Wednesday, March 08, 2017

International Women's Day

This memorial to Eliza Ritson is found in Sunderland Minster. It reads:

To The Glory of God / This Organ was dedicated / 3rd January 1936 / the Choir Organ being in memory of / Eliza Ritson / a faithful servant of God / in Bishopwearmouth and in Japan

It is a small plaque, but the organ pipes must be the largest and most grand memorial in the building. Eliza Ritson is one of our hidden women, whose overlooked story deserves to be told. She, and the other women she went out to Japan as missionaries with, are truly International Women!

I have looked Eliza up, and found her obituary in ‘The Japan Christian year-book’ missionary obituaries for 1935-1936. It reads:

‘Miss Eliza Ritson, who died at Sunderland, England, on August 25, 1935 was 25 years a missionary of the C. M. S. in Japan. Except for three months on arrival in Osaka the whole of that time was given to Tokushima, where she served the church devotedly by work, prayer, and gift. There are many in Tokushima who remember her with thankfulness to God for the light which she was the instrument of bringing into their lives. “Only God can measure how much her love and prayer have done both for individuals and for the church.” She retired from Japan about eighteen years ago and lived in England untill [sic] her death.’

I have also established that Eliza has many entries in the Extracts from the Annual Letters of the Missionaries, Church Mission Society archives, which are kept in the University of Birmingham’s Cadbury Research Library among their Special Collections. I would love to be able to bring copies of her letters to the Minster, her own thoughts to life in a space that was being re-ordered in her final years, including relocating the organ from the West end of the building to the East.

How might her story inspire future generations? First, it must be told…

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