University of the Rockies is proud to share our PEAK initiative: Promoting Education, Awareness, and Knowledge. Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways you can participate.

Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University.

March 2015

The Little Woman in a Big Country: The Life of Gladys Aylward
By Dylan Self, Military Student Advisor at University of the Rockies

There was once a little girl of no great significance living in England who just knew that someday she would do something important. In her autobiography, she wrote that this innate drive first manifested itself in the desire to be on stage, but after attending a religious meeting her whole mission in life changed (Aylward 1970). It was during that meeting that she realized God had a plan for her life, accepted Jesus as her savior, and while looking through some of the literature available that night, she saw an article about China that made a lasting impression upon her. 

After asking some missionary friends about the state of affairs in the Far East, it appeared to her a travesty that there were millions of Chinese who had never and would never hear the gospel. The solution to the whole situation was for her to make the trip from England to China and do something about that. After making her way to Bristol, just south of Wales and then to Swansea in southwest England while working with religious groups, the thought of working in China became so all-consuming that she reasoned it best for her to just go on her own. 

She worked hard as a parlor maid and after saving everything she could she went to the train station to purchase a one-way ticket to Vladivostok. The purchase did not come without a warning from the clerk who sold her the ticket though. He advised her that the trip would not only be a difficult one as it spanned Europe, Russia, and Siberia, but there was also fighting going on in Manchuria, just north of Beijing and her destination of Yangchen (Ibid). This information did not deter the 26 year-old Aylward. She’d heard of a woman named Jeannie Lawson who had been working in China for many years and was looking for a younger woman to carry on her work. Once she’d reached Yangchen, Aylward quickly made a name for herself among the local population as a good person, but shortly after she began working with Mrs. Lawson, her employer suffered a severe fall and passed away a few days later (Kiefer N.D.). 

Following the Japanese invasion of China in 1938, Aylward’s responsibilities became much more critical to the lives of the people of Yangchen, and China as a whole. As the Japanese had taken control of large swaths of the countryside, the Chinese had a decision to make about what to do with the local criminals held in the local prisons. They couldn’t just let them all go as that endangered the Chinese people and they couldn’t behead them all according to the traditional custom. After some consultation between the Chinese leadership and “Ai Wei de” (as Aylward had become known), it was decided the prisoners would be released on bond to their relatives or friends so their good behavior could be assumed (Ibid). As the war continued, Ai Wei De began to act as a courier of information to both the Chinese army and guerilla forces opposing the invasion (Ibid). But when a bounty was placed on her life by the Japanese due to her cooperation with Chinese forces, Aylward and the nearly 200 children she’d assumed responsibility for embarked on a 12-day journey to an orphanage in Xian, some 90 miles from Yangcheng.

Over the next 30 years, Aylward’s devotion to both spreading the gospel and to China never faltered.  She started a Christian church in Xian, established a settlement for lepers in the western province of Sichuan, and was buried in a small cemetery on the island of Taiwan as the communist government of China at the time was virulently against any foreign or religious activities. The “Little Woman” of China, whose mission in life started with a pamphlet at a prayer meeting when she was young, lived her life in accordance with her beliefs, withstood immense opposition, and saved the lives of untold numbers of people. Not bad for a former parlor maid, is it?

Aylward, Gladys. (June 1, 1970). Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Kiefer, James E. (N.D.).  Gladys Aylward, Missionary to China. Retrieved on 6 February, 2015 from:

Brave Women in History
By Megan Cunnington, Faculty Scheduling Administrator

Traditionally, many have thought of the military as a masculine profession, wherein the men fight to defend their country while women act as nurses or remain at home. Across the world, women have been involved in combat positions for centuries.  While women face extensive challenges and discrimination, gender does not and often has not limited women’s abilities to fight just as courageously as their male counterparts. As long as men have battled, so have women, just as bravely as their male counterparts.

Greco-Persian Wars
Queen Artemisia of Caria (part of modern-day Turkey) led many naval battles against the Greeks, most notably fighting alongside king Xerxes (490-480 BCE) (Mark, 2014). She took over the throne as regent for her son, but there is no record of him ever ruling after. Artemisia conquered the city of Latmus when she staged a festival and snuck her army in, winning without a fight. In battle, she proved herself to be a strong and clever military commander and is most-well known as an intelligent and cunning leader. She oversaw several tactical wins over the Greeks at Artemisium, Thermopylae, and Athens (Mark, 2014). Xerxes relied on her for military counsel and charged her with protecting several of his illegitimate children. After she helped them escape to safety, she disappears from the historical record around the time that the Persians failed to invade Europe.

Greek War of Independence
Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825) was born in Constantinople but eventually settled on the island of Hydra (Gammell, 2009). Her mother married a sea captain, instilling a love of the ocean and sea-life in her at a young age. After her second husband died, she had inherited a small fortune. At the age of 50 and with seven children, she captained the largest warship in the Greek Navy. The Russian Imperial Navy posthumously gave her the title of Admiral after they allied with the Greeks against the Ottoman Empire. She played a critical role in the victory over the Ottomans. Her home is now a museum, and she appeared on Greek currency for several years (Gammell, 2009).

American Revolution
George Washington handpicked Ann Simpson Davis to work as a messenger during the American Revolution when she was 16 years old (Daughters of the American Revolution, 2008).  She was an accomplished horseback rider and used her riding skills and knowledge of the area to successfully sneak across British lines. She often hid messages in grain, bullets, and clothing, but local British loyalists never suspected her. She eventually married a fellow veteran, Jon Davis.  They settled in Ohio, where a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a school are named after her.

Civil War
Cathay Williams was born a slave in Missouri and lived and worked on a plantation until the beginning of the Civil War (Taylor, 2014). She posed as a man under the name William Cathay and joined the 38th U.S. Infantry (Taylor, 2014). She served until she was stricken with small pox, and a doctor discovered her identity. After her discharge, she moved to New Mexico and tried to earn a pension from the military. While white women who served in the American Revolution received these benefits, she was denied (Taylor, 2014).

Mary Walker was the first women to receive the Medal of Honor (Arkin, 2014). She earned a medical degree from Syracuse College and opened her own practice. She became an assistant surgeon for the Union during the Civil War and acted as a spy. When the Confederates captured her, she remained imprisoned in Richmond, VA. After the war, she was initially denied her pension until Andrew Johnson awarded her the Medal of Honor (Arkin, 2014). Congress attempted to rescind her medal because she was not a combatant against the enemy, despite the fact that she risked her life rescuing and tending to men on the front lines of battle. Walker kept the medal until the day she died. She spent most of her life wearing men’s trousers, which led many people to taunt and throw rocks at her on a daily basis.

World War II
While the American military officially allowed women into combat roles in 2013, women have actually been in combat since World War II (WWII). Cornelia Fort was a student pilot in Hawaii, and one of the few airborne eyewitnesses to Pearl Harbor (Cochrane & Ramirez). She flew for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, which moved supplies during wartime. She died when another plane struck her own.

2nd Lt. Elsie S. Ott helped to pioneer the development of air medical evacuations during WWII. She participated in the first medical air evacuations that flew 5 patients from Karachi, Pakistan to Walter Reed Hospital. The air evacuation was Ott’s first time ever on a plane (Zinser, 2014).  Two of her patients were paralyzed from the waist down. One suffered from manic-depressive psychosis. One had tuberculosis, and the last one suffered from glaucoma. She had only a first aid kit and the assistance of one sergeant with medical training who was not a nurse or doctor (Zinser, 2014). She received the first U.S. Air Medal and was promoted to Captain.


Arkin, D. (2014, May 21). Mary Edwards Walker: The only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. NBC News. Retrieved from

CNN Staff. (2013, January 24). By the numbers: Women in the U.S. Military. CNN. Retrieved from

Cochrane, D., & Ramirez, P. (n.d.). Women in aviation and space history: CorneliaFfort. Retrieved from

Daughters of the American Revolution. (2008, April). Ann Simpson Davis chapter, Columbus, Ohio Daughters of the American Revolution founded February 1, 1926. Retrieved from

Gammell, C. (2009, August 7). Greek woman 'sets fire' to briton's genitals: Laskarina bouboulina the heroine. The Telegraph. Retrieved from

Mark, J. (2014, March 12). Artemisia I of Caria. Retrieved from

Taylor, E. (2014, June 4). Little known black history fact: Cathay Williams, Buffalo Soldier. Black America Web. Retrieved from

Zinser, W. (2014, March 27). Women's history month: 2nd Lt. Elsie S.Ott. Retrieved from

PEAK Archive

Browse through previous editions.


PEAK pageTitle:, pageUrl:, pageId:, pageDescription:,