Billy Graham Center
Collection 534 - Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen. T4 Transcript
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview with Marguerite Elizabeth (Goodner) Owen (CN 534, T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing.
There is intermittent bumping of microphone and the furniture on which the microphone rested throughout the interview.
Chinese place names are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, "Peking" is used instead of "Beijing," if that is how the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which would be understood were spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliteration form to which it corresponds.
Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
....Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( )Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ]Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcript, made by Bob Shuster and Jeff Aernie, was completed in November 2005.
Collection 534, T4. Interview of Marguerite Owen by Bob Shuster, June 6, 1997.
Archivist Note: This is a continuation of an interview on tape in collection 534 tape three. There is slight overlap from the end of that tape and the beginning of this tape.
OWEN: ...work of...she didn't do the speaking...I did all the speaking.
SHUSTER: What do you mean individual work?
OWEN: She would taught...help them to read or talk...deal with them one to one or talk to them about their problems. I did too but she did also that. But the thing is, she was with me, she could tell me what I could or couldn't do.
SHUSTER: This was Miss Wong?
OWEN: Ms. Wong. She was in her forties, I think. I was by this time twenty-eight, thirty, something like that. This was in 1938 in the spring. And this one instance in [name of Chinese village] where I spoke every morning, I taught them a son...hymn and I gave them a Bible lesson. And then Miss Wong and I taught individuals to read and...for dinner they brought what they had. And mostly it was a cold steamed roll, maybe some salted vegetables, maybe...maybe a pickled egg. But such poor food. It just broke my heart. It was one...it is one of the poorest regions of Honan. It's what they called the soda district. I mean, the land just doesn't produce well.
SHUSTER: The soda district?
OWEN: Soda, yes. It has alkaline soil. And it's...it's very poor soil. But they were so enthusiastic. They would say.... And a lot of them would go home at night and be beaten for having gone off all day to Bible....
SHUSTER: Beaten by their husbands?
OWEN: Husbands. Now their fathers or their...mostly their husbands. And my heart ached for them. But they were so grateful for the truth and they were so responsive. Well, at night they had people that lived in the town and at that time lot of men would come in and I would preach to them. But I had this room which would hold about forty or fifty people. It was a school room of a church building and I had little saucer of oil which just a little string across it. That's all the light I had. And I could...I could see to read my Bible and I could see the people in the front row. But I couldn't see anybody else...it was just that little.... But it was just so refreshing to have people that were so hungry. But what really touched me more than anything was when I was...I told them on the next day that I have to go to the next place, that was where we were going to dedicate the little church. I didn't know at that time we were going to dedicate it, we just knew we were gonna be there. And they came that afternoon bringing gifts to me. I said to Miss Wong, "I can't take these things." One brought the only egg her hen had produced that week. One brought the big sweet potato that was their prize and they had been keeping it, but they wanted to give it to me. One brought two carrots and one brought a turnip. And then one brought a...two handfuls in a...in a clean piece of cloth...of white flour. They don't use the white except for weddings or banquets or things like that. They use the coarse [Chinese word] which is a grain. I don't know just what grain it would be in...in.... And I said, "I can't take these." She said...[Owen's Chinese name] said, "You must take them because if you don't you'll hurt their feelings." And I said, "But I can't write them thank you notes. How can I let them know I appreciate it." She said, "Eat everything here tonight." And it was enough that...we...the two of us could eat. And she said, "Everyone in the village will watch you eat it." [Shuster chuckles]. I mean...and they will know that you enjoyed it and they will tell...the word will get out that you really appreciated their gift. So that's what we did. That night...we stirred up the egg with the vegetables chopped up and had the sweet potato and we ate it with great glee which I.... It was good...it was very good...and all the vill...we even gave tastes to some of the villagers who were closer in...the ones that lived in the town. And I trust and hope that I thanked them cause I never saw any of them again.
SHUSTER: You mentioned how in this case many of them would go home and be beaten for attending and that perhaps happened in other places as well.
OWEN: Oh, yes.
SHUSTER: Did it ever happen that the men would protest that you were holding this meeting or that...
SHUSTER: ...some kind of pressure poured on you?
OWEN: No, no. Not on us. They...after all we were foreigners and they...they didn't bother with foreigners at all. I mean they left us alone. That's why it was so hard for us. That's when we had to leave China eventually...this is jumping a long way. They were not putting pressure on us they put pressure on the Chinese. And so you tried not...in this case of course we didn't put any pressure on the Chinese nor did...they themselves wanted to come. And we couldn't say...not all of them were beaten just a few of them. But all of them had...some of them would not be given any food when they got home. That's what they would do, they just wouldn't save anything for them.
SHUSTER: But there never be any attempt here or elsewhere to keep you from holding meetings?
OWEN: No, no. No, no. Not at all. That was in the days when the foreigners were still...were respected throughout all China. We had...there was no anti-American feeling or anti-foreign feeling, at least in these backward countries. But when I...I went back to the city of Chowkiakow.... And then...that summer....
SHUSTER: This would be the summer of ‘38?
OWEN: Of ‘38. I needed to have dentistry done and also my very good friend Olive Huston was going marry to marry Theodore Fischbacher and wanted me to be the bridesmaid in Hangchow. So I asked the superintendent. I said, "I would like to go to Hangchow. I need to go for dentistry and I liked to go to be a bridesmaid. Which excuse should I give?" He said, "Use the dentistry."
SHUSTER: And who was that?
OWEN: That was my superintendent Mr. [H. A.] Weller. He...when he...he came down to every station, you know, periodically. So I went to Chowkiakow...I went to Hangchow. I never got back to Chowkiakow...when I...after...
SHUSTER: Aft...go ahead.
OWEN: ...After the summer when I started back up train I got to the rural head where you got off for Chowkiakow...they said, "You can't go back. The place is absolutely flooded all over that whole area." That's where the dikes of the Yellow River were broken. And all....
SHUSTER: To stop the Chinese...stop the Japanese?
OWEN: To stop the Japanese. And it did stop them. It was a...far as that concerned, it was an effective military move but it was a horrible move for the people. So my life changed from then on.
SHUSTER: And so where was your next station?
OWEN: My next station was...where I was there in Yencheng in the center for two months.
SHUSTER: Okay I....I wanted to ask you a coup...a couple other things you mentioned before.
SHUSTER: You were...mentioned that J. Herbert Kane [see Billy Graham Center Archives collection 182] had been on the station with you. And you got to know him...
OWEN: Oh, very well, very well.
SHUSTER: We have some of his papers and Winnifred's papers and interviews with both of them in the Archives as well. So I'm curious how you would describe him. What...What kind of person was he?
OWEN: Oh, he was an amazing person. One that...I mean when you think that when he went to Moody he hadn't finished high school and that he got his doctorate and that he went on to write books and that he became the leader that he was. To me, he was an amazing person and a very delightful person. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He and I just kept like this all the time. We were always sparring back and forth little bits. And, well, he was a charming person and just as lovely as you could be they were.... And they were excellent missionaries in the short time that they had.
SHUSTER: What made them excellent?
OWEN: The fact that they were...they worked hard at the language. And that they really got in with the people. Bert very much so with the men. He just...he...and he had a...had a...partly it was his great personality. I mean he has an unusual personality. And....
SHUSTER: What's unusual about it?
OWEN: Well, I mean it was outgoing and fairly effervescent, not exu...not exuber...very sanguine and very...very friendly with people. And also he had a keen sense of humor but more than anything else as far as his success is concerned is his ability to drive, drive, drive. I mean he worked at language, he worked at this, he worked at that. And he was...he became a real leader in North Anhwei very much so. The last time I saw him he came to California and I was so glad to see him and I went toward him and he just hugged me with a great big hug and I said, "Oh, this is wonderful." [Shuster chuckles] I mean...he taught at Lancaster Bible College, you know, for a while [near the OMF retirement home when Owen was living] and I had been over there to speak a couple a times just to small classes. And I said something about Bert Kane. "Are you talking about Dr. J. Herbert Kane?" And I said, "Yes I am." That's...he was Bert to me. And they were a little bit appalled that I called him by that name. But that's the way he'd.... But they were dear friends. As a matter of fact, my husband had known them for a long time in Montreal. You see, my husband grew up in Montreal. And he had seen Bert come to the Lord and he...he welcomed them to Moody when they came to Moody. And they were...so I had a little entrance to them before they ever came because they had heard about me from Harry and so.... But he...they were charming people.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that he was a very effective leader. How do you mean that?
OWEN: I mean that he had ability to get people to help to do things. I mean, that's one thing. And another thing he...he...he could...he could initiate something and start it off and get it started. I mean...I...I saw him...the last time I saw him on the field was after we were married. And when we came through Fowyang, he was in charge of the station. And I mean I could see him with the whole eld...the elders and all, you know, talking business and all. You could see that he really was a leader. They all respected him and they all listened...looked up to him. And he got people to do things too. He was very...he was very...getting people doing things. When he heard that I was getting married.... The Chinese...when the Chinese...of course, I had been in that station when I was young , you see, two years. So they all knew me as Miss Goodner. And they...so they came and they said, "We want to know about the...this...we hear she's going to get married." "Yes." "How do you arrange marriages in...in...in...foreigners?" And they said, "Do you have a [Chinese word]? Or who asks who?"
SHUSTER: Do you have a what?
OWEN: Do you have middleman?
SHUSTER: Oh, middleman.
OWEN: He said, "Do you...well, how do they get together?" And he said, "Well, usually the man asks the woman." He said...they said, "Well, who asked in this case?" He said, "I wouldn't be sure." [both chuckle]. I told him afterwards, "Bert...!" But, I mean, he was a dear friend. And I just...I...I miss him. I visited their home in...in...out by la...out by the Seminary [possibly referring to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where Kane taught from 1967-1980]. And I also was in their home in Montreal when they were on a furlough once way back. And also I...they came to our Chicago prayer meeting quite frequently when we were in charge in Chicago.
SHUSTER: Let me ask you too about the mission itself in Anhwei and Honan. How did it function? I mean, how did the missionaries work together? How did you plan your work?
OWEN: Well, it was very well organized. We had a superintendent over the whole province. Both...[H. A.] Weller was the superintendent over there and [W. J.] Hanna was the superintendent in here...in Anhwei, the two. But each big center had a senior missionary who coordinated the work of the missionaries under him. Now in North Anhwei, while I was there the Glitten...Mr. Glittenberg was sort of the senior missionary and there...under him there were three stations of single ladies. Not in this...Taiho and Yingshang and the third one was [name of village]...those three. And anything that we planned to do outside of just the regular gospel work we consulted with him. And every year there was a conference held in Fowyang because that was a center place.
SHUSTER: For the province?
OWEN: For the province...not the province...for the North Anhwei we had a section. We were an area. He wasn't over...then there was a central one and then there was a southern one but this was North Anhwei. And we had Chengyangkwan, [Chinese name], Taiho, Kwoyang, and Fowyang, five stations. And they...the missionaries from all those stations would come together. And we'd several days of spiritual blessing and retreat and then also reports on the work. And also comparisons about what we could do about this and all practical details as well. But mostly it was for our own spiritual refreshment and well being that...because we wouldn't get cut off, just two here and two there and two here, you see. And it was...it worked very well because throughout all of North Anhwei all of us knew each other. And we all knew what we were doing. Now, for instance, when I was in Kwoyang with Ruth Nowak we wanted to have a vacation Bible school. But the two of us, we had...we thought we'd draw and we did draw a good crowd of kids. But Mabel and Francis Williamson, who had already had theirs, said they'd come over and help us. So there was four of us working together. It happens that Ruth and I are tall and Mabel and Francis are short. So they said, "[Chinese phrase]." "Little foreign devils, big foreign devils." [chuckles]
SHUSTER: Who said that? The Chinese kids?
OWEN: Chinese kids, uh-huh. But we had wonderful fellowship all of us. And one of the things that I was the most thrilled with, I went home before most of them, because some had already been home and come back. So when I went home in 1941, it was just when the Japanese war was hotting up...just before Pearl Harbor actually. And they had an ordinary North Anhwei conference and they sent me a very special letter and...which all of them signed and also some pictures of their conference and all and they said, "We all miss you." And I felt very special.
SHUSTER: From your experience how did the mission handle personality conflicts between missionaries or if a missionary was having trouble adjusting, what...?
OWEN: Different ways. Sometimes I think they did a very good job, sometimes I think they didn't do too well. The... a lot depended on where...what the situation was about. Since all the principals are dead, I can talk about it now. But one of things that hit me the hardest was in my second year in Fowyang. Mr. Glittenberg was the senior missionary but Miss Edna Larsen was sent there as a Bible teacher and she was an excellent Bible teacher and her Chinese was excellent. Now Mr. Glittenberg's speaking Chinese was good but he wasn't a preacher or teacher. He was a business manager. And he was very good at that.
OWEN: Administrator. And he came...but he was in charge of the church at that time because there was no one else. Well, when Miss Larsen came, the Chinese just were thrilled with her language and her Bible teaching and they flocked to her. And he thought...Mr. Glittenberg thought that she was undermining, which she wouldn't do a bit. She didn't care a bit about who was administrator or who was top. But the Chinese made such a fuss over her that he became jealous. I'm sure that was it. And a man over a woman, that's and all...and when the superintendent came he gave him this whole big rub that she was undermining his influence in the church and it was very...and a whole bunch of things. And one of the people that was most effected was Pung Wei Fong [?], who was our Bible woman. And she was also utterly attached to Miss Larsen...completely so. And so the upshot was that the mission asked...told Miss Larsen to move to Chowkiakow Bible school and Pung Wei Fong [?] went with her. Well, in the process before that was actually done....
SHUSTER: Now with something like that...the administrator would decide that? Or the senior missionaries would get together and debate it?
OWEN: No, no. It was...it came from headquarters. I mean, the superintendent reported to the headquarters. And I went over one day while it was...before it was decided but when we knew that there was this opposition. Because I was a young missionary, the new one, there the Glittenbergs tried to pump me up and I would not tell them anything that I...because there wasn't anything to tell. But I when home that day from around this corner around over to my place saying, "Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne." You know?
OWEN: "Truth forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne." That was just ringing in my mind. And I thought, "Lord this is awful," but it turned out for blessing because she was sent to place where she had much more scope for her teaching. And Miss Pung and was greatly helped there too. And they became a blessing and the. But the Chinese were, oh...they just felt terrible. And of one things was they went to the superintendent and asked if they could keep Miss Larsen. And his...he used this expression in Chinese, "You Chinese do it one way, we foreigners..." Well, that was separating us. Something we tried never to do. And....
SHUSTER: He said, "You Chinese do things one way and we foreigners do it another way"?
OWEN: This way. Yes. Exactly.
SHUSTER: Yeah, yeah.
OWEN: But he made a distinction between us instead of being one body in Christ. We had tried to say we were all one. Then that summer that superintendent went home for furlough and died. And the Chinese all said, "It's the will of God. It's the will God. [Chinese phrase]." We thought that was not the...didn't...the proper response, but that was their attitude. They thought they'd been deprived of a good Bible teacher for no reason that they could see. And...but it's one of things that happened. Now many, many times there are...the executives are very...if there's a conflict they call both parties in and talk to them together or they talk to each one, but they never consulted Miss Larsen at all. I mean, they just consulted Mr. Glittenberg because he was...the superintendent talked to him. Never talked to the woman part of it, you see.
SHUSTER: So that was an unusual way of handling for the mission?
OWEN: It was. I mean, usually they don't do it that way but.... I mean...but it was...really I blame the superintendent because I mean, he could of...I don't think he ever talked to Miss Larsen about it all. In fact, as far as I know he didn't. And we were all...and of course we...but I realized though they had....
SHUSTER: You don't want to cover up the microphone.
OWEN: Oh, I realized that they had gotten an entirely wrong impression in Shanghai. I went down on other business in the summer. And I was interviewed by one of the...one of the sweetest and most meekest of the executives and I loved him.
SHUSTER: Who was that?
OWEN: Mr. [William H.] Warren. He's long with the Lord [deceased]. And he...he...I was gonna tell him all this how I felt was unjust. But I...he started off and he said, "How are things going?" I said, "Oh, Mr. Warren, we four single ladies have the most wonderful union and most communion." And he jumped on me, "Why didn't you include all the others?" I said, "Well, they live in a different house." But I said, "I'm not telling anymore. I'm not saying anything." Because I could see already that there's a prejudice against us...the four single ladies against...it wasn't...we weren't united...we weren't that way...we just loved each other and we worked together. So I thought that was one case were the information given to the headquarters was not all accurate. And sometimes it isn't. But many time...but the mission tries to be fair...they.... I know that. Cause there's a lot of times when...difficulties and they ask both parties and they say, "Now what would you do about this or what would you do about that? Or how can you?.... [tape silent for a moment]
SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview of Mrs. Marguerite Goodner Shu...Owen on June 6, 1997. You were talking some about life in the mission and some of the ways that difficulties were resolved and some of the fellowship between missionaries. What about relations between Chinese leadership and the mission leadership?
OWEN: In some places it was wonderful. Some places it was just an absolute unity of missionshood [?]. Now when Bert Kane was in...in Fowyang in leadership, he and Pastor Wu just had a wonderful relationship there. And in several places I know the same. In some places the...especially in earlier years, Elder Hu [?] who was in Anhwei but had been in Honan, sometimes gave me a very interesting story about the old missionaries in Honan. There were five big centers and he said that the Chinese called them the five kings. And...because they.... In those early days the missionary ran everything, you know. I mean, all of the evangelists and all the colporteurs came and reported to the missionary and there was all...and he kept them all and so they were called the five kings of Honan. And one of them happened to be named Faw [sp?], so they called him [Chinese phrase] which is "pharaoh." And...but I'm sure they were godly men, but that was in the days when you were the...the over...the...like the colonial...the...what's the word I want...it's not col...
SHUSTER: Colonial governor?
OWEN: Yes. Like...it's...paternalistic. That's the...that was the way it was done but in...it was changing very much in my day. I was in the...right in the middle of the transition. And later it wasn't that at all. In fact, now it's almost underneath the Chinese. Now when we went to Kunming years later we were under the church board. I mean, we got our direction from ...from the pastor and the board of elders...deacons, whatever they said...why, whatever they wanted us to do, that's what we did. And some of them...a lot of them I know of my generation and after were like working two together. And that's what I said of Bert Kane.
SHUSTER: Working two together with the Chinese?
OWEN: Yes. It was...it was...it was...it was a development because, I mean, it's the whole change from the old colonial days...days to the present days.
OWEN: But I never saw any conflict between Chinese and American. If they had a conflict they kept it hidden, I mean...they didn't...I mean... like they teased it out...if they talked about us as kings, but they didn't have any idea of rebelling, it's just that they were kings and, "We have to do what they say," sort of idea.
SHUSTER: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. When you went back to the United States on furlough at times during this time and talked to people about your work in China and the church in China and the work of the mission, what kind of impressions did Americans have of what was happening in China among the...among the church?
OWEN: Well, they...the people that I talked to, of course, were missionary-minded mostly. Of course, I did talk to...I told the story of [name of young Chinese girl] and Pung Wei Fong [?] and I told the story of [name of a Chinese person] and I told the story of Mr....well, I haven't come to that yet.... My marriage there is two or three stories out of that time. And I would tell those stories and they rejoiced at this.... And some of them...I didn't have any horror stories to tell. I mean, I was...I had some scary stories to tell...the...the travel across the Yellow...floods with bandits shooting at you but that was...that was just...that just a...happen so[sic]. I mean, really it wasn't... And also I didn't...I wasn't ever captured by bandits or tortured or any...and there was night when I lay all night listening to the guns firing and thinking that the bandits were quite near to me. And they were but they never came near me. I didn't have.... But I didn't.... So I didn't.... And I tried not to tell...in my deputation work, I really did an awful lot of it. Harry had several good stories to tell of...of the work after we got married and some from Honan from way back. And when we got home after a month with my family we went and spent three months in his home in Montreal and then the mission sent on the entire east coast deputation thing. We went from place to place to place and we rode by bus in those days. And we would get in one place one night and have an afternoon meeting and then we have...eat with supper and the next morning go out and just.... But it was wonderful. And we had really good response. And from it we got a lot of prayer partners.
SHUSTER: What kind of impressions or viewpoints did people have of the church in China or...?
OWEN: Well, most of them, of course, thought they were...that they were completely heathen, which, of course, in one sense they were. I mean...but, I mean, they had the idea that they were ignorant and not, you know..... The Chinese are really a very cultured people even though they're heathen...I mean, they're heathen in the sense of spiritually, but they're not pagan in the sense of being like...like some places in Africa. And we tried....
SHUSTER: They had a high level of civilization.
OWEN: Yes. A high level of civilization. And their writing and their art and actually their Confucian ethic of politeness sometimes embarrasses us. I mean, we're not as good as they are. But most people were very thrilled to hear that people were being saved. That's the main the thing. And that's what we, of course, were emphasizing. And we were emphasizing how people were changed and how life was changed for people.
SHUSTER: So did you find there was...so there was support but not a great deal of understanding?
OWEN: I found.... Yes. I think their understanding grew but I think there was a good deal of support. I mean, of course, we only went where we were invited.
OWEN: And, of course, if they invited us they must be interested in missions to a certain degree. And at that stage...1941...'42, the CIM was well known everywhere, almost everywhere. We had an entrance...entrance that lots of people didn't have. We went on one deputation trip up the coast of California, which we were in all kinds of churches. Small...large...medium and mostly Evangelical. We got into few modern liberal type churches because they wanted to hear stories about China. But when they.... But we found that most of the places we went, they were really very concerned because they knew about the China Inland Mission. Now when they didn't know about it all, then we had a field day telling them about the background and all. But that was...that was rare that we were invited to those places. And we didn't go anywhere in those days without being invited, because we had more invitations than we could fill anyway. My husband...the first year we were home which was the year of Pearl Harbor...and my husband...well, the first year we traveled...but then the first year we settled. Then we were asked to take the home base in...home secretaryship in...regional director in Santa...in Los Angeles. And Harry was an excellent speaker. Oh, he was good. And he did not have a free Sunday in1942, morning or evening, except the month we went away. We went clear away from Los Angeles. People...at that time in Los Angeles, the only mission that had a headquarters there besides the CIM was the SIM [Sudan Interior Mission]. And they had just come in and we had been there since ‘26. So we had a foundation of prayer partners and prayer meetings and people who were interested. And so...and then besides...China...that was just about the time of the Japanese war. When we got there it was just after Pearl Harbor. And...so everybody wanted to know about China. And they all...and so he had...wanted to speak here...everywhere. Not only about the Chinese church but also about the Chinese situation. And he was very good at that. And we had...both of us had lots of meetings. More than we could take.
SHUSTER: Well, maybe that would be a good point to stop for today.
END OF TAPE
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