Ida Pruitt

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Ida Pruitt (1891–1985), bi-cultural social worker, author, speaker, interpreter and 20th century contributor to Sino-American understanding.[1]

Early life[edit]

Ida Pruitt was the daughter of North China Southern Baptist missionaries Anna Seward Pruitt and C.W. Pruitt. Born in 1891 in the coastal town of Penglai on the Shandong peninsula, her childhood was spent in the small inland village of Sung-ch’ia-t’an,[clarification needed] where for many years the Pruitts were the only Western family.[1]

After attending Cox College in College Park, Georgia (1906–1909), Ida Pruitt received a B.S. from Columbia University Teachers' College in New York City (1910). When her brother John died, Ida 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.

Japanese occupation[edit]

During the Japanese occupation of China (1937–1945), Ida assisted Rewi Alley as he organized the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives. 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 Pruitt served as its executive secretary from 1939 to 1951.


A keen observer and student of Chinese history, society, and paleo-anthropology, Pruitt 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 as well as 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 (better known as Four Generations Under One Roof) 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, Ida 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.

Personal life[edit]

In 1946, she 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 near the University of Pennsylvania where she remained for the rest of her life.

While living in Beijing Ida 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 metallurgist who worked for the US Department of the Interior. They had four children: Catherine Helen, Anna Ida, Michaela and Hugh. After Cosman's death, she married Mr. Wahl.

Ida Pruitt died on July 24, 1985, in Philadelphia.

Unreferenced text mostly taken from the Radcliff Finding Aid. See link below.[better source needed]

See also[edit]



King, Marjorie (2006). China's American Daughter: Ida Pruitt (1888-1985). Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. ISBN 9629960575.

External links[edit]