Faithful Heroes: Gladys Aylward, Went Where God Sent


Gladys May Aylward was a Christian missionary to China. Her story became well known from the book, The Small Woman by Alan Burgess and movie, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, written and made about her in the late 1950s.

Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward was born on February 24, 1902 in North London, England. She was the daughter of Thomas and Rosine Whiskin Aylward and had two siblings.

In her early teens, she began working as a housemaid. Later, she felt the call to become a Christian missionary.

She was accepted by the China Island Mission into a three month study, but received no other training due to her lack of progress in learning the Chinese language.

Her obituary states that she told her parents “Never get me out or pay ransom for me. God is sufficient.” She then set out from London to China with a bedroll, a kettle, a saucepan, a suitcase of canned food, a little change and much religious fervor.”

In 1932, she spent her life savings on train passage to Yangcheng, Shanxi Province, China. The trip was perilous and when she was detained by the Russians, she escaped with local help and traveled on a Japanese ship she was able to gain passage on.

Gladys Aylward

She then traveled across Japan and took another ship to China, all with the help of the British Consul.

Upon arriving in Yangcheng, she worked with another missionary, Jeannie Lawson, an elderly woman. The women founded the The Inn of the Eight Happinesses, which received it’s name based on the eight virtues, and was an inn for mule drivers.

While sharing hospitality with their travelers, the women also shared stories about Jesus. Mrs. Lawson would die within a year of her arrival and Gladys learned Chinese slowly while she was there.

In 1936, she became a Chinese Citizen and even worked as a foot inspector for the Chinese government for a while.
She became revered among those that knew her. She is said to accomplished much while risking much such as “taking in orphans and adopting several herself, intervening in a volatile prison riot and advocating prison reform, risking her life many times to help those in need.”

Gladys Aylward

She never married, although she adopted several orphans.

When the Japanese invaded the region in 1938, she led over 100 orphans over the mountains to safety and cared for them, while being wounded herself.

At the beginning of World War II, she was sent back to Britain and taught young children.

She longed to return to China and in the early 1950s, sought to do just that. However, the heavily Communist Chinese government refused her petition and she settled in Taiwan.

In Taiwan, she founded the Gladys Aylward Orphanage, which was the remainder of her life’s work.

In 1958, The Inn of Sixth Happiness, featuring Ingrid Bergman, was released about her

Gladys Aylward

life. The movie was based on the book, The Small Woman, released a year earlier.

Aylward is said to have been mortified by the movie. Many liberties were taken and people and places changed and she felt her reputation was damaged by the Hollywood embellishment.

In 1959, Aylward said “I have been a fisher of men…I went, to China because God asked me. I did not have missionary training or missionary status. I was answerable to Him and no one else.”

Gladys Aylward died on January 3, 1970, a month shy of her 68th birthday. She was buried in a small cemetery on the campus of Christ’s College in Guandu, New Taipei, Taiwan.

The name Aylward in Chinese means Virtuous One.

Gladys Aylward is a faithful hero for obeying God’s command, living a life of service, and teaching Christ to those that came within her path.


The eight virtues the inn received it’s name from are Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty, and Devotion.



Gladys Aylward was willing to risk it all to follow Christ #faithfulheroes #heroesofthefaith Share on X




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