Minnie Vautrin

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Wilhelmina (Minnie) Vautrin (September 27, 1886 – May 14, 1941) was an American missionary renowned for saving the lives of many women at the Ginling Girls College in Nanjing, China, during the Nanking Massacre.


Minnie Vautrin was born in Secor, Illinois. She was hard working and spent much of her childhood and teen years earning money to attend college. At 17, she attended Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. She then graduated from the University of Illinois. She began a career in teaching, starting with high school in LeRoy, Illinois.

In 1912, Vautrin made her way to China as a missionary and teacher. During her first few years there she helped found a girls school in Luchowfu. After her first furlough, she returned and helped build and found Jinling Girls College in Nanjing, where she eventually took over as Master of Studies.

When the Japanese army invaded Nanjing in December 1937, she and the other foreigners in the city, including John Rabe, worked to protect the civilians in the Nanking Safety Zone. Jinling Girls College became a haven of refuge, at times harboring up to 10,000 women in a college designed to support between 200 and 300. With only her wits and the use of an American flag, Vautrin was largely able to repel incursions into her college.

Minnie recounted the horrors of the war in her diary in 1937:

"There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heartbreaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night—one of the girls was but 12 years old. Food, bedding and money have been taken from people. … I suspect every house in the city has been opened, again and yet again, and robbed. Tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out "救命!救命! Jiuming! Jiuming!"—save our lives. The occasional shots that we hear out on the hills, or on the street, make us realize the sad fate of some man—very probably not a soldier."

On 19 December :

"In my wrath, I wished I had the power to smite them for their dastardly work. How ashamed women of Japan would be if they knew these tales of horror."[1]

In 1938, she wrote in her diary that she had to go to the Japanese embassy repeatedly from December 18 to January 13 to get proclamations to prohibit Japanese soldiers from committing crimes at Jinling because the soldiers tore the documents up before taking women away.[2]

In 1940, weary and stressed, Vautrin took a furlough again from her work. A few months later, haunted by the images she saw and feeling responsible for not being able to save more lives, Vautrin committed suicide by turning on the stove gas in her small apartment in Indianapolis.[3]

After the war, Vautrin was posthumously awarded the Emblem of the Blue Jade by the Chinese government for her sacrifices during the Nanjing Massacre. Her work saving the lives of Chinese civilians during the massacre is recounted in the biographical book, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking, written by historian Hu Hualing.

In the documentary film Nanking, Vautrin was portrayed by actress Mariel Hemingway, who recited excerpts from Vautrin's diary.

References in popular culture[edit]

The hardcore band Hiretsukan honors Wilhelmina Vautrin in their song Song For Wilhelmina Vautrin on their 2005 record End States.[4][5]

She is depicted in Lu Chuan's 2009 film City of Life and Death.

In the 2009 movie on John Rabe, Minnie Vautrin is replaced by a fictive Valérie Dupres of an "International Girls College" as an important fellow Nanking Safety Zone committee member.

In Nanjing Requiem, a 2011 novel by Chinese-born writer and Boston University professor Ha Jin, Ha writes from the perspective of a fictionalized assistant to Vautrin named Anling Gao.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hua-ling Hu, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin, 2000, p.90,95
  2. ^ Hu Hualing, American Goddess at the Rape of Nanking: The Courage of Minnie Vautrin, 2000, p.96
  3. ^ Suping Lu, Minnie Vautrin, Terror in Minnie Vautrin's Nanjing: Diaries and Correspondence, 1937-38, 2008, pp.xxvii-xxviii
  4. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2012-10-12. 
  5. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2012-10-12. 

Further reading[edit]

Novels about the Nanking Massacre, inspired by or featuring Minnie Vautrin:

  • Galbraith, Douglas (2006). A Winter in China.

External links[edit]