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Collection 164 Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Small

Identifier: CN 164

Scope and Contents

Oral history interview with Elizabeth Stair Small in which she describes her missionary experiences in China between the earliest communist revolutions; includes customs, evangelizing methods, assistance of Chinese Christians in areas of central China; post-war pastoring in the U.S. The time period covered by the interviews is 1904-1980.

Elizabeth Small was interviewed by Robert Shuster on October 28, 1980 at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College.


  • Created: 1980

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Missionary; born Elizabeth Stair on October 5, 1904 in Stanley, WI; attended Moody Bible Institute, 1928-1930; served as missionary to China with China Inland Mission, 1931-1948; married Robertson Small, 1944; worked with churches in Wisconsin, 1949-1979; retired to Phoenix, Arizona, 1980; had one son.

Elizabeth Stair Small was born in Stanley, Wisconsin, in 1904 to Henry and Sarah Stair. Her parents were both teachers and the family lived in Stanley until her father went into newspaper work and they moved to Cambridge, Wisconsin. Elizabeth had two sisters, Mary and Alice, and two brothers, Henry and Fred, all of whom were guided toward a life of Christian service by the teaching of their parents.

Elizabeth attended Whitewater Normal School in Wisconsin, taught in Beloit for three years, and subsequently enrolled in Moody Bible Institute in 1928. It was there and at the summer Lake Geneva Conferences held by the Institute that she confirmed a definite call to the mission field. Both she and her sister, Mary, made the decision to work in China, and Elizabeth applied to China Inland Mission in 1931, after graduating from Moody in 1930.

After acceptance as a candidate, she sailed for Shanghai and four to five months language training at Yangzhow. Her first field assignment was to Kweichow in southwest China. Two years later, 1933, communist activity forced evacuation from the area, and the next year was spent fleeing from the movements of communist soldiers. She was reassigned once the territory was no longer in danger and remained at a new station in Panhsien until 1938, when she returned to this country on furlough. Back in China, while working at mission headquarters in Chunking, she met her future husband, Robertson Small, in 1941. Their plans for marriage were delayed until 1944 when World War II intervened and kept him in Australia where he had returned on furlough. They returned to Chungking in 1946, the year their son, Henry Overby Small, was born. Ill health at the time of their furlough year, 1948, prevented any future return to China.

The years between 1949 and 1979 were spent working with churches in Wisconsin towns, among them Beloit, Madison, and Richmond Center. Robertson Small died in 1979, and Elizabeth moved in 1980 to Phoenix, Arizona, to live with her brother Henry, a widower.

Elizabeth Small died in Portage, Wisconsin on July 23, 1993.


1 Audio Tape

95 Minutes

Language of Materials