Kerry Ryan
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Eva Price: a First Hand Account of the Boxer Atrocities


Eva Price was the wife of a missionary sent to the Shanxi province in China from Des Moines Iowa to influence the Chinese to be open to religious conversion. For several months she wrote letters to her family in the United States about their journeys in China and what they had seen. Her letters are extremely affective in describing life in China at the time of the Boxer rebellion because with every letter the suspense mounts. Until on July 29, she states, “I am preparing for the end very quietly and calmly…I do not regret coming to China, but I am sorry I have done so little. We will die together, my dear husband and I” (Preston 278).
Eva Price exemplifies in her letters the effect that this time of chaos had on missionaries and other foreigners psychologically. She wrote that she was made aware of encounters that missionaries had with the boxers in other provinces, but she was confident that the province of Shansi was a quiet and peaceful place and that she and her family had no cause for worry. In June 1900, however, the boxers had aimed threats towards missionaries and foreigners in the capital of Tai Yuen Fu. For weeks Eva wrote letters of the unwavering suspense and fear that she and her family felt every night while the boxers drew nearer. She wrote letters of friends being killed and their properties destroyed.

Nights are continual hours of anxious suspense…starting at every sound, and imagining an unruly mob surrounding us and taking our lives… Our friends at home will have suspense but not such as ours when the heart refuses to act properly and knees and legs shake in spite of all effort to be brave and quiet, trusting in God. (Cohen 205)

Dr. Robert Felsing who studied Eva’s notes and annotated her book of letters articulates that on July 31 the missionaries and Christian converts planned to escape from the city in hopes of avoiding a brutal death at the hands of the ever approaching boxers, but that their plan was foiled when the gate they had planned to escape through was discovered by a thief. The letters that followed this annotation by Dr. Felsing are filled with fear and anticipation of the attack that was inevitably to fall upon the missionaries in Shansi and tales of friends who had suffered vicious deaths.
“I must not write more. Were I to write a whole book I could not tell of the dreadful suspense of the past six weeks. We alternate hopes and fears we have all experienced” (Price 236). The next and last letter that reached the nieces of Eva Price was one written by Alice Williams, as fellow missionary’s wife. The letter bore bad news: the Price family, and their friends had been murdered after finally being able to leave Shansi. The massacre occurred in Taiyuan on July 9th. All the fears that Eva Price had expressed in her letter, featured above only one or two months before, had been realized. One convert gave an account of how the murders occurred, but the Prices were not mentioned specifically.
Eva Price and her husband Charles wrote several notes and letters about the troublesome times that they encountered when they moved to China. These documents provide an extremely interesting way of answering questions about the feelings of fear and desperation that consumed the foreigners who moved into the nation with no intention to cause any harm.
Works Cited


Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Events, Experience, and Myth. New York,
NY: Columbia UP, 1997.

Esherick, Joseph W. The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. Los Angeles, CA: University of
California P, 1987.

O'Connor, Richard. The Spirit Soldiers. New York, NY: G.P Putnam Sons, 1973.

Preston, Diana. The Boxer Rebellion. New York, NY: Walker and Company, 2000.

Price, Eva J. China Journal: An American Missionary Family During the Boxer Rebellion. New
York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989.