Wholesome Words Home
Worldwide Missions
missionary biographies

Mrs. Ann H. Judson...Missionary to Burmah

by Emma Raymond Pitman
"All unseen, the Master walketh
  By the toiling servant's side,
Comfortable words He speaketh,
  While His hands uphold and guide.

"Grief, nor pain, nor any sorrow
  Rends thy heart, to Him unknown,
He to-day, and He to-morrow,
  Grace sufficient gives His own."

Mrs. Ann JudsonMiss Ann Hasseltine was born at Bradford, Massachusetts, in the year 1789, of respectable and intelligent parents. As a young girl Ann was remarkable among her companions for being exceedingly active and energetic in the acquisition of knowledge. She was quick, clever, and intelligent beyond the average, and distinguished herself among the students of the academy in her native town, for untiring perseverance and cultivation of the intellectual powers. She appears, however, to have been, in her girlhood, unaffected by any religious impressions, and was peculiarly attached to the gaieties and follies attendant on a life of social pleasure. She was extremely fond of attending lively parties, and from the vivacity of her disposition, seems to have been generally sought after. In her diary, she says, referring to this time: "At the age of twelve or thirteen, I attended the school at Bradford, where I was exposed to many more temptations than before. For two or three years I scarcely felt an anxious thought relative to the salvation of my soul, though I was rapidly diverging towards eternal ruin. My disposition was gay in the extreme; my situation was such as afforded me opportunities for indulging it to the utmost; I was surrounded with associates wild and volatile like myself, and often thought myself the happiest creature on earth." The first circumstance which seems to have produced serious thoughts, was the perusal of Hannah More's "Strictures on Female Education." She says: "One Sabbath morning, having prepared myself to attend public worship, I accidentally took up Hannah More's 'Strictures,' and the first words that caught my eye were: 'She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.' These words were written in italics, and struck me to the heart. I stood for a few moments amazed at the incident, and half inclined to think that some invisible agency had directed my eyes to those words.

At the age of fifteen, I met with Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress.' I read it as a Sabbath book, and was much interested in the story. I resolved, from that moment, to begin a religious life; and in order to keep my resolution, I went to my chamber, and prayed for Divine assistance. When I had done, I felt pleased with myself, and thought I was in a fair way for heaven. But I was perplexed to know how to lead a religious life, and again had recourse to a system of works." But these impressions were short-lived and transient; they passed away like "the morning cloud and early dew;" and Miss Hasseltine became noted, even among her associates, for thoughtless and daring frivolity. She records: "I so far surpassed my friends in gaiety and mirth that some of them were apprehensive that I had but a short time to live, and would be suddenly cut off in my career of folly."

But in the spring of 1806, a revival of religion took place at Bradford, and among others Miss Hasseltine was seriously impressed. She says: "I used often to weep while hearing the minister and others press the importance of improving the present favourable season to obtain an interest in Christ, lest we should have to say: 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.' I thought I should be one of that number; for though I now deeply felt the importance of being strictly religious, it appeared to me impossible I could be so while in the midst of my associates. I generally sought some retired corner of the room in which the meetings were held, lest others should observe the emotions I could not restrain; but, frequently, after being affected through the evening, I would return home in company with some of my light companions, and assume an air of gaiety very foreign to my heart. The Spirit of God was now operating on my mind; I lost all relish for amusements; felt melancholy and dejected; and the solemn truth, that I must obtain a new heart or perish for ever, lay with weight on my mind."

After a long struggle, in which it seemed at times doubtful whether nature or grace would gain the mastery, she could realise that she had passed from death into life, and was become, in feeling and in deed, "a new creature in Christ Jesus." The change was thorough and permanent. Miss Hasseltine threw herself into religious service with the same ardour which had formerly characterised her pursuit of pleasure. Not content with constant appeals to her young associates to seek the Lord, she wrote many affectionate and earnest letters to them, the burden of them all being her intense desire for their salvation. Said an intimate friend, speaking of this period: "Redeeming love was now her theme. One might spend days with her without hearing any other subject reverted to. The throne of grace was her early and late resort. I have known her to spend cold winter evenings in a chamber without fire, and return to the family with a solemnity spread over her countenance, which told of Him with whom she had been communing. She thirsted for the knowledge of the Gospel in all its relations and dependencies."

Miss Hasseltine's eagerness for usefulness found expression in teaching. At first she became mistress of a school, and endeavoured to lead the minds of the children to Him whom her soul loved. More than this, as if by the special leading of the Spirit of God, her mind was greatly drawn out towards the heathen. She pondered deeply upon their hopeless condition, and mourned their misery in this life, and their ignorance as it regarded the next. We are told that she set apart some time purposely, every day, to pray for their conversion; and this prayerful sympathy for the heathen world was an intense and abiding passion. It was not very wonderful, therefore, that when an opportunity was presented of labouring among the heathen, she should seek to embrace it, although at first sight it seemed madness to venture on such an errand.

In the year 1810 Miss Hasseltine became acquainted with Mr. Judson, who was then a theological student in the institution at Andover, and preparing for mission-work in India, under the direction of the American Board for Foreign Missions. When he proposed that she should accompany him as his wife, her friends were taken by surprise. They were much perplexed, and divided in opinion, as to the propriety of a female going on a mission to the heathen. The mission cause itself was then in its infancy, and the American, in common with the English churches, knew comparatively nothing of the heathen world. Mr. Judson laid the matter fully before Mr. Hasseltine, in proposing for the hand of his daughter. He said: "I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the climate of India, to every kind of want and distress, to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, in the hope of soon meeting your daughter in a world of glory with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathen saved through her means from eternal woe and despair?"

Miss Hasseltine herself was much exercised in mind, and, while striving to follow the leadings of Providence, feared to cause pain to her family. She says in her journal: "For several weeks past my mind has been greatly agitated. An opportunity has been presented to me of spending my days among the heathen, in attempting to persuade them to receive the Gospel. Were I convinced of its being a call from God, and that it would be more pleasing to Him for me to spend my life in this way than in any other, I think I should be willing to relinquish every earthly object, and in full view of danger and hardships give myself up to this great work."

Finally, the two young people were married, and sailed on the 6th February, 1812, in company with the Rev. Samuel, and Mrs. Harriet Newell, in the Caravan, for India. On the 18th of the following June, the little missionary party landed at Calcutta, and were cordially received by Dr. Carey, the venerable Baptist missionary, who was stationed at the Danish settlement of Serampore. While here, Mr. and Mrs. Judson were baptised, their views on the subject of baptism having undergone a change. Having adopted Baptist principles, Mr. Judson appealed to the Baptist churches of America to consider the subject of missions; and in response, the Baptist Missionary Union of America was formed, which sustained and supported the Judsons during the whole of their eventful careers. This Union appointed Mr. and Mrs. Judson as its first missionaries, leaving to them full discretion to choose their own field of labour. At the outset, the Board of Foreign Missions had chosen Burmah as the sphere of operations, but events seemed for the moment to invite to India as a likelier field. As it turned out, however, nothing could be done there; for within twelve days of their arrival in Calcutta Messrs. Newell and Judson, together with their wives, were peremptorily ordered by the East India Company to leave the country. The missionaries, thunder-stricken at this destruction of their hopes, petitioned for a rescinding of the order, but. in vain. Mr. and Mrs. Newell left first, and proceeded, after much suffering at sea, to the Isle of France, where Mrs. Newell shortly died. Finally, after many delays, the Judsons also escaped thither, and found to their sorrow that one of their companions was dead, and that the survivor was overwhelmed with grief. Mrs. Newell was the early friend and school-mate of Mrs. Judson, and on learning of her death, she thus records her sorrow in her journal:—

"Have at last arrived in port, but O, what distressing news. Harriet is dead! Harriet, my dear friend, my earliest associate in the mission, is no more. O, death, thou destroyer of human felicity, could not this wide world afford victims sufficient to satisfy thy cravings, without entering the family of a solitary few, whose comfort and happiness depended so much on the society of each other? Could not this infant mission be shielded from thy shafts?"

After a short stay at the Isle of France, Mr. and Mrs. Judson formed the idea of establishing a mission on Prince of Wales's Island, but could not find a ship for that island without first going to Madras. This they did; but immediately they landed, the officers of the Company renewed their threats; and fearful that the Government would send them back by way of England, they fled to Rangoon. They took passage in an old and crazy native boat, for Burmah, daring all dangers rather be beaten in their design; and thus it came to pass that, after all, they went to the very land which the American Board had first fixed upon. After a rough voyage and much suffering by sea, they reached Rangoon on July 13th, 1813. Rangoon is the principal port of Burmah, being situated on the river Irrawaddy, about thirty miles from the sea, and over six hundred miles south-east of Calcutta. At the time of Mr. and Mrs. Judson's landing, the town contained about 40,000 inhabitants, and only one missionary. This missionary was Mr. Felix Carey, but he was then absent at Ava, the capital, by command of the king. They immediately set to work to learn the language, but this task was full of difficulty. The teacher, who was a Burman, could not speak English, and Mr. Judson knew nothing of Burmese. Accordingly, they had to discover the Burman names of things by pointing to them, when their teacher pronounced their names; and by unceasing pains and perseverance, they attained to so much knowledge of the language within six months, that they could begin to converse with the natives.

During the first three years, the progress in the mission was slow. Mrs. Judson became so ill, from hardship and trouble, that she had to go to Madras for three months, to recruit. Beside this they lost their eldest child by death; and various hindrances arose to try their faith. But Mrs. Judson obtained leave to visit the wife of the Viceroy, and cultivated her friendship in order to have a friend to appeal to in the event of any persecution befalling her husband. In 1816 the American Baptist Missionary Union sent two more missionaries, in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. Hough. These friends brought with them a printing-press, and a supply of type, with which the stronghold of Buddhism was at once assailed. Mr. and Mrs. Judson had acquired the language, had prepared a grammar, and had written two tracts in the Burmese. One of these was a catechism, and the other a short statement of the Christian religion. Thousands of copies were immediately printed, as well as eight hundred copies of St. Matthew's Gospel, which Mr. Judson had also translated.

Not content with this, Mrs. Judson collected a class of Burman women on the Sabbath and endeavoured to teach them the first principles of religion. In a graphic sketch of her labours in this direction she says: "How interested you would be, could you meet with my little society of females on the Sabbath. Interested, I say—yes, you would be interested if it were only from this circumstance, that these poor idolaters enjoy the means of grace, and sit under the sound of the Gospel. I have generally from fifteen to twenty; they are attentive while I read the Scriptures, and endeavour to teach them about God. One of them told me the other day that she could not think of giving up a religion which her parents and grandparents had embraced, and accepting a new one, of which they had never heard. I asked her if she wished to go to hell because her progenitors had gone there. She replied, if with all her offerings, and good works on her head she must go to hell, then let her go. I told her if she went to hell, after having heard of the Saviour, her very relations would contribute to torment and upbraid her for the rejection of that Saviour of whom they had never heard, and that even she herself would regret her folly when it was too late. 'If I do,' said she, 'I will then cry out to you to be my intercessor with your God, who will certainly not refuse you.' Another told me that she did believe in Christ, and prayed to him every day. I asked her if she also believed in Gaudama, and prayed to him? She replied, she worshipped them both. I have several times had my hopes and expectations raised by the apparent seriousness of many females, as Mr. Judson has, in regard to young men; but their goodness was like the morning cloud and early dew, which soon passeth away. Four or five children have committed the catechism to memory, and often repeat it to each other."

In 1817, Mr. Judson went on a visit to Chittagong, in Arracan, for the benefit of his health, and also to induce a native Christian to return with him, and assist in the work of preaching the Gospel. During his absence, persecution broke out fiercely against the mission-party. Mr. Hough was summoned before the court, and informed brutally that "if he did not tell the truth relative to his situation in the country they would write with his heart's blood." Mrs. Judson ventured, however, to intercede with the Viceroy, and Mr. Hough was liberated. He immediately left for Bengal with his wife and family, taking also with him the printing-press and type. Mrs. Judson was left at Rangoon alone, and to this sorrow was added that of fear lest her husband had been lost at sea, for he had been unheard-of for some time. Still, she determined to remain for the sake of the mission, although fearing that she was a widow, and having no friend to speak to, with the exception of a few trembling converts.

Providentially, Mr. Judson was not lost; and after long delays, and much heart-rending anxiety, he arrived at Rangoon to prosecute the evangelisation of Burmah. But he was repulsed again and again by the king and all in authority; while the little church of ten members trembled for its existence. But the trials through which Mrs. Judson passed at this time caused such a loss of health that she was compelled, in the summer of 1822, to return to America, which she did by way of England, in order to regain a measure of strength.

While in America, Mrs. Judson employed her retirement in stirring up, by means of her pen, the American Churches, on the subject of missions. She published a "History of the Burman Mission;" also an "Address to the Women of America on the Social and Religious Condition of the Women of India;" beside personally appealing to her countrywomen to interest themselves in the religious and social welfare of their heathen sisters of Burmah and China. Her labours in this direction produced a permanent impression, and a few unmarried ladies volunteered for the work, while a large number of others offered jewels and other valuables, besides large gifts of money, to aid the missionary enterprise.

In 1823, Mrs. Judson was restored sufficiently to return to Burmah, which she did in company with Mr. and Mrs. Wade, who had been designated as missionaries for Burmah. On their arrival at Rangoon they found that the little church had increased in numbers, and that Dr. Price, a medical missionary, had been sent there. Mrs. Judson had longed to be back once more in Rangoon. She wrote: "It often appears that I have done very little for the cause of Christ, and therefore my health has been removed. But if again I am permitted the privilege of living upon heathen ground, if ever again I find myself in a situation to impart instruction to those who have never heard the voice of Christ, I think now I shall make a greater effort to serve God more faithfully than ever before." But, alas! scarcely had she regained her home before persecution again burst out. Dr. Price's reputation as a medical man soon reached Ava, the residence of the king, and he was peremptorily ordered to settle there. Not only so, but very speedily Mr. and Mrs. Judson were compelled to remove thither too, and immediately the change was made; but it was not to last.

In May, 1824, the government of Great Britain declared war against Burmah, on account of the continual aggressions of the latter government upon the British possessions. Rangoon, which they had so lately left, was taken by a force under Sir Archibald Campbell; and as soon as the news reached Ava, a command was issued that all foreigners should be cast into prison, as spies. The storm burst on the Judsons' household on the 8th of June, just as they were preparing to go to dinner. An officer, accompanied by about a dozen natives and the public executioner, rushed into the house, and said, "Where is the teacher?" Mr. Judson presented himself; the executioner instantly seized the missionary, and throwing him on the floor, proceeded to bind him with cords. The small cords cut into his flesh, and for a time impeded his breathing. "Stay," said Mrs. Judson, "I will give you money." "Take her too," said the officer; "she is also a foreigner." But Mr. Judson implored them to leave his wife till further orders, which they did.

Mr. Judson was then dragged off to the "death-prison," and, loaded with three pairs of iron fetters, was fastened with the other white prisoners to a long pole, to prevent their moving. A guard of ten ruffians was set over Mrs. Judson, and she was closely confined to her house, together with four little Burman girls whom she had taken to teach and train. "My unprotected, desolate state," she wrote, "my entire ignorance of my husband's fate, and the dreadful carousings and diabolical language of the guard, combined to make it the most distressing time I have ever spent." She had the foresight and prudence to destroy all journals and letters, lest the Burman government should discover that they had correspondents in England. But there was one thing which Mrs. Judson would not destroy, and that was her husband's manuscript translation of the New Testament. With prayers and tears she placed this manuscript beneath the earth in a secure place, and then committed the results to God.

This manuscript went through several perilous adventures. After Mrs. Judson was admitted to see her husband, she told him of the plan she had adopted to hide it, but as it was unfortunately now the rainy season, the paper ran the risk of being destroyed by damp. She therefore dug it up, and sewed it in a pillow so dirty and mean, that not even a Burman would be likely to covet it. Mr. Judson himself slept on it for some time while in prison, but was ultimately robbed of it by the native gaolers. One of these men, after stripping off the covering, threw the pillow itself away because of its hardness; and a native convert, who happened in the providence of God to be passing by, picked it up. He preserved it; and months afterwards, when Mr. Judson was set at liberty, he obtained possession of the precious manuscript once more.

As soon as Mrs. Judson regained a share of liberty, she went daily to the "death-prison" to see her husband, and to carry him, and Dr. Price, food. The house had been plundered of everything valuable; but she managed to hide a little silver, else both she and her husband would have starved, for the Burmese government regarded foreigners as rebels, and all their property as confiscated. She sought to present a petition to the queen, but was denied the opportunity; and when she addressed herself to the sister-in-law of the queen, the appeal brought no mitigation of the sorrow. Day after day, she was found at the prison, or at the palaces of the authorities; and this continued for about eighteen months. And when Mr. Judson was smitten with fever, she obtained permission from the governor to build a bamboo hut in the prison court-yard, which she did with her own hands. Here she tended him daily, and watched him eat the little food she could procure for him, with fear and trembling, because of the thievish propensities of the gaolers. This lasted for about a year and a half, and she had but five faithful friends in all that great city. These were, Moung Ing, a native convert, and her four little Burman girls; but these last added also to her cares. Beside them, she had an infant a few months old at the breast; but all other considerations were overpowered by the facts of her husband's extreme misery and danger. She says: "So entirely was I engrossed with present scenes and sufferings, that I seldom reflected on a single occurrence of my former life, or recollected that I had a friend in existence out of Ava."

One morning, all unexpectedly, Mrs. Judson was summoned away from her husband into the governor's presence, and while there Mr. Judson was taken, tied up with a gang of prisoners, and driven eight miles across the country, bare-headed and bare-footed, to Amarapoora. This march was so dreadful in the heat, that one of the prisoners dropped dead. Nothing daunted, this devoted woman followed her husband, carrying her infant in her arms, and accompanied by the faithful servant, and the little Burman girls. She found Mr. Judson and his companions chained with heavy fetters, and almost dead with fever and exhaustion. They were confined in a filthy native hut, and the rumour went forth that prisoners, hut and all, were destined to be consumed in one common conflagration. Just then, the little native scholars took the small pox; and a few days later, the infant sickened with it too. At this juncture, Mrs. Judson returned to Ava for medicines, both for her husband and party, when the exhaustion, anxiety, and exposure to the heat united to lay her low also with malignant fever. Some friends, "faithful among the faithless found," ministered to the stricken wife in her deep affliction, although delirium prevented her knowing any one for some time. Her head was shaved, and blisters applied to it, as well as to her feet. For two months she lay thus, and when recovery came back slowly, the first news that met her ears was to the effect that her husband had not been burned, but had been dragged back again to become a tenant of the horrible "death-prison."

But deliverance was to come, by means of the victorious English troops. The English army advanced upon Ava; and in order to save the city, the Burmese consented to submit to humiliating stipulations. It was known and understood that Mrs. Judson, by means of her representations of the English power, and her eloquent persuasions had contributed more than any one or anything else to induce the Burmese to sue for peace. The king sent for Mr. Judson and required him to write despatches to the English, asking for peace. He and Dr. Price were also empowered to treat with General Campbell for this purpose, and bore back the message that the English would spare the city, provided that the Burmese government would pay a fine of one hundred lacs of rupees, and liberate all the foreign prisoners. These conditions were acceded to, and Sir Archibald Campbell at once received the whole of the mission prisoners, and entertained them in the English camp with marked honours.

After a short stay in the English camp, Mr. and Mrs. Judson went to Rangoon to ascertain the fate of the native church there. All the converts had been scattered, with a few exceptions, by the war, and those that remained faithful, decided to accompany the missionaries to Amherst, where, under British protection, they would be allowed to settle in safety. Here, accordingly, they soon settled down, and without delay, they resumed mission work, hoping and longing to be able to accomplish the ends for which they went out. After the mission family was settled in a comfortable and convenient house, Mr. Judson was somewhat unexpectedly summoned away to assist in concluding the negotiations by which peace was to be secured on a firm basis, and toleration secured for all missionary residents.

Mrs. Judson urged her husband to assist in this good work, and saw him depart for Ava, little dreaming that the separation would be final; but, in God's providence, it was so.

Mr. Judson departed on July 5th, 1826, and in October of the same year, Mrs. Judson was seized by a virulent fever, and with shattered strength she was unable to withstand its attacks. The surgeons and officers of the 45th regiment of the English army stationed at Amherst, did all in their power to avert the end, while the wife of one of the men nursed her with unremitting attention. But all was unavailing. Her strength rapidly declined, and her mind wandered, but in her delirious utterances it was evident that the salvation of the Burmese lay near her heart. She especially longed to see her husband once more. "The teacher is long in coming," she said, during one lucid interval; "I must die alone, and leave my little one; but as it is the will of God, I acquiesce in His will." She rapidly sank, and on the evening of the 24th of October she passed to her reward.

She was buried at Amherst, with all the honours which could be shown both by the civil and military English officials; and soon after, a monument was sent from Boston to mark the spot. It has been well said: "Her name will be remembered in the churches of Burmah in future times, when the pagodas of Gaudama shall have fallen; when the spires of Christian temples shall gleam along the waters of the Irrawaddy and Salwen, and when the Golden City shall have lifted up her gates to let the King of Glory in."

Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Heroines of the Mission Field: Biographical sketches... by Emma Raymond Pitman. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., [1880?]

More Information on Ann Judson

Missionary Biographies Index

 Copyright ©2018 Wholesome Words. All Rights Reserved.