When my grandfather, Henry Hodgkin, migrated from England in 1930 to be the first director of studies at Pendle Hill, he did not come alone. He brought with him his wife, Elizabeth Joy Montgomery Hodgkin.
Henry was strong and inspiring. His vision and passion steered Pendle Hill in a direction—though it has evolved with changing times—that still embodies the four underlying principles he articulated in "A Dream to Be Realized," printed in Friends Intelligencer on April 27, 1929, that Pendle Hill should be, "a Haven of Rest, a School of the Prophets, a Laboratory of Ideas, and a Fellowship ’round Christ."
From the start, Joy was there, too. I wondered how she felt, embarking on such an adventure with her husband. I was curious about her relationship with Henry, and about where they found the sources of their strength together.
When Henry died unexpectedly, after having served only two years as director of studies, Joy lived the rest of her life in London with her eldest son, my Uncle Herbert. In our family, we always referred to Joy as "Granny-in-England." Although we lived in Pennsylvania, I had met her several times before she died in 1962 at the age of 92, including at our summer cottage in South China, Maine, when I was 7.
I remember Granny’s substantial girth and her flowing flowered dresses; her warmth; and her twinkly, pale blue eyes behind wire-rimmed "Granny" glasses. She always smelled of lavender. Although I do not recall her telling me anything about Pendle Hill, she told me many stories of growing up in Ireland as the eldest of 13 children, and stories of her life as a teacher for three years in India, as a nurse in London, and then with Henry in China.
After she and my Uncle Herbert died, their house in London was sold. Soon afterward, a package of 13 ordinary- looking school composition books arrived for me. I thought at first they were just a child’s school exercise books, but when I opened one up, I read, "This book and an accompanying pen were given to me by my dear son Herbert, in order that I should chronicle for him and others of the family some of the earlier reflections of my parents and brothers and sisters."
Unbeknownst to me, Granny had spent ten years writing stories of her family and her own life. From this treasure trove of tales—1,021 pages—I have chosen a smattering that illustrate some of the qualities Joy brought with her to Pendle Hill in February 1930. (The quotations from Joy’s memoir are always verbatim and are reproduced exactly as she wrote them. Throughout the memoir, honorifics are not followed by a period, as they are in our accepted usage today. Joy writes in a continuous flow, leaving quotation marks out of dialogue more frequently than not.)
In the text, she refers to herself as "Elsie," her childhood nickname. After they were engaged, Henry switched to calling her "Joy," her middle name, because "he liked it so much better than the other [Elsie], in spite of the fact, as he said, that he had fallen in love with ‘Nurse Elsie.’"
A Surprise Whitewashing
Joy’s father was a Presbyterian minister in Belfast, Ireland, where she was born on October 20, 1870. Joy included many stories of her childhood in her memoir, including this one about her friend Madelaine when they were about 12 years old:
There was one family of boys living in the Crescent at that time, sons of the Unitarian Minister. They were nice boys really though wild and undisciplined.
One day as Madelaine and I were marking the [tennis] court having prepared the bucket of whitening we were putting down the lines to go by when Christopher Gordon the eldest of the brothers stole up and tipped over our whole bucket of whitening and then fled. We got another prepared and thinking the Gordons had gone for good, went on with the lines, and again the bucket was spilled!
Vowing vengeance inwardly Madelaine made a specially thick brew of whitewash, and when again Christopher appeared she gave chase and caught him. She was strong as a horse and held him down while I whitewashed him from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet giving a specially good amount into his bush of fuzzy hair! Drastic but quite effective.
We never had any trouble of this sort again! What his mother— dear gentle lady—said was never revealed, nor were our parents told of our exploit. I think probably the parents thought he deserved all he got!
The "Big Doctor"
One of the stories I never heard, and was always curious about, was the story of the first time my grandparents saw each other. It was toward the end of Joy’s three years of nursing training at Mildmay Hospital in London, in September 1902:
I was back in the Men’s Ward when one day Sister Clara said you are on duty this afternoon and I believe Dr Gauld is bringing a young doctor to see round the Hospital with the prospect of his coming here to work. Be sure to tell us what he’s like. I was busy writing up some notes at the table when Dr Gauld came in followed by a very tall young man. I had of course jumped to my feet. Dr G. just said is it all right to go round Nurse Elsie, and I said certainly Doctor and resumed my seat and my writing. They made a leisurely round of the ward, stopping to speak to some of the patients. When they had finished I was at the door to usher them out—and they were gone! When Sister came on duty again, she said, well what is he like? I said I think he’s nice Sister, anyway there’s yards of him! What’s his name, I don’t quite know something queer like Hoppers or Hopkins or may be Handkerchief and there we left it.
I am afraid we nurses were very critical of each new doctor as they came and we were a little scornful of this one. We happened to see (we Eleanor Lorimer Jonie B & I) a large easy chair being carried up to his sitting room, followed by a very fine writing desk and desk chair, pictures and curtains too, and then the Doctor himself. H’m we sniffed, silk socks and court pumps, and elegant ties. I hope said I, that when he goes to the Mission field he’ll be sent to darkest Africa, where he’ll have to drink his cocoa out of a half coconut shell, or a tin mug! We had been accustomed to doctors who were poor as church mice, and I think were a little afraid that this one who seemed in more affluent circumstances might feel and act a little superior.
This was very far from being the case, and indeed we soon fell for "the big doctor." We all got to like him very much, patients, and the household alike. He was very painstaking and good about his work, and we enjoyed the teaching he gave us. We in the Men’s ward were tickled to see how he could manage Sister Clara, he never danced to her pulled strings, but she often had to dance to his. This we did enjoy.
I didn’t see much of him except as I went the rounds with him in the wards and sat near him occasionally at dinner. I had been asked again to play the organ at the Sunday evening meetings, and this I enjoyed, both for the kind of hymns he chose and also because I liked the talks he gave, so much quieter and with more to them.
Joy Cometh in the Morning
Early in December 1902, Joy’s father asked her to leave the hospital, travel to Europe, and take care of her sister Nell, a doctor who had contracted malaria in India and was returning home to Switzerland to convalesce. Joy nursed Nell for two months until her mother could relieve her, then Joy returned to Mildmay Hospital:
I had been away from Hospital for two months all but a day or two and I felt that though my three years were up at the end of January, I should offer to make up that time. Miss Cattell was quite pleased that I should stay on. She was in rather a fix at the moment, as Sister Adelaide, Surgery Sister had just gone down with Rheumatic Fever and she had no one in mind to take her place. She asked me if I felt I could undertake this, and I gladly consented. I had always enjoyed work in the Outpatients. What this decision was to mean to me I had not then the remotest notion. (28th April 1956: It seems particularly appropriate that I should be writing this next part of the story on the anniversary of the day 53 years ago when the whole course of my life was changed.)
As sister in charge in the Outpatient department, I saw a great deal more of Dr Hodgkin than I had done while working in the wards. Necessarily so, as I was on duty most evenings. . . .
There was always time for a little chat and we talked of books, friends, and the outings he had taken to Kew and Epping Forest, and the treasures he had brought back, and there is no denying I enjoyed these talks, and some of his books which I borrowed, very much. . . .
I was finding the said doctor "most attractive," and was getting to like him and our little talks too well, and missing them when he didn’t come down. I then made up my mind to tell Matron that as I had now done my extra three months work, and as Sister Adelaide was nearly well again, I would like to leave at the end of April if that suited her. I felt I could not stay and really fall in love with a man who never gave me a hint that he liked me. . . .
Then on the morning of April 28, 1903:
I was wakened half an hour earlier than usual, by Edith the maid who waited on the doctor, with a note. It just said the doctor would like to see me in his office at 7:30, if I could come then. H’m I thought why couldn’t the wretched man have told me what he wanted me to do this morning when he came down last night. And so to get my orders I rose and dressed. I was quite sure it could be nothing but a talk about the cases to be seen that day.
I was halfway down to the Surgery when I noticed a tiny hole in my apron and also that it didn’t look absolutely fresh, so I turned with a slight feeling of relief and went back and put on a fresh spotless apron and thus prepared felt able to face a meeting with the big Doctor. When I got down I found his consulting room empty, and the other one was also empty, so I thought anyway I am in time and he is late.
Soon I heard the Surgery entrance door open and the Doctor came in. He had been out for an hours walk he said as he threw his cap on the table. I was of course standing to attention as was the custom of Nurses in the presence of doctors, so I could hardly believe my ears when he said please sit down Nurse Elsie. I could still less hardly believe I was hearing properly when what I heard was an avowal of his love and his desire to take me to China with him as his wife.
I hardly know what I said, but do remember saying, do you know I was running away from London because I was afraid of falling in love with you, and thought you didn’t care a bit. He asked how long he would have to wait for his answer, and I just said you have it now, and held up my face to be kissed! That did it, he believed I really meant my answer to be yes.
The wedding was of course to take place in the Shankill Hall [in Belfast, on December 9, 1903] and Father was to marry us. Soon the carriages were at the door and everyone went downstairs leaving me alone for the moment. . . . Then I heard the carriages begin to go off Father and Mother first with Noel and Frank [Joy’s youngest brothers]. Then the bridesmaids and Ernest [Henry’s brother] and soon it would be my turn to go with Howard [Joy’s oldest brother] who was to give me away.
We gave the others a few minutes to get away and then I put on my long suede gloves picked up my bouquet and train and went downstairs to be admired and good wished by Cook Mary and the maids, before we got into our carriage. Of course it had a pair of white horses and white ribbon reins and a white buttonholed driver. He had orders not to take any shortcuts so we drove the full length of Gt. Victoria St. and so through the City and up Shankill Road.
There seemed to be a great many people around as we got near the Hall, and we heard later that special police had been posted to control the crowds. Soon we stopped between the fine special lamp posts, and I saw the red carpet spread out, and crowds pressing round it. The entrance Hall and octagon inner Hall were lined by Boys Brigade and Girl Guides, boy and girl time about, and there my bridesmaids were waiting for me.
Suddenly the whole world went black and went round and round. Howard gave me a sharp poke in the side, and whispered fiercely "Here buck up." At the same time while Nell [Joy’s sister] was adjusting my train, William Skelly—the ever faithful William the caretaker—did a very kind and helpful thing, he suddenly pulled back a curtain which covered a window into the Hall and with a smile pointed.
I looked and then saw far away over the heads of the crowd, Henry with Olaf his best man standing waiting for me. "The Bride eyes not her garment, But her dear Bridegroom’s face" were the lines that flashed into my mind, and I felt all right again. The choir with Fred Moffatt at the organ began "The voice that breathed o’er Eden," while we walked slowly up the aisle. Soon I was beside Henry and he gave my hand a little squeeze of encouragement as we stood together and the hymn came to a close.
Father knew that it had cost Mother Hodgkin much heart searching before she became reconciled to the thought of a Presbyterian wedding, instead of a Quaker one, for her son, who was a Quaker Minister himself. For seven generations back, there had been only Quaker Brides, on each side of the family, so this was a great break with tradition. So Father used the Friend’s formula instead of the one he usually made use of. Instead of the Friends "I promise," he asked "Will you promise." Henry’s I will rang out loud and clear as he held my hand and looked down at me, and I am glad to say my voice was quite steady as I made my vow.
Father then said his little say which everyone said was a choice little homily, and then again to be in line with Friends usage, he threw it open to anyone to say a word or pray. Both Father Hodgkin and Uncle Sam prayed, but I am afraid I have no recollection of what was said either in homily or prayer. We had the hymn "O perfect love all human thought transcending," after which we retired to Father’s vestry to sign registers and receive congratulations.
Henry was the first to kiss me as he slipped on my wedding ring. Father came next and added his blessing. Then the procession reformed and as we reappeared at the opposite aisle to the one we came in by, the organ pealed out Mendelsohn’s Wedding March. Only then did I see the crowded hall every seat seemed taken and the galleries were packed with people standing to catch a glimpse of us as we passed slowly down the aisle. I was conscious of many hands stretched out to touch me as I passed, of smiling faces everywhere and murmured blessings from old friends.
This time Henry and I got away first, in our carriage, the bridesmaids and wedding guests leaving a few minutes later, so that Henry and I had a few quiet minutes to ourselves in the drawing room before the rest of the party arrived.
After the birth of their first son, Herbert, the Hodgkin family set sail for China. They traveled widely before going by riverboat and sedan chair to Chengtu in western China, where they established a dispensary and lived for over ten years. Many of the stories in Joy’s memoir describe people and adventures during that time.
Henry and Joy took their first vacation in China in 1909, traveling for a week by sedan chair with their young children to a mission station at Mao Chou, in the cooler mountains on the border of Eastern Tibet. One afternoon, she wrote,
We stopped early that day as it had been a stiff climb for the coolies and we did not know when we might reach another village. We too had done a good amount of walking that day and were very hot and dusty.
After we had got all preparations for the night made and the children bathed and fed Henry and I wandered out and walked up beside the stream till we got above all the fields with crops, and above where there were any dwellings. We sat for a while by a lovely deep pool enjoying the sunshine and the cool air and the beauty of the view. Then suddenly Henry said wouldn’t you like a bath, come on this pool’s just the place. But I said I have no bathing dress and we have no towels. He said who’s to see us, and it certainly did look tempting.
So in we both went— mother naked—and had such a good time. We walked up stream a bit and then drifted down with the current landing with a splash in our pool, so we played like children for an hour or more finally running around till we dried and were able to put on our clothes again. As we were so high up above civilization we felt we could drink this clear pure water, and after the weeks of having only boiled water to drink you can imagine what a draught of living water meant to us. We got home by sunset to find everyone wondering what had become of us, but we didn’t tell!
Onward to Pendle Hill
In the summer of 1928, the Hodgkins went to Japan for a holiday.
One morning as we came home from our bath we found a cable waiting for us. It was not from home as we half expected but from America, asking Henry to consider a post in that country, letters following with full particulars. When the letters arrived we found that a group of very influential Friends— mostly in Philadelphia—were very anxious to start a study centre rather on the lines of Woodbrooke in Birmingham, where serious students might come for a year of study.
There had been such a scheme given. Students were supposed to keep regular terms, but this was not strictly adhered to, and more and more people would come for perhaps as little as two weeks in the middle of a course.
Things did not improve when a fine and in some ways flattering position was offered to the Principal, and he went to head up the Religious department at Duke University, a rather unique position for a Friend to occupy. Soon after this the place had been closed down.
But Friends generally felt there was a very great need for an institution of this sort, and some of our friends in America, knowing that we were probably leaving China, Henry was invited to undertake the establishment of such a scheme. It would be a great venture of faith but knowing through other visits to U.S.A. many of the group who would be behind him in this venture, he was inclined to consider favourably the proposal.
I felt his ripe experience and energy, his powers of organization, his love of teaching, and his many other gifts (& graces) would fit him admirably for this position. He wanted to know how I would feel about living in America and he knew my answer, as long as you are in your right place and happy in the work you are doing, I’ll be happy to be with you. . . .
Henry of course took counsel of family, specially his brother Edward and friends the Morlands and other interested people, before finally deciding to accept this offer from Philadelphia, and we left Japan and our holiday there fairly committed to the new scene of work.
Henry told the N.C.C. [National Christian Council] that he would definitely be giving up his Secretaryship at the end of 1928. There was a heavy schedule of work for the autumn before and Henry and I knew he would be busy for the N.C.C. till the last minute. There was the usual number of visits from our Chinese Friends and fellow workers to reconsider this decision. We had letters from all quarters, visits from influential persons, and even deputations to ask us to take furlough and then return to China. But everything considered Henry felt our decision was final.
Joy’s memoir concludes with a description of elaborate good-bye parties in China and their trip across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Unfortunately, Joy died before she could complete her recollections of her years with Henry at Pendle Hill, and none of the letters she wrote during that time have surfaced. Maybe someday they will.
I am grateful to Pendle Hill for my existence, for without Pendle Hill I wouldn’t be here. In August 1931, after their first year at Pendle Hill, Henry and Joy took a vacation with two of their sons, John and Patrick. They drove to South China, Maine, to visit Rufus Jones at his summer cottage on China Lake. There John met Ruth Walenta, a cousin of Rufus Jones who lived at Pine Rock, the farm next to Rufus’ cottage. By the end of the vacation, John and Ruth, my future parents, were engaged. John returned to England to finish his last year at Kings College, while Ruth completed her senior year at University of Maine. They were married the following summer in the rose garden at Pine Rock in a simple Quaker ceremony. Rufus Jones gave the only spoken message.
As a student at Swarthmore College in the early 1960s, I practically lived at Pendle Hill, where I studied pottery with Mary Caroline Richards and weaving with Paulus Berensohn, attended meeting for worship and lectures, and spent time with Janaki and Gerhard Tschannerl and Paul and Margaret Lacey. In July 1964, our group of VISA (Voluntary International Service Assignments) volunteers lived at Pendle Hill while we prepared for our work overseas. I’ve attended various workshops since then, and recently served on the Pendle Hill Board. I’m grateful that Pendle Hill has been a source of learning and spiritual inspiration for me, and I hope it will thrive long into the future for my grandchildren and beyond.