Kathleen Hall was born in Napier, New Zealand in 1896 and later moved to Auckland. There she trained at Auckland Public Hospital.
In 1922 she was accepted by the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for missionary work in China. Before leaving New Zealand she successfully undertook midwifery training at St Helen’s hospital in Christchurch.
In North China at that time there was one outstanding hospital where western medicine was practised, the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC). It was a very advanced institution, funded by the American Rockefeller Foundation and operated by British and American Protestant missions.
After several years language training and professional practice there, Kathleen was appointed Sister-in-Charge of a provincial hospital at Datong, later being transferred to the same position at Hejian and Anguo in Hebei Province.
She became acquainted with the deplorable living conditions in the Hebei mountains and in 1934 she obtained the permission of her Bishop to leave the cities and set up her own cottage hospital in the mountain village of Songjiazhuang.
In 1937 she had to return temporarily to take charge of the hospital at Anguo on the plains and she was in charge there when the Japanese invaded.
There was a great battle nearby, the Chinese were defeated and hers was the only hospital for hundreds of miles. The doctors fled and with a few Chinese nurses she was left to deal with many hundred casualties.
As the Japanese pushed southwards, she was able to return to her own hospital in the mountains, to find that it was now in “no-man’s land” between the Chinese guerilla forces and the Japanese. With her British passport she could move comparatively freely, and before long she was making long journeys to Peking to purchase medical supplies, much of which she passed on to the Chinese army, until caught by the Japanese.
They put her on a ship for New Zealand, but she disembarked at Hong Kong and joined the Chinese Red Cross. She made a dangerous journey through inland China to rejoin the 8th Route Army. Eventually she was struck down with beriberi, and repatriated to New Zealand.
After the war she helped to establish a model leper colony in Hong Kong, and in her final years of service she worked with the Anglican Maori Mission at Te Kuiti and Waitara.
In retirement she devoted her life to telling New Zealanders the truth about China. She worked very hard to bring the various Friendship groups in Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, Wellington and Christchurch together to form the NZ-China Friendship Society, which was inaugurated in Wellington in 1958, with Kathleen as a member of the first National Committee.
She was able to revisit China twice more, in 1960 and 1964. She died in Hamilton in 1970.
In 1993 a delegation of friends and relatives carried her ashes back to China in accordance with her wishes.
In 1996 the local people of Quyang County celebrated the centennial of her birth by creating a beautiful marble statue and setting it up in the village of Songjiazhuang where she had established her clinic.
A China Today article published in 1997 describes this moving event, and gives more details of Kathleen’s life.
In 2000, her clinic was rebuilt with a donation of $15,000 from our Society, which was tripled by a subsidy from the N.Z. Government. The completion of the rebuilding project was celebrated in June 2000 and the clinic was officially reopened in July 2001. Click here to view pictures of both celebrations.
Notes and Quotes on Kathleen Hall from The Mind of Norman Bethune by Roderick Stewart ( Fitzhenry & Whiteside Lrd., 2002):
Early in the Sino-Japanese war, Kathleen was temporarily posted to Anguo Hospital on the coastal plain of Hebei Province, east of her base at mountainous Songjiazhuang. A terrible battle there resulted in enormous casualties for the Chinese. Kathleen had first-hand experience of the overwhelming numbers of injured that Norman Bethune encountered daily and wrote of in his reports from the 8th Route Army. More than He Mingqing, he experienced chronic shortages of both funds and medical supplies. He was critical of both the Chinese and international agencies who didn’t provide adequate equipment for his mobile medical unit in the Taihang Mountains southwest of Beijing, a shortage that would eventually cost him his own life.
Bethune’s reports 1938:
“The supply of drugs and medicines is pretty poor in most places in Central Hebei. Difficulty is being found in getting supplies from Tianjin. The missionaries are being closely watched. One lot of drugs were examined on the way by the Japanese and when told that they were going to a mission hpspital, they made a note of all bottles and packages and later checked up on the Mission. The Mission reported that the drugs had been ‘stolen’ by the partisans–to account for their non-arrival.” (p.195)
“Why oh why, are we not receiving more help from both China and abroad? Think of it! 200,000 troops, 2,500 wounded always in hospital, over 1,000 battles fought in the past year, and only 5 Chinese graduate doctors, 50 Chinese untrained ‘doctors’ and one foreigner to do all this work.” (p.196)
Bethune’s monthly report to the China Aid Council in August 1939:
“The medical supplies obtained in the past three months have chiefly been the result of the energy of Miss K. Hall of the Anglican Church Mission at Songjiazhuang. About $15,000 have been spent. This amount of supplies should see the SS through the winter. As a result of her activities, her Mission has been burnt by the Japanese. I have always felt and expressed some months ago that too much should not have been asked of these sympathetic missionaries, but more organization of an underground transport service would have prevented this attack. Again, the local press were unwise enough to print an article praising Miss Hall for her assistance. This paper is undoubtedly read by the Japanese. Of course, there are other factors such as spies and the current manufactured so-called ‘Anti-British Sentiment’ in China, which does not exist except in the minds of Japanese. There are still large amounts of supplies that have been bought in Peiping, Tianjin and Baoding that have not been brought out for the lack of Chinese organized transport. This work must be organized at once. Miss Hall cannot be used again. Her life is already in danger owing to her help to the Region. The same applies to other missions such as the American Board Mission in Baoding. There have been many arrests of the Chinese there, and the American Missionaries are nervous and dare do no more to help….
“I am trying to persuade Miss Hall to join the Canadian-American Unit and give up her own missionary work. Around her I propose to gather a nucleus of trained graduate nurses from the PUMC (we have two now already) and with such a staff, set up a small model hospital to be used in connection with the teaching of the Medical school. She is considering the matter. It would mean her leaving (resigning) from her mission. She is also thinking of going to New Zealand to raise more money for this Region. Between the two of us, I feel that we can raise enough for the medical educational work of the region, but it would mean that both of us would have to leave here temporarily for six to eight months.” (p.204-5)