Charlotte Moon was a tiny woman with a big passion for evangelism. “Lottie,” as she was usually known, was reported to be less than four and a half feet tall. In spite of her small stature, she had a strong personality and fought fiercely for what she believed in.
Lottie was born in the American South to an educated, wealthy family. Her sisters seemed to be just as remarkable as her. One of them became a physician and served as a Confederate Army doctor during the Civil War and another sister became the first single woman missionary to North China. Clearly, these were brave, independent women.
As for Lottie, she was well-educated and spoke several languages, eventually becoming one of the very first women to earn a Master’s degree in languages. At this time, a southern woman earning a higher degree was almost unheard of. After the Civil War Lottie became a teacher, collaborating with a friend to open an all-female high school.
During this time she also became engaged, however, she felt that God had first claim on her life. Since God’s claim conflicted with the young man’s claim, she knew that one had to go. Lottie made the courageous and difficult decision to end the engagement. While she believed it was right, she also wrote of deep loneliness.
After only a few years of teaching, Lottie felt called to join her younger sister and help with her missionary efforts in China. They were part of the Southern Baptist Church, which had recently changed its policy on sending single women out as missionaries. Thirty-two year old Lottie jumped at the new opportunity.
In China she again started as a teacher, helping the married missionary women that were already there, but Lottie eventually found her passion in evangelism. Moved by the plight of the women and children in rural villages, she began to focus her efforts there. Only women could reach other women.
At first the native people were suspicious of her, but she won them over with homemade cookies. Lottie also learned Chinese and assumed the dress of the Chinese people.
She is probably best known for her letter and article writing. She wrote to churches and Christians everywhere, talking about the need for more workers and attempting to raise funds and promote missions. Lottie was frustrated by the limitations placed on her because she was a single woman. She wrote and lobbied for more equality for women missionaries, even encouraging Southern Baptist women to start their own mission board. On top of that, she promoted regular (every ten years) furloughs for the sake of missionaries’ health and physical well-being.
Her forty year ministry was affected by plague, war, and famine, including the Boxer Rebellion. She was deeply bothered by the suffering of the people around her and shared with them what little she had, to her own detriment. It was said that she only weighed 50 pounds when she died.
More than a hundred years later, Lottie Moon’s legacy lives on. Her prolific letter-writing challenged people to give and opened their eyes to the intense needs of others. The Southern Baptists created an offering in her name, called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. To this day they continue to raise funds to support international missions.
“Why should we not do something that will prove that we are really in earnest in claiming to be followers of Him, who, though He was rich, for our sake became poor?” -Lottie Moon
To learn more about Lottie Moon you can read her biography The New Lottie Moon Story by Catherine B. Allen or Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings, edited by Keith Harper