DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Women Who Loved Greatly and Fought Bravely

Written by: on June 20, 2018

2009.10.30[15] Zhejiang Tangxi town in Taijun temple for the festival of the Mother Taijun September 13 lunar 浙江 塘栖镇太钧堂庙九月十三娘娘节-17

What an amazing story of China’s history seen through the lens of multi-generational women. The trials and hardships they experienced were intense, as they were often traded, oppressed, and marginalized like objects. The resiliency of each woman was impressive and inspirational as they survived torture, war, cultural oppression, and abusive relationships while taking care of their daughters. The four generations of a great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and daughter were woven together through the changes in China, each experiencing painful, life-altering experiences that revealed their stamina and strength of character. To honor them, I want to highlight some of their painful experiences that revealed the amazing resiliency of each woman. Courage was inherited by the previous generation, as they fought through the oppressive and volatile culture showing remarkable commitment and care to one another. Finally, I’d like to briefly highlight the men subtly mentioned throughout the story.

The great-grandmother…

Born into an era where women were considered property and held no power, the great-grandmother became the victim of men’s whims. Although she was mistreated, unloved, and rejected by her husband, she loved her daughter with a fierceness that caused her to create unthinkable pain to her daughter. She endured the cries and screams of her daughter as she formed her feet, reassuring her she would thank her one day, for she knew small feet would give her the best chance in life. Enduring humiliation as her husband demoted her by choosing concubines over her as he brought them into their home, she pressed on working to provide the best life possible for her daughter. It was a beautiful part in the book when she courageous left her less than appreciative husband, choosing to live with her more affluent and caring daughter.

The grandmother…

Born into an era where small feet were considered the sign of beauty, the grandmother was forced to conform. At age 2, she endured unimaginable pain that would send most of us crumbling to our knees as her feet were continually broken and formed to become about 3-4 inches in length. This was unthinkable that a mother would do this to her own child unless it meant it could provide her with a better life. The smaller the feet meant the better class of husband, which would mean the better quality of life. Ironically, this led the grandmother to be selected by a warlord as a concubine, where she endured unthinkable loneliness, as she was confined to her home with limited mobility due to her deformed feet. The years she had to live using her broken and mangled feet was an overwhelming concept to me. This strength of character and resiliency continued to be evidenced as she escaped her confinement with her young daughter in tow. She continued to show exceptional survival skills and eventually married for love to a doctor who loved her deeply and raised her daughter as his own. Her care and nurturance for individuals in need or oppressed by Japanese rule was admirable. She did not forget the plight of her people and used her position to advocate for those less fortunate as she fought for the rights of teachers and those in need. This spirit of empowerment and the desire for justice to advocate for the oppressed and marginalized was passed down to her daughter.

mother's gaze

The mother…

Born as the daughter of a concubine was not an easy life position to fill. At a young age, she was ridiculed, teased, and abused by her other step-siblings, while encouraged by her mother not to make trouble for her abusers. It was troubling and disturbing to hear how she was treated horribly as a child and the rejection and loneliness she endured due to her social standing in the family. As she grew, a fieriness defined her at a young age as she rebelled against the traditional female role and engaged in revolutionary activities, risking imprisonment, torture, and even death. Her determination and pain tolerance were dramatically displayed when she walked home from a concert while experiencing a miscarriage. It almost cost her, her life, but she fought through the health crises demanding more care and support from her naive husband who to his good fortune shifted to caring better for her. She fought bravely to usher in communism as she believed this would create a better way of life for her and her people.

The daughter…

Born in a more modern era, the daughter of a revolutionary authored Wild Swans. She managed to relocate to the UK, receive higher education, and marry a British man. She courageously chose to write about her home country when her book was and is currently banned in China as censorship is still actively enforced. In addition, she wrote the book in a foreign tongue, soliciting the help of her husband, reliving the past that brought less than pleasant memories.

The men…

Although each woman had incredible life hurdles to overcome, they all had men in their lives, some who empowered them and some who oppressed them. The most remarkable transition was when the grandmother married the doctor for love, empowering her to move from the objectified concubine with no rights to the wife of a prominent doctor where she was able to thrive and advocate for others. The author also had a man who believed in her and helped her write and publish her story, as well as a professor who empowered her with education. When the women were oppressed by men, they struggled to overcome the harsh gender restrictions of society and their energies went into surviving. But when good men came alongside them, they were empowered to live greatly so they could thrive and better advocate for others. Loving others by advocating for justice and freedom for them to live their best lives empowers the recipients to empower others to live greatly. This should be evidenced in the church for in this way, they shall know we are Christians, by our love.

Foot-binding of chinese tradition in the past2

About the Author


Jennifer Dean-Hill

5 responses to “Women Who Loved Greatly and Fought Bravely”

  1. Stu Cocanougher says:

    Jennifer, you did a great job of identifying these characters. What is amazing is that each of these four women grew up in a different China! Our country has had the same Constitution for over 200 years. China had two radical revolutions in the 20th century (not counting the Japanese occupation.)

    These women give a human face to these changes.

  2. Lynda Gittens says:


    It was evident that all women had strong opinions on their lives but also worked to respect traditions of their culture. Through voicing their feelings to their partners, the views were considered.

    thanks for your post

  3. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    “Courage was inherited from the previous generation” The strength and resilience of these women were astounding. What a great reminder that who we are, our character, is often shaped (or at least influenced) by those who came before us, even those we have never met.

  4. Mary Walker says:

    Jennifer, what a remarkable story of courage. Somehow it was passed down; each woman saw the strength of her mother and leaned that way instead of despairing.
    I also love the way you bring out the fact that women are great but can be even greater when the men come alongside them and love them. The two shall become one has more significance. What greater things can we accomplish for God when we work together!?!

  5. Jim Sabella says:

    Jenn, I appreciate your highlighting that strength and courage of these women and the men who “truly” loved them. thank you.

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