Oberlin College Archives


PAPERS, 1883 (1891-1909)-1959


Mary Alice Moon Williams was born in Reedsburg, Ohio on May 22, 1860, the eldest daughter of Josiah and Charlotte Boffenmyre Moon. At the age of two, she moved with her family to Ashland, Ohio. Educated there, she became a teacher in the Ashland public schools, where she taught until she entered Oberlin College in 1884. At Oberlin, Alice enrolled in the four-year Literary Course, completing the first year of study in 1885. After a five-year interval, she resumed her collegiate work and began a year of study at the Oberlin Theological Seminary. On May 26, 1891, she married George Louis Williams (1858-1900), with whom she had shared an Oberlin boarding house.

George Louis Williams, son of Richard L. and Susan Jane Doolittle Williams, was born in Southington, Connecticut on October 4, 1858. He attended Lewis Academy in Southington and enrolled at Oberlin College in 1882. He received the B.A. in 1888, the B.D. from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1891, and the A.M. from Oberlin in 1896. During his second year of seminary, from July to December 1890, Williams served as a supply preacher in Jerauld County, South Dakota. He was ordained a Congregational minister in Oberlin on May 21, 1891, just five days before his marriage to Mary Alice Moon.

Under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, George and Alice Williams sailed for China on July 29, 1891. After one year of compulsory Chinese language study in Tientsin, they traveled to Taigu, Shansi Province, where the American Board had established a mission in 1883. At Taigu, the Williams's joined the Oberlin Band of missionaries, who included the mission's founders, Dr. Irenaeus J. Atwood (1850-1913; B.D. Oberlin 1881), Dr. Charles D. Tenney (1857-1930; B.D. Oberlin 1882), and the Rev. Chauncey M. Cady (1854-1925; B.D. Oberlin 1881).

During the Williams' seven years in Taigu, George Williams provided care for opium addicts at the local opium refuge, one of several medical clinics established by the missionaries.Alice Williams worked alongside Lydia Lord Davis (1867-1952),teaching Chinese women to read and developing close ties with several Chinese Christians. By 1900, the Christian community in and around Taigu included over one hundred baptized Christians and probationers.

In 1899, with Alice's mother in failing health and the Taigu mission facing serious financial difficulties, Alice and her three daughters, Gladys Moon (1893-1981; A.B. Oberlin 1917), Rhea Eloise (1895-1950; Oberlin Kindergarten Training School 1916), and Helen Marie (b. 1897; A.B. Oberlin 1922), returned on furlough to the United States. George Williams was to follow, but was murdered at Taigu by the Chinese Boxers on July 31, 1900. The Boxers killed all thirteen members of the Oberlin Band and destroyed the missionaries' personal property and mission buildings.

After settling in Oberlin in 1900, Mrs. Williams took up the cause of the martyred missionaries. In 1908, she was a founder with Lydia Lord Davis of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association (O.S.M.A.), serving as an O.S.M.A. trustee for twenty years. In 1909, Mrs. Williams returned to China for three years. At Taigu, she established the Alice M. Williams School for Married Women, a day and boarding school for mothers and children. Gladys Williams eventually became principal of this school.

In 1912, after returning to Oberlin, Alice Williams served as matron of three Oberlin College dormitories, Lauderleigh, Metcalf, and Burroughs. She opened her home to Chinese students studying at Oberlin College. One of these was H. H. Kung, (1881-1967; A.B. Oberlin 1906), among the first pupils at the boys' school in Taigu and later China's Finance Minister (1933-44).

In 1935, at their expense, Chinese friends invited Alice Williams to return to China. The Japanese invasion in 1937 forced her sudden departure on the last through train out of North China. Returning to Oberlin, she continued to work with the Oberlin Chinese Students Club, to lecture on behalf of mission work in China, and to support the mission work of the Second Congregational Church. Alice Williams died in Oberlin on January 13, 1952.


Alumni Register (Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College, 1960).

Archives Control Card (30/58)

Baumann, Roland, ed. Guide to the Women's History Sources in the Oberlin College Archives (Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College, 1990).

General Catalogue of Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio: Oberlin College, 1908).

Student Files of George Louis Williams, H. H. Kung, C. M. Cady, and Chauncey M. Tenney (28)

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Last updated: 1 May 1996