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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Miss Ruthana Paxson

When a friend once asked Miss Paxson to tell her the secret of the success of her wonderful life of service she replied:  "I got from my mother, who was God's own kind of mother, a love for service to others; I got from the beautiful spirit of my Quaker father a belief in the guidance of the Holy Spirit in which I have found that there is power sufficient to meet the requirements of all true service."  Ruthana Paxson, daughter of Charles and Mary Jane Williams Paxson, was born in Manchester, Ia., Nov. 19, 1876.  At the age of sixteen she was graduated with honors from the Manchester High School, and in 1898 was graduated from the State University of Iowa, with a record for scholarship of a high order.  In the University Miss Paxson showed her capacity for work and service for others which has since characterized her life.  She was president of her class, president of the Y. W. C. A., a member of the leading literary societies, a star basket ball player, a member of two sororities, the Kappa Kappa Gamma, and the Phi Beta Kappa.  Shortly after her graduation she entered Moody Institute in Chicago.  In 1900 she was made state secretary of the Iowa Young Women's Christian Association.  So successful was her work in the State that she was called to the national work and became the national secretary of the student Y. W. C. A.  In this capacity she visited the leading educational centers of this country and it was many times said of her that she was the best known and best loved young woman in America.  She represented the American Board at the International Y. W. C. A. conference in Switzerland and went later as a delegate to China and Japan.  In February, 1911, a life long wish was realized, when she sailed for China to engage in her chosen work in a nation of great possibilities.  Her success among the Chinese has been marvelous, and she holds today perhaps the most important position held by an American woman in North China.  She is national student secretary and in that position maps out the religious and educational policies followed in the colleges and cities where there are Y. W. C. A's.  She devotes much time to a study of the language and to understanding the character and life of the Chinese people.  Miss Paxson was one of seven women who were delegates in 1913 to the famous conference at Shanghai, conducted by John R. Mott.  She organized and conducted the first summer conference for young women in North China and secured as speakers many leading men of China.  At Tien Tsin she established the first city association for young women.  Her work in China is truly that of a pioneer but she loves it all, its hardships, its responsibilities and its pleasures.  She has a gifted pen and has written many magazine articles, and her morning prayer has been a guide in the devotions of hundreds of women of many nations.  No words can place an estimate on such a life of service.


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