Billy Graham Center

Ephemera of Isobel Miller Kuhn - Collection 435


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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Isobel Kuhn

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Negatives, Photo Albums, and Photographs in This Collection (Location Records)
    Photo Albums
List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)

Brief Description.
Correspondence, newsletters, articles, negatives, and photographs which have to do with the work of Isobel and John Kuhn, primarily among the Lisu people in China and Thailand. Information on daughter and son-in-law Kathryn and Donald Rulison, and co-workers Allyn and Esther Cooke is also in the collection. The topics discussed in the letters include travel in China, missions work, their marriage, birth of daughter and son, cultural differences, advance of communists into the Lisu area, biographical sketches of co-workers Mary Baldock, Frances Bailey, Lilian Hamer, and Eileen O'Rourke.

Collection 435 [September 30, 2007]
Kuhn, Isobel Selina Miller; 1901-1957
Ephemera; 1927-1983
1 Box (DC; .25 cubic feet); Negatives, Photographs


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Full name: Isobel Selina Miller Kuhn
Birth date: December 17, 1901
Birth place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Parents: Sam and Alice Miller
Marital status: married to John Becker Kuhn, November 4, 1929, in Kunming, China
Children: Kathryn Alice-Ann (Mrs. Donald Rulison), 1931; Daniel Kreadman; 1943.


  • 1922 With honors in English Language and Literature, University of British Columbia
  • 1926 Moody Bible Institute, valedictorian


  • 1923 Taught third grade, Cecil Rhodes School, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1923
  • 1928-1957 Overseas Missionary Fellowship (China Inland Mission) worker, 1928-1957. Worked with her husband John among the Lisu people of China, Thailand and Burma. Their work involved church planting, Bible teaching, holding Bible classes for church leaders (Men and women), and Bible translation. In addition, Isobel published eight popular books in the United States about her Christian walk and experiences as a missionary.
  • 1929-1930 Chengchiang, Yunnan, China
  • 1930-1934 Tali, Yunnan, China
  • 1934-1944 Oak Flat, Yunnan, China.
  • 1944-1947 Furlough in the United States (John returned to China a year earlier, in 1946; Isobel followed the next year with the two children.)
  • 1947-1948 Oak Flat, Yunnan, China
  • 1948-1950 Village of Olives, Yunnan, China
  • 1950-1952 Left China because of the Communist rise to power and went to Wheaton, Illinois, USA. John stayed in Yunnan an additional year and then rejoined the family in 1951
  • 1952-1954 Chiengmai, Thailand. Still working among the Lisu people
  • 1954-1957 Diagnosed with Cancer in 1954. The family returned to the United States in November of that year and moved back to Wheaton. While in the United States she wrote several of her books.

    Death: March 20, 1957

    Author of:

  • Ascent to the Tribes: Pioneering in North Thailand
  • By Searching
  • Green Leaf in Drought: the Story of the Escape of the Last CIM Missionaries from Communist China
  • In the Arena
  • Nests Above the Abyss
  • Precious Things of the Lasting Hills
  • Second Mile People
  • Stones of Fire
  • ...and others

    Scope and Content

    The materials in this collection consist of personal correspondence, prayer letters, articles, negatives, and photographs documenting the work of Isobel and John Kuhn. Folder 1-2 contains the personal correspondence and prayer letters written to family, friends, and supporters from 1927 to 1957. The earliest letter, written by John from the Training Home in Anking, China, mentions the expected evacuation of Anking in 1927. Later that same year, however, John wrote from Anking about a revival at the Home and announced his assignment to Yunnan Province as well as his engagement to Isobel. Later letters describe his work and the church in Chengkiang, Yunnan (August 10, 1929), the birth of their daughter Kathryn (April 25, 1931), and his trip among the Lisu (May 20, 1934).

    Also in folder 1-2 are Isobel's letters, the earliest of which describes her ocean trip to China in 1928. Other letters cover the language school, evangelistic opportunities, an amusing account of a church service which illustrates cultural differences between the Chinese and westerners, and meeting Theodore Roosevelt's sons, Theodore Jr. and Kermit Roosevelt (1929). After the Kuhn's marriage, the letters were often signed by both Isobel and John and give accounts of the activities of both, including work in Tali, Yunnan, China (1931); the advance of the communists on Yunnanfu and the missionaries' evacuation from Tali at that time (May 8, 1936), traveling to Vancouver, BC, on furlough (June 4, 1936, July 1936), and the birth of their son, Daniel (August 2, 1943). There is a hand-drawn map of the area around Tali (April 1931). Biographical sketches of co-workers Mary Baldock, Lilian Hamer, Frances Bailey, Eileen O'Rourke are attached to 1955 New Year's greetings. Prayer letters written by Isobel from Wheaton from 1955 to 1957 include reports of OMF activities in Thailand. Isobel's funeral service at College Church includes the printed message brought by Dr. Carl Armerding.

    Folder 1-1 contains two articles from The Millions, one titled "The Secret of Endurance" by Mrs. Howard Taylor (October 1954) and the other includes a testimony of Isobel's daughter, Kathryn Kuhn (December 1954). A prayer letter by Esther and Allyn Cooke, co-workers of the Kuhns, in which John Kuhn is mentioned, is in folder 1-4. Folder 1-5 has two prayer letters, an article, and pictures of Kathryn Kuhn Rulison, her husband and children. Folder 1-3 has several lists of negatives, some of which are sections from letters, only two of which are dated. The lists do not match the strips of negatives which are in the Negative File, though some descriptions do match some negatives.

    The negatives and photographs include pictures of Isobel and John as well as their children, co-workers, and missionary activities among the Lisu.



    The materials in this collection were received by the Archives of the Billy Graham Center from Overseas Missionary Fellowship in April 1982; from Samuel H. Chao in February 1984 and July 1986; and from Charlotte Shannon in October 1985.

    Accession 82-60, 84-35, 85-141, 86-85
    March 7, 1995
    Janyce H. Nasgowitz

    Accession 86-85
    Type of Material: Negatives
    The following items are located in the NEGATIVE FILE: Request by folder title at the beginning of the entry below:

    KUHN, ISOBEL AND JOHN. Black and white negatives of Isobel and John Kuhn, individually, together, and with other people, including their daughter Kathryn and son Daniel; groups of fellow missionaries; and views of missionary work among the Lisu in China and of Lisu converts, servants, and students. 190 b&w, 1952, n.d.


    Accession 84-35
    Type of Material: Photo Album
    The following items are located in the PHOTO ALBUM FILE unless otherwise noted. Request by the boldfaced folder titles at the beginning of each entry below:

    KUHN, ISOBEL AND JOHN. Black and white photographs of Lisu tribal people of Oak Flat, Yunnan, China, pasted on a scrapbook page. Two photos include John Kuhn. There is a map of Southwest China taken from the 1937 issue of China Millions. 13 b&w, n.d.


    Accession 84-35, 85-141, 86-85
    Type of Material: Photographs
    The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE unless otherwise noted. Request by the boldfaced folder titles at the beginning of each entry below:

    KUHN, ISOBEL AND JOHN. Black and white photographs of Isobel and John Kuhn, individually, together, and with other people, including their daughter Kathryn and son Daniel. There are groups of fellow missionaries, mostly unidentified. There is one photo of a 1937 missionary conference at Lancaster, PA, which includes Austin Paul and Betty Sywulka of Africa Inland Mission (AIM); a missionary card; as well as photos of missionary work among the Lisu in China and of Lisu converts, servants, and students. 67 b&w, 1946, 1949, n.d.

    OVERSEAS MISSIONARY FELLOWSHIP--PRAYER GROUP. Two photos of OMF prayer group in Wheaton, IL. One includes in the group Jennie Fitzwilliam and the other includes Ella Graham, who nursed Isobel Kuhn during her last illness. 1 b&w, 1 color, 1972, 1974.

    Box Folder Folder titles
    1 1 Articles--The Millions; Oct and Dec 1954
    1 2 Correspondence, prayer letters; 1927-1957
    1 3 Lists of negatives; 1953, 1954, n.d.
    1 4 Newsletter--Cooke, Esther and Allyn; Mar 20, 1950
    1 5 Newsletters and article--Rulison, Kathryn and Donald; 1959-1983.
    1 6 Stamps--Thailand; n.d.

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    Last Revised: 4/18/01
    Expiration: indefinite