Amy Carmichael

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Amy Beatrice Carmichael
Amy Carmichael with children2.jpg
Amy Carmichael with children in India
Born(1867-12-16)16 December 1867
Millisle, County Down, Ireland
Died18 January 1951(1951-01-18) (aged 83)
Dohnavur, Tamil Nadu, India
Venerated inAnglican Communion
FeastJanuary 18

Amy Beatrice Carmichael (16 December 1867 – 18 January 1951) was an Irish Christian missionary in India who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for 55 years without furlough and wrote 35 books about the missionary work there.

Early life[edit]

Amy Beatrice Carmichael was born in the small village of Millisle, County Down, Ireland, in 1867, as the oldest of seven siblings. Her parents were David Carmichael, a miller, and his wife Catherine, both devout Christians.[1] Amy attended Harrogate Ladies College for four years in her youth.

Amy's father moved the family to Belfast when she was 16 years old, but he died two years later. In Belfast, the Carmichaels founded the Welcome Evangelical Church.[2] In the mid-1880s, Carmichael started a Sunday-morning class for the ‘Shawlies’ (mill girls who wore shawls instead of hats) in the church hall of Rosemary Street Presbyterian. This mission grew quickly to include several hundred attendees. At this time Amy saw an advertisement in The Christian for an iron hall that could be erected for £500 and would seat 500 people. Two donations, £500 from Miss Kate Mitchell and one plot of land from a mill owner, led to the erection of the first "Welcome Hall", on the corner of Cambrai Street and Heather Street in 1887.

Amy continued at the Welcome until she received a call to work among the mill girls of Manchester in 1889, from which she moved on to overseas missionary work, despite suffering from neuralgia, a disease that made her whole body weak and achy and often put her in bed for weeks on end. At the Keswick Convention of 1887, she heard Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM), speak about missionary life; soon afterwards, she became convinced of her calling to missionary work. She applied to the China Inland Mission and lived in London at the training house for women, where she met author and missionary to China Mary Geraldine Guinness, who encouraged her to pursue missionary work. Carmichael was ready to sail for Asia, but it was determined that her health made her unfit for the work. She postponed her missionary career with the CIM and decided later to join the Church Missionary Society.

The bronze statue of Amy Carmichael as a young girl that stands in Hamilton Street in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland, on the grounds of the Presbyterian church.

Work in India[edit]

Initially Carmichael traveled to Japan, staying for fifteen months, but got neuralgia and returned home.[3] After a brief period of service in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), she went to Bangalore, India, for her health and found her lifelong vocation. She was commissioned by the Church of England Zenana Mission. Carmichael's most notable work was with girls and young women, some of whom were saved from customs that amounted to forced prostitution. Hindu temple children were primarily young girls dedicated to the gods, then usually forced into prostitution to earn money for the priests (i.e., Devadasi)[4][5] Families often sold their children to the temples if they did not want them or if they needed extra money and fewer children to feed.[6]

Carmichael founded the Dohnavur Fellowship[7] in 1901 to continue her work,[8] as she later wrote in The Gold Cord (1932). Dohnavur is situated in Tamil Nadu, thirty miles from India's southern tip. The name derives from Count Dohna, who initially funded German missionaries at the site in the early 19th century, on which the Rev. Thomas Walker then established a school. Carmichael's fellowship transformed Dohnavur into a sanctuary for over one thousand children who would otherwise have faced a bleak future.[9] Carmichael often said that her ministry of rescuing temple children started with a girl named Preena. Having become a temple servant against her wishes, Preena managed to escape. Amy Carmichael provided her shelter and withstood the threats of those who insisted that the girl be returned either to the temple directly to continue her sexual assignments, or to her family for more indirect return to the temple. The number of such incidents soon grew, thus beginning Amy Carmichael's new ministry.[10] When the children were asked what drew them to Amy, they most often replied, "It was love. Amma (Tamil for 'mother', referring to Amy) loved us."[11]

In order to respect Indian culture, members of the organization wore Indian dress and gave the rescued children Indian names. Carmichael herself dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with dark coffee, and often travelled long distances on India's hot, dusty roads to save just one child from suffering. While serving in India, Carmichael received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary, asking, "What is missionary life like?" Carmichael wrote back, "Missionary life is simply a chance to die."

In 1912, money and workers were available that helped fund a hospital at Dohnavur.[12] By 1913, the Dohnavur Fellowship was serving 130 girls. In 1918, Dohnavur added a home for young boys, many born to the former temple prostitutes. Meanwhile, in 1916 Carmichael formed a Protestant religious order called Sisters of the Common Life.

Final days and legacy[edit]

In 1931, a fall severely injured Carmichael, and she remained bedridden for much of her final two decades. However, she continued her inspirational writing, publishing 16 additional books (including His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said (1951), If (1953), Edges of His Ways (1955) and God's Missionary (1957)), as well as revising others she had previously published. Biographers differ on the number of her published works, which may have reached 35 or as many as six dozen, although only a few remain in print today.

Carmichael died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave at Dohnavur.[13] Instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription "Amma", meaning "mother" in the Tamil language.

Her example as a missionary inspired others to pursue a similar vocation.[14] Many webpages include quotes from Carmichael's works, such as[15][16][17]

"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desire that He creates."

India outlawed temple prostitution in 1948. However, the Dohnavur Fellowship continues, now supporting approximately 500 people on 400 acres with 16 nurseries and a hospital. Rescued women can leave, join the community, or return for important occasions, including the Christmas season. The foundation is now run by Indians under the jurisdiction of the C.S.I. Tirunelveli Diocese, founded in 1896. Changed policies acknowledging Indian law require that all children born in or brought to Dohnavur be sent out for education in the 6th grade. Furthermore, since 1982, baby boys have been adopted out rather than remaining in the community.

Amy is remembered in the Church of England with a commemoration on 18 January.[18]

Carmichael College in Morayfield, Moreton Bay Region, Queensland, Australia is named after her. [19]

Selected works[edit]



  1. ^ "Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur". The Heartbeat of the Remnant. Ephrata ministries. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Amy Carmichael". Welcome church. 30 July 2013. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  3. ^ "A Living Legacy:: Amy Carmichael and the Origin of the Dohnavur Fellowship". Mission Frontiers. 1 January 1999. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Slaves Of The Gods : Katherine Mayo". 1929.
  5. ^ "Short film Devadasi by Lenalaxmi in LVPrasad Film & TV Academy | Tamil with English subtitles". YouTube. Archived from the original on 11 April 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Child Marriages in India on the Rise".
  7. ^ "Santhosha Vidhyalaya – Dohnavur Fellowship". 16 March 2018. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  8. ^ "Dohnavur Fellowship". 16 March 2018. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Welcome to Dohnavur - Home". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Amy Carmichael:Rescuer of Children". atgsociety. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  11. ^ Introduction, by Elisabeth Elliot, The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael CLC, Fort Washington, USA ISBN 0-87508-790-6
  12. ^ "Amy Carmichael - Welcome". 30 July 2013. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Dohnavur Fellowship". Find A Grave. 18 January 1951. Archived from the original on 23 January 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  14. ^ Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance to Die: the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.
  15. ^ "Some quotes from one of my heroines-Amy Carmichael | Simply Church: A House Church Perspective". Simply Church. 11 December 2013. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Amy Carmichael Quotes". Archived from the original on 16 February 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Amy Carmichael Quotes (Author of If)". Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  18. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Archived from the original on 9 March 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  19. ^ "Our Story". Carmichael College. Archived from the original on 2 January 2022. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  20. ^ "Nor Scrip - by Amy Carmichael".
  21. ^ "From the fight : Carmichael, Amy, 1867-1951". 1887.
  22. ^ "Overweights of joy : Carmichael, Amy, 1867-1951". 1906.
  23. ^ Alyson-Wieczorek. "The continuation of a story : Carmichael, Amy, 1867-1951". Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  24. ^ "Nor Scrip - by Amy Carmichael".
  25. ^ "Gold Cord The Story Of A Fellowship : Amy Carmichael". 1932.
  26. ^ Lotu Tii (1991). Gold by moonlight : Carmichael, Amy, 1867-1951. ISBN 9780875080871.
  27. ^ Doig, Chris. "Spencer Palmer Children". Thornbury Roots. Retrieved 9 January 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Elliot, Elisabeth, A Chance to Die: the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.[1] Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1987. ISBN 978-0800730895
  • Robbins, Nancy Estelle, “God's madcap: the story of Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur”.[2] Christian Literature Crusade, 1962.
  • Houghton, Frank, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur: The Story of a Lover and Her Beloved. London: SPCK; Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1953.
  • Davis, Rebecca Henry, “With Daring Faith: a Biography of Amy Carmichael”.[3] Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 1987.
  • Kommers, J. (Hans), “Triumphant Love: the contextual, creative and strategic missionary work of Amy Beatrice Carmichael in south India”.[4] AOSIS, South Africa, 2017.
  • Murray, Iain H., "Amy Carmichael; Beauty for Ashes, a Biography". Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2015.
  • Wellman, Sam, Amy Carmichael: A Life Abandoned to God. Barbour Publishing, 1998.
  • Bingham, Derick, The Wild-Bird Child: A Life of Amy Carmichael. Ambassador-Emerald International (2004) ISBN 1-84030-144-9, ISBN 978-1-84030-144-1
  • Benge, Janet and Geoff, Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems. YWAM Publishing, 1998.
  • Amy Carmichael Documentary, BBC 2

External links[edit]