The Life of Gladys Aylward

  • Birth & Childhood

    Birth & Childhood
    Gladys was born on February 24, 1902 to Thomas and Rosina Aylward. They lived in Edmonton, a suburb of London. They were not a wealthy family, but she had a happy childhood along with her two younger siblings, Violet and Laurence. The family regularly attended church.
  • Working in London

    Working in London
    Gladys left school and began working at age 14. During the 1920s, she moved to the West End of London and worked as a parlor maid. In her free time, Gladys loved visiting the theatre, taking acting classes, and going to dances with her friends.
  • Conversion

    One evening, on the way to dance with friends, Gladys got caught up in a crowd and shuffled into a service at a church. The speaker was talking about missions, and it was in the weeks following that meeting that Gladys gave her life to Christ, desiring to spend the rest of it serving Him.
  • Calling

    Gladys' interest in China began when reading a magazine that talked about how millions in China had never heard the gospel. After being unable to find anyone else willing to go, Gladys prayed, "Lord Jesus, if you will open the way and show me how, I will go myself, [and] I will never again ask anyone to do something that I believe you are asking me, the person Gladys Aylward, to do."
  • Training and Preparation

    Training and Preparation
    She began to prepare herself by practicing at Speakers' Corner, by a brief time at the CIM Bible College (before being rejected as unfit for the program), and by saving money to buy her own fare to China. She made contact with an elderly missionary widow in China named Jeannie Lawson, and Gladys was invited to join her in the work there.
  • The Journey to China Begins

    The Journey to China Begins
    Gladys' family dropped her off at Liverpool Street Station to begin her journey to China by train. The journey took 27 days, and there were many times along the way that it looked like she wouldn't make it at all, like when the train stopped in the middle of the Siberian forest due to threat from war further down the tracks. In this instance, Gladys was forced to walk through the freezing night and try to make it back to the previous station.
  • Arrival in China & the Inn of Eight Happinesses

    Arrival in China & the Inn of Eight Happinesses
    After finally reaching China, Gladys traveled to meet Mrs. Lawson in the city of Yangcheng. As she learned the culture and language, she helped Mrs. Lawson begin the ministry of an inn for muleteers known as the Inn of Eight Happinesses.
  • Death of Mrs. Lawson & Position of Foot Inspector

    Death of Mrs. Lawson & Position of Foot Inspector
    Mrs. Lawson passed away on November 23, 1933, and for a time it seemed if only Gladys and Yang, the inn's cook, would be there to continue the ministry, but now without the financial support from the pensions sent to Mrs. Lawson. Then Lord provided Gladys with the position of Foot Inspector, which allowed her to build more connections and respect with the people all while receiving a little something to support herself.
  • Taking in Orphans

    Taking in Orphans
    Gladys began to take in orphans after having a baby practically thrust into her care.
  • Chinese Citizenship

    Chinese Citizenship
    Desiring to fully embrace her life in China, Gladys destroyed her English passport and became a Chinese citizen.
  • War Reaches Yangcheng

    War Reaches Yangcheng
    Though Japan had already invaded China the previous year, it wasn't until 1938 that war reached Yangcheng in the form of Japanese aircraft viciously bombing the city.
  • Trek to Safety with 100 Children

    Trek to Safety with 100 Children
    As danger escalated with the war raging between China and Japan, Gladys had to almost single-handedly lead a group of over 100 children on a treacherous journey through the mountains to a safer city.
  • Arrival with the Children & Gladys' Illness

    Arrival with the Children & Gladys' Illness
    After a long, exhausting journey through the mountains, Gladys and the children finally reach safety in the city of Fufeng. The trek took a toll on Gladys, however, and it took her six months to recover.
  • Return to England

    Return to England
    Gladys remained in China through and after WWII, continuing to share the gospel in various settings, such as in a leper colony and in a prison. After nearly 20 years in China, however, she was forced to leave because of the Communist regime. She then returned to England where she was surprised to find that she was essentially a missionary celebrity. She began speaking across the country, and her story inspired many.
  • Move to Taiwan

    Move to Taiwan
    Gladys remained in England until both of her parents had passed away. She longed to return to China after that, but she was not allowed back in the country, so instead she moved to Taiwan. There she founded an orphanage.
  • Death

    At at 67, on November 2, 1970, Gladys passed away from influenza. She had spent her life serving the Lord up to the very end.