Gladys Aylward

The mention of this name in a recent funeral service may have meant little to some of the younger mourners.  Her appearance some 50 years ago at his school in the East End of London, was something which had left a lasting impression.

The visit would have coincided with the release of a film about her life,  The Inn of The Sixth Happiness in which she was played by Ingrid Bergman.  In Chinese tradition there are five “Happiness” wishes:  longevity, wealth, good health, virtue, and a peaceful old age.  Each person must decide in their heart what the sixth happiness is.

It’s a story of compassion and persistence to change something for the better, above all. Gladys, a domestic servant is rejected by the Church in her efforts to become a missionary in China. She’s not educated and qualified enough to do ‘God’s work’.  So she saves up to pay for the trip on the Trans-Siberian railway herself.

Though the more accurate story of her effort is the book  ‘The Small Woman’ , emphasising her shortness of stature and lack of status,  in the film she becomes know to the Chinese   as ‘Jen Ai‘, meaning ‘the  one who loves people’. In the book, she’s referred to as ‘Ai-weh-deh’ or Virtuous One, for her dedication to eliminating the practice of foot binding.

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