Biographies > Matilda S. Calder Thurston (Mrs. Lawrence Thurston)

By: Danielle Ryan, MHC Class of 2006

Source: "Calder, Matilda S., class of 1896" Alumnae Biographical Files, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Matilda Smyrell Calder was born in Hartford Connecticut on May 16, 1875 to George Calder and Margery Patterson Calder. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1896 and spent four years teaching in Connecticut high schools. She then taught from 1900 to 1902 at the Central Turkey College for Girls in Marash, Turkey. In 1902 she married Reverend Lawrence Thurston and the couple traveled to Peking, China to found a Yale-in-China mission. In 1903 the couple returned to the United States due to Rev. Thurston's declining health.Following her husband's death in 1904 Calder spent two years as a traveling secretary for the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions. In 1906 she returned to China and taught for five years at the Yale Mission at Changsha.

In 1913 Calder founded Ginling College in Nanking, the first four-year women's college in China. In 1925 she received an honorary Doctor of Literature Degree from Mount Holyoke. Calder served as the president of Ginling College until 1928 when, amid Chinese nationalist criticism, she resigned in favor of Wu Yi-Fang, a member of the first graduating class of Ginling. She remained as an advisor to Ginling College until 1936. She resided in the United States from 1936-1939 and then returned to China as a treasurer and aid to war relief organizations. Calder was interned during the Japanese occupation of Nanking and then returned to the United States in 1943 where she lived with her sister Helen in Auburndale, Massachusetts. In 1955 she published a history of Ginling College with Ruth M. Chester. Ms. Calder died on April 18, 1958 in Auburndale, Massachusetts.

For more information about Matilda Calder Thurston see:

Photo credits: Mrs. Lawrence Thurston as President Emeritus of Ginling College, 1937. Yale Divinity Library Special Collections.

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