The Cocke building of the former Roanoke Female Seminary (now Hollins University)
Lottie attended the “Roanoke Female Seminary” (later Hollins College) from the age of fourteen. She later admitted she was a girl careless of her spiritual condition and proud of her innate intellectual abilities. She was awarded the first Master’s degree earned by a woman, but stayed at home to help her mother hold things together during the Civil War, as her brothers fought in the army and her oldest sister served as a Confederate doctor. She made a profession of faith in Christ in 1858 after hearing a sermon by the greatest of Southern Baptist preachers of her day, John Broaddus. When the war ended, she began a teaching career which carried her first to Kentucky, then Georgia. Believing that God called her to China as a single female missionary, a possibility only recently permitted by her denomination, Lottie left America at the age of thirty-two.
Penglai City, China, where Lottie first served, joining her sister Edmonia
Lottie at first joined with her sister Edmonia in teaching at a boys’ school run by missionaries. She travelled with missionary wives to other parts of China and discovered her “real passion is evangelism.” Lottie had mastered four foreign languages in college and, with that facility for learning other tongues, she mastered Chinese quickly. Lottie disagreed with a number of policies of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, and she never tired of trying to change their minds through letters and on furloughs back to the United States. She constantly pleaded for more missionaries to come to bring the Gospel to the millions of people who would never otherwise hear the message.
Shandong, China street market, circa 1890
Lottie Moon realized quickly that women could best reach Chinese women with the Gospel message, and her witnessing to women bore great spiritual fruit. The last half of the 19th Century and first years of the 20th, were characterized in China by wars, massacres of Christians, famine, plague, and revolution, and Lottie persevered through all obstacles. On top of that, she had to grapple with the theological compromise of fellow missionaries and close friends in the United States. Her letters home were published in the denominational press and her inspiration brought about the founding of the Women’s Missionary Union, and the raising of funds to send more missionaries. She suggested that Christmastime would be a good opportunity to ask for contributions, and so it turned out. Since 1888 the Lottie Moon missionary offering has raised more than 1.5 billion dollars for foreign missions.