By Lorry Lutz
A long-time publications specialist with a mission organization, Lorry Lutz in retirement became enthralled with the life story of a heroic crusading woman medical doctor, Dr. Katherine Bushnell, 1855-1946. She determined to tell the forgotten story of this deeply Christian crusader against the white slave trade in Denver, then Chicago, then the Wisconsin woods—and then on to New York and London. A student of biblical languages while a medical missionary in China, Dr. Bushnell became respected for her biblical insights. Her theological study of God’s design for women, God’s Word to Women, was considered groundbreaking by biblical scholars and is still available.
As a young woman Kate is strong-minded and unconventional. She yearns to use her hands as a doctor to save lives and rescue souls. But she first must convince her father that attending medical school is respectable for a woman. Gaining her father’s approval, she pursues a career as a doctor. She is one of only five female students in her class at Northwestern Medical College. Upon graduation she receives a surprise invitation to serve in a mission clinic in China.
China overwhelms her. Just twenty-four years old, Kate faces a culture where not only are women’s feet bound, but their minds as well. As her Mandarin improves she loves to visit the village women, but grieves at their three-inch feet. When she questions the practice, she’s surprised at the resistance of mission school principal Eloise Haskins, and inadvertently sparks an enmity that will haunt her for years to come. Meanwhile, a restlessness stirs in her soul.
An avid linguist, Kate studies Scripture from the original Hebrew and Greek at a time when only the most educated women are taught to read the King James. While reading her Chinese Bible in the mountains, Kate discovers differences in a verse in the New Testament, an apparent effort to keep women subservient. This begins a lifelong study of God’s design for women and a desire not only to heal women who suffer mistreatment, but to address teachings that devalue them. She begins to sense a call to help women in a greater way. But what? And how?
Injured while in the mountains, Kate accompanies Ella, who suffers from consumption, back to America. Kate, ever the healer, tends to Ella’s health while starting her own medical practice in Denver. But tragedy strikes and Ella dies. Kate not only loses her friend and colleague.
Kate throws herself into her work and Bible study. She determines to make a difference in this world. But how? When she begins working among the poor and hopeless women on the streets of Denver, she discovers a new God-given passion. She faces down dangerous men, unstopped by their threats and very real actions against her. Learning of her success, Frances Willard, president of the WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) invites Kate to work with her in Chicago.
There Kate joins Elizabeth “Bess” Andrew, who will become a lifelong colleague. Kate ministers among a clientele no one wants to treat or talk about: prostitutes. While her commitment grows, along with her belief that God can transform broken lives, she faces unexpected opposition from the leaders of the WCTU board who not only dislike Willard’s “pet projects,” but believe the women on the street are not redeemable. Unhindered by them, or the brothel owners who continually threaten and follow her, she presses forward.
Kate invites Bertha Lyons, whom she helps rescue from a life of prostitution and spiritual darkness in Denver, to join her in opening the Anchorage (1886-1974)—a safe house for women caught in poverty, abuse, and prostitution. Reaching out to these women changes Kate’s life. But some in the WCTU determine to end her work.
Undaunted, she launches lecture tours, not only to start WCTU reading rooms, but to raise funds for the Anchorage. On a train she learns about White Slavery in the lumber camps of Wisconsin, and is shocked by the newspaper story of a woman burned to death in a camp by an angry patron. To control the rumors, Wisconsin Governor Rusk sends his private detective, James Fielding, to refute the existence of kidnapped girls. Fielding writes an article for the Milwaukee Journal. Kate confronts him before going north. There, she determines to visit a den to obtain first-hand accounts. She sneaks into the camp and past the guarded walls to speak to the women and girls, risking her life, her safety, and her reputation. After narrowly escaping, she goes on to interview hundreds of girls held against their will.
But opposition grows from Mrs. Carse and Mrs. Phelps, WCTU board members. And Wisconsin Senator Grossman warns her that the governor is “not pleased” by her report on sexual slavery in the lumber camps. She is requested to appear at a special hearing of the Wisconsin State Legislature, where a hostile senate listens to her report. Her testimony stuns the legislators, but Fielding denounces her report and calls her a liar and unchaste in front of a group of senators. Eventually a law is passed imprisoning den keepers who keep under-age or kidnapped girls. All Kate’s efforts and risks finally begin to pay off.
Kate returns home to Evanston to discern God’s will about her future. She falls and breaks her ankle which does not heal. She believes God has closed the door to England. Bess, about to precede Kate overseas, prays. Kate’s ankle miraculously heals, but she fears her work will only be telling the same lurid stories once again.
Desperately seeking God’s direction, she pages through Scripture and reads about three different men who receive direction in a dream. She dreams she’s crossing the ocean aboard a ship that goes through a heavy storm. She hears a woman’s voice, that of the famed British social reformer, Josephine Butler, inviting her to help in the stormy battles of rescuing down-trodden women.
Without a plan or funds, Kate writes Butler, “I’m coming. I’ll be there in God’s time.”
Available on amazon.com.
Published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.