Venie J. Lee.
  7. Vautrin 2008, p. xxi.
  8. "Ginling College and Wu Yi-fang". Smithipedia. Smith College. Retrieved 2014-12-16. 
  9. Thurston 1956, p. 162.
  10. Thurston 1956, p. 37.
  11. Mary A. Nourse (1919). Diplomacy of the "open door" in China, 1895-1914 (MA thesis). 
  12. "400 [Quatre centième millions d'hommes : histoire des chinois"]. Worldcat. Retrieved 2014-12-16. 
  13. "400 Millionen : die Geschichte der Chinesen". Worldcat. Retrieved 2014-12-16. 
  14. "Dzieje 400.000.000 narodu : Chiny od czasów najdawniejszych do chwili obecnej". Worldcat. Retrieved 2014-12-16. 
  15. "תולדות סין". Worldcat. Retrieved 2014-12-16. 
  16. William L. Langer (1935-07). "The Four Hundred Million". Foreign Affairs. 
  17. Who Knows, and What, Among Authorities, Experts, and the Specially Informed. 1949. p. 473. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Shimer Honors Four Alumnae". Shimer College Record 58 (1): p. 13. April. 
  19. Jespersen, Anna (1947). A Brief History of the Professional Writers' Club. p. 26. 

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