Moon, Lottie (1840–1912)

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Moon, Lottie (1840–1912)

American Southern Baptist missionary to China and founder and namesake of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Born Charlotte Diggs Moon on December 12, 1840, in Crowe, Virginia; died on December 24, 1912, in Kobe, Japan; daughter of Edward Harris Moon (a plantation owner) and Anna Maria (Barclay) Moon; privately schooled by governesses; Hollins College, B.A., 1856; Albermarle Female Institute, M.A., 1861; never married; no children.

Had religious conversion (1859) during revival led by Dr. John A. Broadus in Charlottesville; returned home (1861) and assisted her elder sister, Ori-anna, one of the South's first female physicians, in Civil War hospitals; tutored children in Alabama and taught in a school for girls in Danville, Kentucky (beginning in 1865); with friends, established a school for girls in Cartersville, Georgia (1870).

When Lottie Moon's youngest sister, Edmonia , sailed in 1872 to serve as a Southern Baptist missionary in the Far East, Lottie began to reflect on her role and duty as a Christian. Making her decision "for Christ," Moon sailed in September 1873 to join her sister in China. She quickly learned to speak Chinese and acclimated to the surrounding customs and culture, settling with Edmonia in Tengchow in a house that soon became known as "The Home of the Crossroads." Due to her sister's worsening health, in 1876 Moon accompanied Edmonia back to the United States, returning to China by Christmas 1877. In 1885, she moved to more remote villages, centering her mission at Pingtu, an area no missionary had spent time in before, intent on broadening her ministry and her educational efforts on behalf of Chinese women. Always challenged by the lack of adequate funding for the most basic necessities, in 1888 Moon made a plea to the women of the Southern Baptist Church calling on them, in the spirit of Christmas, to share in the mission of China. In response, the Southern Baptist Woman's Missionary Union raised over $3,000. With these proceeds, the mission sponsored three additional woman missionaries in the Pingtu area, and by 1889 a Baptist church was founded there.

Moon returned to America on furlough in October 1891, appearing at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta and, in 1893, in Nashville, speaking on the condition of the Baptist mission in China. During her remaining months of leave, she spoke to various women's organization throughout the Southern states, spreading the word of her work. She returned to China and her base at Tengchow in October 1893. The growing anti-Western and anti-Christian sentiments of the Boxer Rebellion soon demanded a relocation of most Western missionaries based in China, and in July 1900 Moon moved to Fukuola, Japan. She returned to Teng-chow in April 1901.

The remaining years of Moon's mission in China were difficult, beginning with the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) and culminating in the 1911 Chinese rebellion against the Manchu Dynasty which plunged the country into chaos. Although the American counsel advised all Americans to leave China at the outbreak of the hostilities, Moon remained. Finally, undernourished and near exhaustion, she gave her remaining funds to the Christians in Pingtu and to the Famine Relief Fund and followed the advice of the mission doctor, setting sail for Shanghai in December 1912 with a missionary nurse, Cynthia Miller . Leaving Shanghai for San Francisco on December 20, Lottie Moon died on board ship in the harbor of Kobe, Japan, on Christmas Eve. She was cremated and her ashes sent home to her family in Crowe, Virginia. Moon's missionary work in China was formidable, but she is best remembered for the Christmas offering which bears her name, begun by her pleas for assistance and nurtured by the Southern Baptist Woman's Missionary Union. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supports the building of churches, hospitals, and schools, the publication of missionary tracts, and provides homes and salaries for missionaries around the world.


Lawrence, Una Roberts. Lottie Moon. Nashville, TN: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1927.

suggested reading:

Hyatt, Irwin T. Our Ordered Lives Confess: Three Nineteenth-Century American Missionaries in East Shantung. Harvard Studies in American-East Asian Relations, Vol. 8. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.


Papers regarding Moon's mission to China, her letters, and articles are held by the Foreign Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention; other personal papers are held privately by the family.

Amanda Carson Banks , Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee