Elizabeth Ritchie

By Ian Keller

(Edited by Douglas Fix)

Elizabeth Ritchie married Reverend Hugh Ritchie before the two of them left England on July 15, 1867, to begin work with the English Presbyterian Mission in south Formosa.(1)  They arrived in Formosa on December 13, 1867.(2)  Ritchie gave daily reading lessons to the servant women who worked in her house, and she and her husband made plans to build a girls' school on the island.(3)  Mrs. Ritchie also accompanied her husband on some of his travels to inland mission stations and taught Formosan converts (many of them women and girls) to read.(4)

Elizabeth Ritchie bore two sons while living in southern Formosa.  The eldest son, Robert H. Ritchie, died at the age of three and was buried in the Foreigners' Cemetery in Takao in 1873.(5)  The other son was left in England in 1877 when the Ritchies returned to Formosa from furlough.(6)  Two years later, on September 29, 1879, Mr. Ritchie died.(7)  He was buried next to his son.(8)

Despite the death of her husband, Mrs. Ritchie chose to remain in Formosa.  Early in 1880 she was accepted as the first lady missionary of the Women's Missionary Association in Formosa.(9)  In June 1880 she donated £300 and $400 towards the Girls' School.  She continued teaching people to read, both by holding classes for patients in the mission hospital at Taiwanfu and by instructing converts at inland mission stations on teaching visits.(10)  She visited seventeen of the mission's twenty-six stations while carrying out her educational work, earning high praise from Reverend William Campbell.(11)

Elizabeth Ritchie struggled repeatedly with illness during her residence in southern Taiwan, and finally left the Formosa mission on June 13, 1884.  The remaining Presbyterian missionaries praised her and her educational work.(12)  In 1887 the Girls' School was finally opened.  It bore a plaque memorializing Mr. Hugh Ritchie.(13)


1. The English Presbyterian Messenger (July 1867): 207; (August 1867): 249; her maiden name was not given in this source.

2. Wm. Campbell, Handbook of the English Presbyterian mission in south Formosa (Hastings: F.J. Parsons, 1910), p. xii.

3. MacMillan, Hugh, Then till now in Formosa ([Taipei:] English and Canadian Presbyterian Missions in Formosa, 1953), p. 80.

4. The Messenger and Missionary Record of the Presbyterian Church of England (2 June 1873): 159; (1 August 1878): 149-150.

5. Otness, Harold, One thousand Westerners in Taiwan, to 1945; a biographical and bibliographical dictionary ([Nankang]: Institute of Taiwan History, Preparatory Office, Academia Sinica 1999), p. 137.

6. The Messenger and Missionary Record of the PresbyterianChurch of England (1 November 1879): 207.

7. MacMillan, 1953, p. 80.

8. Otness, 1999, p. 137.

9. Campbell, 1910, p. 18; Edward Band, Working his purpose out: The history of the English Presbyterian mission 1847-1947 (London: Publishing office of the Presbyterian Church of England, [1948]), Vol 2, p. 109.

10. The Messenger and Missionary Record of the Presbyterian Church of England (February 1883): 32; Campbell, 1910, p. 41.

11. Band 1948, Vol 2, p. 109; Campbell, p. 150.

12. Campbell, 1910, p. xii, pp. 57-58.

13. Macmillan 1953, p. 80.