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Collection 435 Ephemera of Isobel Miller Kuhn

Identifier: CN 435

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, newsletters, articles, negatives, and photographs relating to the missionary service of Isobel and John Kuhn, primarily among the Lisu people in China and Thailand with Overseas Missionary Fellowship from 1928 to 1954. The topics discussed in the letters include travel in China, missions work, their marriage, birth of daughter and son, cultural differences, advance of communists into the Lisu area, biographical sketches of co-workers Mary Baldock, Frances Bailey, Lilian Hamer, and Eileen O'Rourke. Information on daughter and son-in-law Kathryn and Donald Rulison, and co-workers Allyn and Esther Cooke is also in the collection.

[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "Folder 2-6" means Box 2, Folder 6.]

The materials in this collection consist of personal correspondence, prayer letters, articles, negatives, and photographs documenting the work of Isobel and John Kuhn. Folder 1-2 contains the personal correspondence and prayer letters written to family, friends, and supporters from 1927 to 1957. The earliest letter, written by John from the Training Home in Anking, China, mentions the expected evacuation of Anking in 1927. Later that same year, however, John wrote from Anking about a revival at the Home and announced his assignment to Yunnan Province as well as his engagement to Isobel. Later letters describe his work and the church in Chengkiang, Yunnan (August 10, 1929), the birth of their daughter Kathryn (April 25, 1931), and his trip among the Lisu (May 20, 1934).

Also in folder 1-2 are Isobel's letters, the earliest of which describes her ocean trip to China in 1928. Other letters cover the language school, evangelistic opportunities, an amusing account of a church service which illustrates cultural differences between the Chinese and westerners, and meeting Theodore Roosevelt's sons, Theodore Jr. and Kermit Roosevelt (1929). After the Kuhn's marriage, the letters were often signed by both Isobel and John and give accounts of the activities of both, including work in Tali, Yunnan, China (1931); the advance of the communists on Yunnanfu and the missionaries' evacuation from Tali at that time (May 8, 1936), traveling to Vancouver, BC, on furlough (June 4, 1936, July 1936), and the birth of their son, Daniel (August 2, 1943). There is a hand-drawn map of the area around Tali (April 1931). Biographical sketches of co-workers Mary Baldock, Lilian Hamer, Frances Bailey, Eileen O'Rourke are attached to 1955 New Year's greetings. Prayer letters written by Isobel from Wheaton from 1955 to 1957 include reports of OMF activities in Thailand. Isobel's funeral service at College Church includes the printed message brought by Dr. Carl Armerding.

Folder 1-1 contains two articles from The Millions, one titled "The Secret of Endurance" by Mrs. Howard Taylor (October 1954) and the other includes a testimony of Isobel's daughter, Kathryn Kuhn (December 1954). A prayer letter by Esther and Allyn Cooke, co-workers of the Kuhns, in which John Kuhn is mentioned, is in folder 1-4. Folder 1-5 has two prayer letters, an article, and pictures of Kathryn Kuhn Rulison, her husband and children. Folder 1-3 has several lists of negatives, some of which are sections from letters, only two of which are dated. The lists do not match the strips of negatives which are in the Negative File, though some descriptions do match some negatives.

The negatives and photographs include pictures of Isobel and John as well as their children, co-workers, and missionary activities among the Lisu.


  • Created: 1927-1983

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research, and there are no access restrictions on the materials.

Biographical Information

Full Name: Isobel Selina Miller Kuhn

Birth Date: December 17, 1901

Birth Place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Parents: Sam and Alice Miller

Marital Status: married to John Becker Kuhn, November 4, 1929, in Kunming, China

Children: Kathryn Alice-Ann (Mrs. Donald Rulison), 1931; Daniel Kreadman; 1943.


1922 - With honors in English Language and Literature, University of British Columbia

1926 - Moody Bible Institute, valedictorian


1923 - Taught third grade, Cecil Rhodes School, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1923

1928-1957 - Overseas Missionary Fellowship (China Inland Mission) worker, 1928-1957. Worked with her husband John among the Lisu people of China, Thailand and Burma. Their work involved church planting, Bible teaching, holding Bible classes for church leaders (Men and women), and Bible translation. In addition, Isobel published eight popular books in the United States about her Christian walk and experiences as a missionary.

1929-1930 - Chengchiang, Yunnan, China

1930-1934 - Tali, Yunnan, China

1934-1944 - Oak Flat, Yunnan, China.

1944-1947 - Furlough in the United States (John returned to China a year earlier, in 1946; Isobel followed the next year with the two children.)

1947-1948 - Oak Flat, Yunnan, China

1948-1950 - Village of Olives, Yunnan, China

1950-1952 - Left China because of the Communist rise to power and went to Wheaton, Illinois, USA. John stayed in Yunnan an additional year and then rejoined the family in 1951

1952-1954 - Chiengmai, Thailand. Still working among the Lisu people

1954-1957 - Diagnosed with Cancer in 1954. The family returned to the United States in November of that year and moved back to Wheaton. While in the United States she wrote several of her books.

Death: March 20, 1957

Author of: Ascent to the Tribes: Pioneering in North Thailand; By Searching; Green Leaf in Drought: the Story of the Escape of the Last CIM Missionaries from Communist China; In the Arena; Nests Above the Abyss; Precious Things of the Lasting Hills; Second Mile People; Stones of Fire.


1 Box (DC)

1 Negative File

1 Photograph Album

2 Photograph Files

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were give to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Overseas Missionary Fellowship in April 1982; from Samuel H. Chao in February 1984 and July 1986; and from Charlotte Shannon in October 1985.

Accession 82-60, 84-35, 85-141, 86-85

March 7, 1995

Janyce H. Nasgowitz

Collection 435 Ephemera of Isobel Miller Kuhn
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US