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Ayscough, Florence (1875/78–1942)

Ayscough, Florence (1875/78–1942)

American poet and translator. Born Florence Wheelock between 1875 and 1878 in Shanghai, China; died on April 26, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois; daughter of Thomas Reed and Edith Haswell (Clarke) Wheelock; educated at Mrs. Quincy Shaw's School in Brookline, Massachusetts; married Francis Ayscough, around 1895 in Shanghai (died 1933); married Harley Farnsworth MacNair, in 1935.

Taught Chinese art and literature at the college level and wrote eight books encompassing Chinese history, literary criticism and translation. Selected works: Chinese Women Yesterday and Today (1939).

Florence Wheelock was born and raised in Shanghai, China, daughter of an American mother and a Canadian businessman. After studying with private tutors, she made her first trip to America at age nine to begin her formal schooling in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she was enrolled as a boarder at Mrs. Quincy Shaw's School. There, she met Amy Lowell , who became her lifelong friend and later collaborator.

After her schooling was complete, Florence returned to Shanghai, where she met and married British importer Francis Ayscough. She also became enamored of the Chinese language and culture and set out to learn its intricacies. On a visit to America, she brought several Chinese word pictures that she translated into English; then her friend Lowell turned the words into rhymed poetry.

Ayscough, who traveled as a lecturer on Chinese art, literature, and society, made her home in Shanghai until her husband died in 1933. She then met Harley MacNair, a professor, whom she married in 1935. The couple moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Ayscough accepted a permanent lecturing post at the University of Chicago. She continued her work translating Chinese literature and documenting China's history and culture. Ayscough named her homes in traditional Chinese fashion: Wild Goose Happiness House and House of the Wutung Trees. In 1941, she entered the Chicago Osteopathic Hospital, where she died, after a long illness, in late April of 1942. Harley MacNair compiled and edited the letters of his wife and Lowell, and, in 1945, he published Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell: Correspondence of a Friendship. The following year, he published The Incomparable Lady, a biography of his wife.

Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts

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