Mission to Siam

Mission to Siam: The Memoirs of Jessie MacKinnon Hartzell

Edited with a biographical essay by Joan Acocella
Introduction by Rosalind C. Morris
Copyright Date: 2001
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  • Book Info
    Mission to Siam
    Book Description:

    "Here ... I have really lived." Jessie MacKinnon Hartzell arrived in Northern Thailand in 1912, the young wife of a recently ordained Presbyterian missionary. Thousands of miles lay between her and her grandparents' farm in Nova Scotia, where she had been born and raised. But over the next sixteen years, Thailand became her beloved new home. She was awed by its physical beauty--the great rivers, the orchid-studded hills--and became devoted to its people. Beginning as a nurse, she eventually directed a small hospital. There she discovered her talent for organization and hard work. She also found, to her grief, that her work separated her from her children. Mission to Siam casts unexpected light on colonialism, the Asia missions, and the convulsive changes that a newly united Thailand underwent in the early twentieth century. It is a significant contribution to the handful of published works that describe firsthand the experience of women missionaries. This is a heartfelt account by a strong, intelligent woman caught between what she owed her family and what she felt she owed herself: a calling, a career, and adventure. With a biographical essay by Joan Acocella and an introduction by Rosalind C. Morris.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6365-4
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    J. A. and R. C. M.
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Rosalind C. Morris

    Jessie Hartzell arrived in Siam as the wife of a Presbyterian missionary, Jacob Lott Hartzell, in 1912. At that time, Siam was thoroughly integrated under a single monarch, and improbably independent despite the long-standing territorial ambitions of both French and English colonialists. King Chulalongkorn (r. 1868–1910) had died two years previously. The socially conservative but politically modern Vajiravudh was now ensconced as king, surrounded by an archnationalist elite but eager for the recognition of European powers. The northern region to which Jessie and Lott were assigned was no longer a complex of independent principalities (referred to locally asmuang)...

  6. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  7. Jessie MacKinnon Hartzell: A Portrait
    (pp. xxvii-2)
    Joan Acocella

    The memoir that follows was written by Jessie MacKinnon Hartzell, my maternal grandmother, in her old age. In it she describes the great adventure of her life, her sixteen years (1912–1928) as a missionary in Northern Thailand. The tale is a classic female story, at least of its period: a young woman, with no fine prospects but just a good, eager mind, longs to do some interesting work. She finds it, performs it joyfully, and then, as a result of circumstance—above all, the circumstance of being a woman and hence dependent on her husband’s career and also responsible...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Marriage and Mission 1911–1912
    (pp. 3-8)

    NORFOLK, VIRGINIA, APRIL 1911—I am going home, or rather, to my sister’s home in Montreal, as I am without a permanent abiding place. I have been here in Norfolk as a nurse in a private family. In these last four years two baby boys have arrived, eighteen months apart. Now my work is over, and I am going north with the birds. I will leave here on Friday, June 1, my birthday. I am going to Boston by boat and then to Montreal by train. During the trip I plan just to rest and read.

    ON THE BOAT—It...

  9. CHAPTER TWO First Term of Service: Nan and Lampang, 1912–1919
    (pp. 9-72)

    SAN FRANCISCO—We are on our way, by land and sea. This is a beautiful city. There are still traces of the earthquake damage, but the stores are very fine. We are busy with meetings and with visiting retired missionaries, such as Dr. and Mrs. Denman, who were stationed in Siam for some years. They have so much to tell us. Today Dr. Denman took me with him on his round of calls. He wanted me to see a case of malaria. It was my first, but he says it will not be my last. He explained the symptoms and...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 73-80)
  11. CHAPTER THREE Second Term of Service: Lampang, Phrae, and London, 1919–1927
    (pp. 81-120)

    LAMPANG—Nothing seems to have changed anywhere in this country, but as far as that goes, very little change has been made in Siam in hundreds of years, so what could a year do? The crocodiles play at being logs, the small birds build their nests the same way year after year, but to me it is all wonderful.

    There is a new recruit at the station, Miss Worthington. She will teach in the boys’ school, and I will too. There is talk of the out-village work being turned over to Lott and me entirely. For now, though, Lott does...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Third Term of Service: Phrae, 1927–1928
    (pp. 121-136)

    PHRAE—Lott met me at Den Chai, fifteen miles from Phrae. We packed everything into the bus and took off. We saved our warm greetings, as it is not proper for a man and woman to show affection in public. Poor Lott! He is so glad to see me back. I guess the last six months have been lonely for him. He has accomplished a tremendous amount in that time—three new churches built in three new Christian communities, and the church in the city finished. The dispensary has been remodeled after the plans I drew before I left. Everything...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE The End of a Mission: United States, 1928–1931
    (pp. 137-144)

    INDIANAPOLIS—Betty has grown up a lot. She is a pretty girl with lovely skin and hair. She draws wonderfully and would like to go to art school. Bob is a big boy with a very nice way of talking. He said, “Oh, Mother, just wait a few minutes. I have my suitcase packed, and I will say good-bye to the matron and the boys.” I had to tell him that I could not take him with me, as I had no place to go yet, but that as soon as school was out we would all be together somewhere....

  14. Index
    (pp. 145-158)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 159-160)