Emily Chubbuck, Judson’s Faithful Helpmeet

This is the day that … Emily Chubbuck was born in 1817, in New York State, the fifth child in the family. Her family was poor and her health not substantial. She suffered from frequent headaches.

In childhood we find her working in a woollen mill 12 hours a day … then school teaching … and finding some fame as an author. Her success in writing books for children, teaching such principles as the Golden Rule, and as a contributor to several newspapers enabled her to buy a better home for her parents and see them out of their own hardships.

When Adoniram Judson, America’s first foreign missionary, returned from Burma on his first furlough in 30 years, he read one of her books (she wrote under the pen-name of Fanny Forester).

Impressed by her ability, Judson suggested that she write the biography of Sarah, his second wife, who had died a few months previously.

As they worked together on this volume, friendship blossomed into romance, and on 1 June 1846, the 58 year-old pioneer missionary wed the 29 year-old writer.

Back in Burma, Emily and Adoniram laboured faithfully for the Lord. She wrote: “Frogs hop from my sleeves when I put them on, and lizards drop from the ceiling to the table when we are eating, and the floors are black with ants…”

By 12 April, 1850, she was a young widow – Judson had died during a sea voyage recommended for his health. But she did not know she was a widow – alone in Burma with baby Emily – for another four months!

She was deeply pained in her loss, yet she could do nothing more than soldier on. Her personal struggle is beautifully penned in the following verses taken from a longer poem, addressed to her mother.

“Sweet mother, I am here alone, In sorrow and in pain;
The sunshine from my heart has flown, It feels the driving rain—ah, me! The chill, the mould, the rain.

“And when for one loved far, far more, Come thickly-gathering tears,
My star of faith is clouded o’er, I sink beneath my fears—sweet friend, I sink beneath my fears.

“But, gentle mother, through life’s storms I may not lean on thee;
For helpless, cowering little forms Cling trustingly to me.—Poor babes! To have no guide but me.

“All fearfully—all tearfully, Alone and sorrowing,
My dim eye lifted to the sky, Fast to the Cross I cling—O Christ, To Thy dear Cross I cling!”

This brave woman returned to America to care for the Judson children, until she died of tuberculosis on 1 June, 1854, at the age of 37.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.