Pruitt, Ida

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Writer, educator, and social worker Ida Pruitt was born in China on December 2, 1888, the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries Cicero Washington and Anna Seward Pruitt. She spent the first twelve years of her life in Hwanghsien, a village in Shantung province. She attended Cox College in College Park, Georgia (1906-1909), received a B.S. from Columbia University Teachers' College (1910) and studied social work in Boston and Philadelphia. Pruitt returned to China as teacher and principal of Wai Ling School for girls in Chefoo (1912-1918); the Rockefeller Foundation later appointed her chief of the Department of Social Services, Peking Union Medical College (1921-1939). During the Japanese occupation she and Rewi Alley organized Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, an international committee that set up cooperatives with the aim of making the Chinese self-sufficient; she served as executive secretary (1939-1952) of Indusco, the American fundraising arm for the CIC. She was the author and translator of a number of books, including Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman (1945), Yellow Storm (1951), and China Childhood (1978). Pruitt died in Philadelphia on July 24, 1985; she was survived by two adopted daughters, Kuei-ching Ho and Tania (Cosman) Wahl.

From the description of Papers: Series I-IV, 1870-1992 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 122470889

From the description of Papers, 1850s-1992 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 232008990

From the description of Papers: Series V-IX, c1860-1983 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 122583042

American missionary in China; member, American Committee in Aid of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, 1940-1951.

From the description of Ida Pruitt papers, 1911-1948. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754870095

Biographical/Historical Note

American missionary in China; member, American Committee in Aid of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, 1940-1951.

From the guide to the Ida Pruitt papers, 1911-1948, (Hoover Institution Archives)

Writer, educator, and social worker Ida Pruitt was born in China on December 2, 1888, the daughter of American, Southern Baptist missionaries, Cicero Washington and Anna Seward Pruitt. She lived in Hwanghsien, a village in Shantung Province, until she was twelve and then went on to be educated in the United States. She attended Cox College in College Park, Georgia (1906-1909); received a B.S. from Columbia University Teachers' College (1910); and studied social work in Boston and Philadelphia. In 1912, Pruitt returned to China as an adult to become a teacher and principal of Wai Ling School for girls in Chefoo (1912-1918). The Rockefeller Foundation later appointed her chief of the Department of Social Services, Peking Union Medical College (1921-1939). During the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s, Pruitt and social reformer, Rewi Alley, organized Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (CIC), an international committee that worked to promote Chinese self-sufficiency. She also served as executive secretary (1939-1952) of Indusco, the American fundraising arm for the CIC, and was an author and translator of several books including A China Childhood (1978) and Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Working Woman (1945). Pruitt died in Philadelphia on July 24, 1985; she was survived by two adopted daughters, Kuei-ching Ho and Tania (Cosman) Wahl.

Marjorie King is a historian and Ida Pruitt's biographer. The two women met in the 1980s while King was working on her dissertation about Pruitt at Temple University (Ph.D., 1985). That project was entitled "Missionary Mother and Radical Daughter: Anna and Ida Pruitt in China, 1887-1939." King continued her research about Pruitt as a visiting scholar in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona. She later published a biography of Ida Pruitt entitled China's American Daughter: Ida Pruitt, 1888-1985 .

From the guide to the Papers of Ida Pruitt and Marjorie King, 1891-1994, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Writer, educator, social worker, and fundraiser, Ida Pruitt was born in Tengchow, Shantung Province, China, on December 2, 1888, the daughter of Cicero Washington and Anna (Seward) Pruitt. Her father, C. W. Pruitt (CWP), was born in Barrettsville, Georgia, on January 31, 1857, the son of John Wesley and Hannah (Rodgers) Pruitt . He was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister at the age of 14 and began his evangelical work by preaching to Native Americans in Georgia. Later he attended the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In January 1882, he traveled to China as a missionary and was stationed in Hwanghsien where he met his first wife, Ida Tiffany; she died two years later.

Her mother, Anna (Seward) Pruitt (ASP), was born in Tallmadge, Ohio, on May 16, 1862, the daughter of John Woodhouse and Urania (Ashley) Seward. She traveled west in the early 1880s to teach school in Ojai, California; her letters about the trip were later published in the California Historical Quarterly (1937-1938). At the end of the decade, ASP decided to travel to China as a Presbyterian missionary and settled in Hwanghsien where she met CWP. They married on February 16, 1888, and had six children: Ida (1888-1985), John (1890-1912), Ashley (1892-1898), Virginia (died in infancy, 1894), Robert (1897-1961), and Dudley McConnell "Mac" (1902-1967). While stationed in Hwanghsien, the children attended school at the China Inland Mission in Chefoo. ASP began a missionary school, and by 1904 CWP had organized the Baptist Theological Seminary for Central China. ASP wrote two books about missionary life in China: The Day of Small Things (Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, 1929) and Up from Zero: In North China (Broadman Press, 1939). After CWP retired in 1936, they returned to the United States and settled in Atlanta where he became the dean of the Baptist Foreign Missions of North America. CWP died on December 27, 1946; ASP, on June 20, 1948.

After attending Cox College in College Park, Georgia (1906-1909), Ida Pruitt (IP) received a B.S. from Columbia University Teachers' College in New York (1910). When her brother John died, IP returned to China to be with her family and became a teacher and principal of Wai Ling School for Girls in Chefoo (1912-1918). In 1918, she came back to the United States and studied social work in Boston and Philadelphia until hired by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York as head of the Department of Social Services at the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) where she remained until 1938.

While living in Beijing IP adopted two girls, one Chinese, Kueiching [Kwei-ching], the other a Russian refugee, Tania Manooiloff. They were educated in English schools in China, then sent to the United States. Kueiching married Tommy Ho, a radiologist from Canada, in 1940; they settled in Saskatchewan, Canada, and had two children: Timmy and Nancy. Her other daughter, Tania Manooiloff , taught Russian at Swarthmore College. She married Cornelius "Cornie" Cosman, a meteorologist who worked for the US Department of Commerce and served on the Indusco Technical Committee; they had two children: Katia and Hugh. After Cosman's death, she married Mr. Wahl.

During the Japanese occupation of China (1937-1945), IP assisted Rewi Alley (RA) as he organized the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (CIC; for more information about RA see section on Rewi Alley following). The CIC was formed to organize cooperative factories throughout the countryside to support China's industry. Schools were built to train the Chinese (often crippled or orphaned) to work in and manage the factories. Indusco, the fundraising arm of the CIC in the United States, was formed, and IP served as its executive secretary from 1939 to 1951. In 1946 IP rented an apartment with Maud Russell on West 93rd Street in New York City and remained there until 1951 when she retired and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to be closer to Alan and Adele Rickett, friends from China.

A keen observer and student of Chinese history, society, and paleo-anthropology, IP was a prolific writer and the author of a number of books, stories, and articles, including several autobiographies ( A China Childhood (1978), The Years Between, and Days in Old Peking: May 1921-October 1938 ) and several biographies ( Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman (1945, 1967), Old Madame Yin: A Memoir of Peking Life, 1926-1938 (1979), and Tales of Old China ). She also translated and edited many works, including Yellow Storm by Lao She (1951), The Flight of an Empress by Wu Yung (1936), Little Bride by Wang Yung, and Beyond China's City Walls by George A. Hogg, et al.

In addition to her writing, IP filled her retirement years with travel, talks, and political activism. She returned to China twice (1959, 1972) despite a State Department ban and remained a strong proponent for U.S.-China relations throughout her life. IP died on July 24, 1985, in Philadelphia.

Brief chronology of the life of Ida Pruitt:

  • Dec. 23, 1888: -born Tengchow, Shantung, China (Hwanghsien, where the family lived, did not have a doctor)
  • c.1891: -family traveled in the United States on furlough; Ashley born in Ohio
  • c.1897: -began attending school in Chefoo until 1906
  • 1900: -during the Boxer Rebellion the Pruitts took early furlough in the United States for one year
  • 1901 - 1902 : -attended school at British China Inland Mission School in Chefoo but removed from school when John got pneumonia
  • 1902: -missionaries built new training schools in Penglai, Tengchow District -Pruitts moved to Penglai [Dengzhou]
  • 1906 - 1909 : -Ida traveled to U.S. to attend Cox College, Georgia; studied literature.
  • 1909 - 1910 : -graduate school at Teachers' College, Columbia University; studied 19th century literature and philanthropy.
  • 1910 - 1911 : -taught at St. Christopher's Orphanage in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
  • 1912: -John died of typhoid; Ida returned to China.
  • 1912 - 1918 : -studied Chinese with her father's teacher -began working at Wai Ling School for Girls in Chefoo
  • 1918: -returned to the United States, settled in Philadelphia with friend Edna to care for IP's two brothers who were in school there; began social work.
  • c.1920: -spent six months at Massachusetts General Hospital studying social work under Ida Cannon
  • 1921 - 1938 : -head of Department of Social Services at Peking Union Medical College
  • 1938: -while on way back to the United States to visit family, met Rewi Alley and remained in China till 1939 to help set up Chinese Industrial Cooperatives
  • 1939: -returned to the United States; settled in New York to set up Indusco.
  • 1939 - 1951 : -held positions as Executive Secretary, International Field Secretary, and China Representative of Indusco, Inc.
  • 1951: -retired from Indusco; moved to Philadelphia to be closer to family.
  • 1951 - 1968 : -FBI file active; approached twice by FBI for enlistment (9/2/54, 11/19/57), IP refused both times.
  • 1952 - 1954 : -board of directors of China Welfare Appeal
  • 1955: -moved to Powelton Village, Philadelphia, where she lived the remainder of her life
  • 1959 - 1960 : -traveled to China and England
  • 1962 - : -chair of Powelton Village branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
  • 1972: -traveled to China
  • 1985: -died in Philadelphia


John Pruitt studied at Mercer College in Georgia and then worked in Ohio, where he contracted typhoid and died. Robert Pruitt, who, at age ten, was accidentally blinded, attended the University of Pennsylvania (A.B., 1920) and Harvard University (M.A., 1921). He returned to China in 1921, and his fiancée Evelina Rometsch joined him in 1922. They married and remained in Chefoo where he taught in the North China Junior College until 1927; they had two children: William Rometsch (b.1923) and John (Jack) (b.1925).

Dudley McConnell (Mac) Pruitt graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Haverford College in 1923. He taught until 1926 and then became an actuary in the insurance industry (1942-1960). He was President of the Casualty Actuarial Society (1957-58) and of the Insurance Accounting and Statistical Association (1953). A Quaker, he became the executive director of the American Friends Service Committee's, mid-Atlantic region, and head of their Japan unit in Tokyo. He married Grace Richards Garner, c.1926; they lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and had two boys: Dean Garner (b.1930) and John Dudley (b.1933). Dean Pruitt married France Juliard; they had three sons: Andre (b.1961), Paul (b.1962), and Charles (b.1964).


Named for a Maori chieftain, Rewi Alley (RA), Indusco's China representative, was born December 2, 1897, in Springfield, Canterbury, New Zealand. His parents were both activists; his father in the rural cooperative movement and his mother for women's suffrage. In 1916, he enlisted and fought with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (ANZACS) in France. At the end of the war, he and a friend bought a farm together; when this failed, RA sold out and headed for China.

Arriving in Shanghai in 1927, during the Kuomintang revolution, he was hired by the Shanghai Municipal Council as factory inspector of the Shanghai Fire Brigade (1927-1933), then as chief factory inspector of the council's Industrial Department (1933-1938). In 1929, and again in 1932, he took extended vacations in the Suiyuan Province helping the China International Famine Relief Commission. Many of his later vacations were also spent in various relief works in the countryside.

A year after the Japanese invasion in 1937, Helen Snow [Nym Wales] and Edgar Snow enlisted RA's help in planning a nationwide movement to organize thousands of cooperative factories in the countryside. RA became the field secretary for the Gung Ho movement as it was known in China, with Madame Song Quingling [Soong Ching-ling] its leader.

By 1942, RA began setting up schools that were named after his friend Joseph Bailie (an American missionary) to train Chinese youth in the skills needed to manage and work in the new factories. The first one was established at Shuangshipu, Shaanxi Province. RA appointed George Aylwin Hogg as an instructor. In 1944, with the Japanese advancing closer, RA and Hogg moved the school to Shandan, Gansu Province, and renamed it the Shandan Bailie school. Hogg became the president of the school until his unexpected death in 1945; thereafter RA ran the school.

During his time in China, RA traveled extensively and was a prolific writer, capturing in poetry the events and the people. He never married but adopted two Chinese orphans, Alan and Michael, in 1929 and 1932 respectively. RA died in Beijing on December 27, 1987.


Talitha A. Gerlach (TAG) was born in 1896. She met Ida Pruitt in China while working for PUMC. TAG worked for many years for the International Committee, which coordinated overseas fundraising for the CIC movement in China, and headed the China Welfare Appeal. She remained in China for most of her life.

From the guide to the Papers, c.1850s-1992, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Starrett, Vincent, 1886-1974. Vincent Starrett Photographs, n.d., circa 1930s. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Photograph of "Alley," friend of Ida Pruitt [manuscript], n.d. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Russell, Maud. Maud Russell Papers, 1914-1990, bulk (1918-1989). New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Papers of Ida Pruitt and Marjorie King, 1891-1994 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Pruitt, Ida, 1888-1985. Ida Pruitt Papers, 1866-1967. Peabody Essex Museum
creatorOf Pruitt, Ida. Papers, 1850s-1992 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Pruitt, Ida. Papers: Series V-IX, circa 1860-1983 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Maud Russell papers, 1914-1990, 1918-1989 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Ida Pruitt papers, 1911-1948 Hoover Institution Archives
referencedIn Stanford University Press archival book copies, 1900-2012 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Pruitt, Ida. Papers: Series I-IV, 1870-1992 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Pruitt, Ida. Ida Pruitt papers, 1911-1948. Stanford University, Hoover Institution Library
referencedIn Du Bois, Shirley Graham, 1896-1977. Papers, 1865-1998 (inclusive), 1905-1975 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Littledale, Clara Savage, 1891-1956. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive), 1903-1956 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers of Ida Pruitt, 1850s-1992 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of Shirley Graham Du Bois, 1865-1998 (inclusive), 1905-1975 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
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correspondedWith Harold Loucks. person
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correspondedWith Harriet Curtis person
correspondedWith Hartshorne, Richard person
associatedWith Hartwell, Robert M., 1932- person
associatedWith Hartwells, " family
associatedWith Hartwells [family] family
correspondedWith Hatem, George person
associatedWith Hatem, George, 1910-1988. person
correspondedWith Haverford College corporateBody
associatedWith Helene Zahler person
correspondedWith Helen K. Shipps person
correspondedWith Helen Kuo person
associatedWith Helen McIvor's person
correspondedWith Helen Nearing. person
associatedWith Helen Shipps person
associatedWith Helen Whittier Brim person
associatedWith Henry Baldwin Seward person
associatedWith Henry Beecher Sperry person
associatedWith Henry Ford person
associatedWith Henry Luce person
associatedWith Henry Morton person
correspondedWith Henry S. Forbes person
correspondedWith Henry Willcox person
correspondedWith Herbert H. Lehman person
correspondedWith Herbert S. Liang person
associatedWith Herman, Theodore, 1913- person
correspondedWith Hess, Mary Agnes person
associatedWith Higgins, Jud person
correspondedWith Hilda Selwyn-Clarke person
correspondedWith Hinton, William person
associatedWith Hirsh, Friedrich person
associatedWith Hisa, Li person
associatedWith Hobart, Gertie person
associatedWith Hodes, Kevin person
associatedWith Ho, Ening person
associatedWith Ho family, family
associatedWith Hoffman family family
associatedWith Hogg, George Aylwin person
associatedWith Hogg, George Aylwin. person
associatedWith Ho, Gui-qing person
associatedWith Ho, Gui-qing. person
associatedWith Ho, Kueiching - SEE Ho, Gui-qing person
correspondedWith Holland family
associatedWith Hooker, Annette person
correspondedWith Hoover Institute corporateBody
correspondedWith Hope Denby's person
correspondedWith Hopkins, Peter person
associatedWith Ho, Tommy person
associatedWith Ho, Tommy. person
associatedWith Hoyt Pruitt's person
correspondedWith Hsiang Shan Children's Home corporateBody
correspondedWith Hsieh, Hokeng person
correspondedWith Hsieh, Pei-Chih person
associatedWith Hsieh, Pei-chih, 1930- person
associatedWith Hsien family: family
correspondedWith Hsi, Francis person
correspondedWith Hsin Min Hui corporateBody
correspondedWith Hsu Chuen Ti person
associatedWith Hsu, Francis L. K., 1909- person
associatedWith Hsu, Francis L. K., 1909-1999. person
associatedWith Hsu Ti-shan person
correspondedWith Hugh Deane person
correspondedWith Hugh Hardyman's person
associatedWith Hulda. person
associatedWith Hulda's person
correspondedWith Hungying Bryan. person
correspondedWith Hung Ying Bryan. person
correspondedWith Hu Shih-Chi person
correspondedWith Hyatt, Irwin person
associatedWith Illesley, Walter person
correspondedWith Illsley, Walter person
associatedWith Indusco, Inc. (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Indusco, Inc. (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Irick, Robert person
associatedWith Irick, Robert L. person
associatedWith Irick, Robert L. person
correspondedWith Irwin Hyad person
correspondedWith Isaacs, Harold person
associatedWith Israel Epstein person
associatedWith Jack McCarthy person
correspondedWith Jacobs, Jane person
correspondedWith James A. Smith person
correspondedWith James Endicott's person
associatedWith James Metcalf Shaw person
associatedWith Jameson, Rose person
associatedWith Jameson, Rose. person
correspondedWith Jameson, Rose P. person
associatedWith James Shaw person
associatedWith Janet Thornton person
correspondedWith Jao Yu-ai person
correspondedWith Jeannette Cleary person
correspondedWith Jean Su person
correspondedWith J. G. Bell person
associatedWith Jiang, Qing, 1910- person
correspondedWith Jim Wong. person
correspondedWith J. M. Tan person
associatedWith Joe Pierson person
correspondedWith John A. Kingsbury person
correspondedWith John Crane person
associatedWith John DeFrancis person
correspondedWith John D. Pruitt person
correspondedWith John F. Russell person
correspondedWith John Jack F. McIntosh person
associatedWith John Jan person
correspondedWith Johnny Pruitt? person
associatedWith John Richard Fritz person
associatedWith John R. Lyman person
associatedWith John Seward Pruitt person
associatedWith Johnson family family
correspondedWith Johnson, Marcy person
associatedWith Johnson, Margaret person
correspondedWith Johnson, Oakley person
associatedWith John Soo Young person
associatedWith John Woodhouse Seward person
correspondedWith John X. Smith person
correspondedWith Jordan, Helene person
associatedWith Joseph Bailie person
correspondedWith Joseph de Silva person
correspondedWith Joseph Esherick person
associatedWith Josiah Strong person
correspondedWith J. S. Burgess person
correspondedWith J. Spitz person
correspondedWith Judith Shouse person
associatedWith Julean Arnold person
associatedWith Kai Ming). person
correspondedWith Karl August Wittfogel person
associatedWith Kate Delano Conderx person
associatedWith Kathy Pruitt's person
associatedWith Kencheaten [family] family
associatedWith Kenneth Wing Yip person
correspondedWith Ken Yip person
associatedWith Ken Yip's person
associatedWith Keys, Peter person
correspondedWith Kilby, Oscar person
associatedWith King, Marjorie. person
correspondedWith K. L. Chang person
correspondedWith K. L. Chang's person
correspondedWith Knight, Doris person
correspondedWith Kohn, Ju-Lien Lean person
correspondedWith Korpela, Aili person
correspondedWith Kruth, Helen person
associatedWith Kung Chueh person
correspondedWith Kwei Ching) person
associatedWith Kwei-ching - SEE Ho, Gui-qing person
associatedWith K. Y. Yao person
associatedWith Labbe, Antoine G. person
associatedWith Labbé, Antoine G. person
associatedWith Labbé, Antoine, n. d. person
correspondedWith Lang, Olga person
associatedWith Lao, She, 1889-1966. person
associatedWith Lao, She, 1899-1966 person
correspondedWith Lao, Sheh person
correspondedWith Lao She's person
associatedWith Lao Tai-tai's person
correspondedWith Lapwood, Ralph person
associatedWith Larry Smith person
associatedWith Larson, Duke person
correspondedWith Lasker, Bruno person
associatedWith Lasker, Gabriel Ward. person
associatedWith Latimer, Ray person
associatedWith Lattimore, Eleanor Holgate, 1895-1970. person
associatedWith Lattimore family family
associatedWith Lattimore, Owen, 1900-1989. person
correspondedWith Laura Seward Smith person
associatedWith Lau Shaw person
associatedWith Law, Shaw - SEE Lao, She person
correspondedWith Lazard, Nora person
correspondedWith Lee Yu Tsen person
associatedWith LeRoy Baldridge person
associatedWith Lester Ready, Jr. person
associatedWith Lester Seward Ready person
correspondedWith Lewis M. Hoskin person
associatedWith Lewis, Reba. person
associatedWith Lewis, Roger person
associatedWith Lewis, Roger. person
correspondedWith Liang, Rita person
associatedWith Liang She Qian person
correspondedWith Liang, Si-cheng person
associatedWith Li Chih-chao person
correspondedWith Li Chih-chiao person
associatedWith LiFurong person
associatedWith Li Hu Wen person
correspondedWith Li, Kuan person
correspondedWith Ling, Tao person
correspondedWith Little, Brown & Co. corporateBody
associatedWith Littledale, Clara Savage, 1891-1956. person
associatedWith Liu Shao-chi person
associatedWith Liu Xie-chen person
correspondedWith L. K. Hsu person
correspondedWith Lloyd, David person