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Anne Hasseltine Judson: A Missionary Heroine

by Lydia H. Sigourney

Ann JudsonAnne Hasseltine Judson was born in 1780, in Bradford, Massachusetts. She was carefully educated, and became early distinguished for her deep and earnest religious character. In February 1812 she married Adoniram Judson, and in the same month sailed for Calcutta; her husband being appointed missionary to India. Soon after they reached Calcutta, they were ordered by the East India Company, who were opposed to all missionary labour among the natives, to quit the country. While waiting for an opportunity of leaving, Mr. and Mrs. Judson employed their time in investigating the subject of baptism; and being convinced that their previous opinions had been erroneous, they joined the Baptist Church at Calcutta. In July 1813, Mr. and Mrs. Judson arrived at Rangoon in Burmah, where for many years they laboured successfully and diligently in the cause of religion.

In 1821, in consequence of protracted ill health, Mrs. Judson returned alone to America, where she remained till 1823, when she rejoined her husband in Rangoon. Difficulties arising between the government of Bengal and the Burman empire, and the taking of Rangoon by the British in 1824, caused the imprisonment of Mr. Judson and several other foreigners who were at Ava, the capital of the Burman empire. For two years the inexpressible sufferings endured by these prisoners were alleviated by the constant care and exertions of Mrs. Judson; and it was owing in a great measure to her efforts that they were at last released.

In 1826, the missionary establishment was removed from Rangoon to Amherst; and in October of that year Mrs. Judson died of a fever during her husband's absence. The physician attributed the fatal termination of the disease to the injury her constitution had received from her long-protracted sufferings and severe privations at Ava. In about six months after her death, her only child, an infant daughter, was laid by her side. That some correct idea may be formed by those who have not read the memoir of Mrs. Judson, of the exertions and sufferings of this angelic woman, whose mission was to wear out her precious life for the preservation of others and the advancement of her Saviour's cause, we will give one extract from her "Narrative" of the imprisonment of  Mr. Judson, written in form of a letter to her brother-in-law.

Mrs. Judson at Oung-pen-la.

"The next morning I arose, and endeavoured to find something like food. But there was no market, and nothing to be procured. One of Dr. Price's friends, however, brought some cold rice and vegetable curry from Amarapura, which, together with a cup of tea from Mr. Lansago, answered for the breakfast of the prisoners; and for dinner we made a curry of dried salt fish, which a servant of Mr. Gouger had brought. All the money I could command in the world I had brought with me, secreted about my person; so you may judge what our prospects were, in case the war should continue long.

"But our Heavenly Father was better to us than our fears; for, notwithstanding the constant extortions of the jailers, during the whole six months we were at Oung-pen-la, and the frequent straits to which we were brought, we never really suffered for the want of money, though frequently for want of provisions, which were not procurable. Here at this place my personal bodily sufferings commenced. While your brother was confined in the city prison, I had been allowed to remain in our house, in which I had many conveniences left, and my health had continued good beyond all expectations. But now I had not a single article of convenience—not even a chair or seat of any kind, excepting a bamboo floor. The very morning after my arrival, Mary Hasseltine was taken with the small-pox, the natural way. She, though very young, was the only assistant I had in taking care of little Maria. But she now required all the time I could spare from Mr. Judson, whose fever still continued in prison, and whose feet were so dreadfully mangled, that for several days he was unable to move. I knew not what to do, for I could procure no assistance from the neighbourhood, or medicine for the sufferers, but was all day long going backwards and forwards from the house to the prison with little Maria in my arms. Sometimes I was greatly relieved by leaving her for an hour when asleep, by the side of her father, while I returned to the house to look after Mary, whose fever ran so high as to produce delirium. She was so completely covered with the small­pox, that there was no distinction in the pustules. As she was in the same little room with myself, I knew Maria would take it; I therefore inoculated her from another child, before Mary's had arrived at such a state as to be infectious. At the same time I inoculated Abby, and the jailer's children, who all had it so lightly as hardly to interrupt their play. But the inoculation in the arm of my poor little Maria did not take—she caught it of Mary, and had it the natural way. She was then only three months and a half old, and had been a most healthy child; but it was above three months before she perfectly recovered from the effects of this dreadful disorder.

"You will recollect I never had the small-pox, but was vaccinated previously to leaving America. In consequence of being for so long a time constantly exposed, I had nearly a hundred pustules formed, though no previous symptoms of fever, &c. The jailer's children having had the small-pox so lightly, in consequence of inoculation, my fame was spread all over the village, and every child, young and old, who had not previously had it, was brought for inoculation. And although I knew nothing about the disorder, or the mode of treating it, I inoculated them all with a needle, and told them to take care of their diet—all the instructions I could give them. Mr. Judson's health was gradually restored, and he found himself much more comfortably situated than when in the city prison.

"The prisoners were at first chained two and two; but as soon as the jailers could obtain chains sufficient, they were separated, and each prisoner had but one pair. The prison was repaired, a new fence made, and a large airy shed erected in front of the prison, where the prisoners were allowed to remain during the day, though locked up in the little close prison at night. All the children recovered from the small-pox; but my watchings and fatigue, together with my miserable food and more miserable lodgings, brought on one of the diseases of the country, which is almost always fatal to foreigners. My constitution seemed destroyed, and in a few days I became so weak as to be hardly able to walk, to Mr. Judson's prison. In this debilitated state I set off in a cart for Ava, to procure medicines, and some suitable food, leaving the cook to supply my place. I reached the house in safety, and for two or three days the disorder seemed at a stand; after which it attacked me so violently, that I had no hopes of recovery left—and my only anxiety now was, to return to Oung-pen-la, to die near the prison. It was with the greatest difficulty that I obtained the medicine-chest from the governor, and then had no one to administer medicine. I however got at the laudanum, and by taking two drops at a time for several hours, it so far checked the disorder as to enable me to get on board a boat, though so weak that I could not stand, and again set off for Oung-pen-la."

To show the estimate in which the services and talents of Mrs. Judson were held by the British residents of India, we will give the statement made by one of the English prisoners confined at Ava with Mr. Judson. It was published in a Calcutta paper.

"Mrs. Judson was the author of those eloquent and forcible appeals to the government, which prepared them by degrees for submission to terms of peace never expected by any who knew the hauteur and inflexible pride of the Burman court.

"And while on this subject, the overflowings of grateful feelings on behalf of myself and fellow-prisoners compel me to add a tribute of public thanks to that amiable and humane female, who, though living at a distance of two miles from our prison, without any means of conveyance, and very feeble in health, forgot her own comfort and infirmity, and almost every day visited us, sought out and administered to our wants, and contributed in every way to alleviate our misery.

"While we were all left by the government destitute of food, she, with unwearied perseverance, by some means or other, obtained for us a constant supply.

"When the tattered state of our clothes evinced the extremity of our distress, she was ever ready to replenish our scanty wardrobe.

"When the unfeeling avarice of our keepers confined us inside, or made our feet fast in the stocks, she, like a ministering angel, never ceased her applications to the government, until she was authorized to communicate to us the grateful news of our enlargement, or of a respite from our galling oppressions.

"Besides all this, it was unquestionably owing, in a chief degree, to the repeated eloquence and forcible appeals of Mrs. Judson, that the untutored Burman was finally made willing to secure the welfare and happiness of his country by a sincere peace."

Mrs. Ann H. Judson was the first American woman who resolved to leave her friends and country to bear the gospel to the heathen in foreign climes. Well does she merit the reverence and love of all Christians; nor can the nineteenth century furnish the record of a woman who so truly deserves the title—a missionary heroine.

From Great and Good Women: Biographies for Girls by Lydia H. Sigourney. Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, [187-].

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