日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

Gertrude Sara Bigelow: Educational Missionary to Yamaguchi Prefecture


Gertrude Sara Bigelow was born on May 17, 1860 in the town of Batavia in Genesee County, New York. After graduating from Hamilton Ladies’ Seminary, she worked at a local school. One year, when a missionary on furlough spoke about mission in Japan and called out for “those who would dedicate their lives to spread the gospel to Asia,” Bigelow responded to the call. As preparation for coming to Japan, she earned a middle-school teaching license from the State of New York in September 1886 and was sent to Japan in 1887 at the age of 26.


From Shinei Girls’ School to Kojo Girls’ School

In 1888 Bigelow took a teaching position at Shinei Girls’ School as an educational missionary from the Presbyterian Church. After a year, she became the principal, but in 1890, she moved to Hokuriku Girls’ School in Kanazawa, where she remained for two years, to help establish the school there. In 1892 she moved to the city of Yamaguchi to a newly established school, Kojo Girls’ School. The school was founded as Yamaguchi Eiwa Girls’ School in 1891 by Hattori Shozo but had just been relocated and renamed. There is a record of the local people’s remark that “such a young lady came to such a deserted area in the midst of the mountains!” It was a small school of only about 20 students, with a principal (Hattori Shozo), one foreign teacher, and three Japanese teachers. Bigelow taught English, ethics, music and physical education.


Bigelow went back to the U.S. on home assignment for the church mission board for a year from 1893 and attended the mission conference in Detroit. Including that time, she went home to the U.S. four times for home assignments (1893, 1903, 1915, and 1923). In 1897 her younger sister Florence Bigelow arrived at Kojo Girls’ School. In 1899, at the age of 39, Sara Bigelow became the school's second principal. She even brought out a small organ and various sporting equipment, such as dumbbells and sticks, to the school playground in order to help teach physical education class. She was a multi-talented person who could also teach sewing (both Western and Japanese style) and needle-point work. Her students remembered her enjoying horseback riding on her own horse, named Kaiser. In 1909, she contributed an article, “Japan’s Daughters and Missionary Teachers,” to the magazine The Assembly Herald, published by the Presbyterian Church, reporting about girls’ education in Japan.


Yamamoto Tsuchi and Yamamoto Goro

In April 1899, a twelve-year-old girl entered Kojo Girls’ School in Yamaguchi City from Chohu (Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture), traveling by steamboat and horse carriage. It was Yamamoto (Hironaka) Tsuchi, who later became the principal of Joshi Gakuin in Tokyo (1947-1966). Tsuchi was one of the precious fruits of Bigelow’s hard work. She was Bigelow’s successor, and she contributed greatly to women’s Christian education in Japan. When Joshi Gakuin lost its building, right after it had been rebuilt following World War II, Tsuchi stood firmly and faced the difficulty as she led the students with confidence. She is also known as the translator of Pollyanna (by Eleanor Hodgman Porter, Japanese translation published in 1916).


Yamamoto Goro, Tsuchi’s husband, was the person who introduced the Big Brothers Big Sisters movement to Japan. As chair of its board of directors, Yamamoto also led Baiko Jogakuin, which was Bigelow’s last school, when it was going through a tough time during WW II.


Baiko Jogakuin

In 1914 Kojo Jogakuin merged with Umegasaki Girls’ School in Nagasaki and moved to a new location, where a new school called Baiko Jogakuin was established in Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The name “Baiko” was written with a combination of characters from the names of the old schools. The principal was Hirotsu Tokichi from Umegasaki Girl’s School, and Bigelow taught the Bible and English.


It was said of Bigelow: “She did her best wherever she was placed by the Lord and endeavored to be a cornerstone.” “It was all because of her that the students were not so much affected by the bad influences of that era.” Her beloved student, Yamamoto Tsuchi, also worked with Bigelow at Baiko for a time. In 1919, Bigelow received the medal for service to education from Yamaguchi Prefecture and in 1921, a celebration of her 30 years of service was held.


Bigelow also dedicated herself to the friendship between Japan and U.S.. In 1927, through the work of missionary Sidney Lewis Gulick, who longed for friendship and peace between the two countries, a total of 12,739 “Blue Eyed Dolls” were sent to Japan from the U.S.. Bigelow gathered student representatives from elementary schools to a conference hall in Yamaguchi to dedicate them. Even today one doll remains at Odono Elementary School in Yamaguchi. The doll is wearing a winter coat with a back pocket and is called Rose Mary.


Returning Home and Her Last Days

In May 1930, after staying in Japan for 45 years, of which 38 years were spent at Kojo and Baiko, she finished her service and returned to the U.S. at the age of 71. She donated 200 books and a strong brick building on the hill behind the school as a prayer and meditation house for Baiko Jogakuin. This “Prayer House” is still standing as one of the few buildings that survived the bombing of Shimonoseki in July 1945. Sara Bigelow went to her heavenly home on Nov. 1, 1941 in Los Angeles, California at the age of 81.


Baiko Gakuin will celebrate its 100th anniversary in Shimonoseki in 2014. Bigelow, who has been praised as a “reserved” woman who had “a gentle and sincere personality” and who “loved the students with an extraordinary passion,” was an excellent educator and missionary for the young girls. Her will and longing for peace still lives on in the “House of Prayer” at Baiko Gakuin. (Tr. BN)


Bibliography: History of Baiko Jogakuin, Kuroki Goro, 1934,

Baiko Jogakuin, A Distant View, Baiko Jogakuin Almni, 1987


—Toyoda Shigeru, archivist

Baiko Gakuin University




 梅光学院大学・学院資料室 豊田 滋(とよだしげる)



ガートルート・サラ・ビゲローは、1860年5月17日、New York州Genesee郡Bataviaに生まれた。

1883年、ビゲローは、Hamilton Ladie’s Seminaryを卒業後、地元の学校に勤務していた。ある年、帰国した宣教師が日本伝道の話の後「だれかこの中で東洋にキリスト教を伝えるために献身する方はいないでしょうか」と呼びかけ、この呼びかけに応えたのがビゲローである。日本に赴任するために1886年9月ニューヨーク州の試験を受け、中等学校教師の免許状を取得。1887年来日。26歳だった。



1888年、ビゲローは長老教会Presbyterian Churches教育宣教師として新榮女学校に着任。一年後には校長に昇任する。1890年には、北陸女学校に転任し、学校の草創期に金沢で2年間勤務する。


「山の中の淋し い土地に、あんな若い婦人が」と周囲から驚かれた逸話が残る。


1893年7月から1年 間、伝道局の規定により一時帰国し、デトロイトで開かれた会議に出席している。一時 帰国はこの後、1903年、1915年、1923年の計4回である。


1899年39才で、ビゲローは第2代院長に昇進。体操ではベビーオルガンを校庭に持ち出し、ダンベルやクラブ を使った体操も指導している。和裁・洋裁・刺繍も教える多才な教師でもあった。愛馬カイザー号を駆って乗馬を楽しむ姿も教え子の記憶 に残っている。

1909年には米国の長老派事務局発行の雑誌『The Assembly Herald』に「Japan’s Daughters and Missionary Teacher」を寄稿して、当時の日本の女子教育事情を報告している。



1899年4月、長府の 町(現・下関市長府)から山口まで、蒸気船と馬車を乗り継いで12才の少女が光城女学院に入学する。この少女こそ、後の女子学院院長(1947年~1966年)山本つち(旧姓・弘中)である。女子学院が戦災から復興したばかりの校舎を再び失ったとき、 毅然(きぜん)として困難に対処し動ずることなく生徒を導いた山本つちこそ、ビゲローの薫陶の結実、その意思を継いでキリスト教女 子教育に貢献した人物である。また、つちは『パレアナ』(Eleanor Hodgman Porter著、1916年 に和訳出版)の訳者としても知られている。

つちの夫、山本五郎は1913年日本にBBBS(Big Brothers and Sisters movement)運動を紹介した人物で、ビゲロー最後の任地である梅光女学院では、戦時下の理事長として困難な時代を支えた功績がある。





「おかれた地位 に本分を尽くし、むしろ隅の置石たらむことを心がけられ」、「生徒等が、時代の悪風に浸むことの少かったのは先生のお蔭による」と語 られた人物である。愛弟子山本つちも、一時期、梅光で共に働いている。





1927年宣教師ギューリック(Sidney Lewis Gulick)の日米友好と平和を望んだ働きかけによって、アメリカから総計12739体の「青い目の人形」が日本に届いた。ビゲローは山口市の公会堂に小学生代表を集めて贈呈式を行った。




帰国と晩年 1930年5月

1930年 5月日本在留45年間、光城・梅光38年間の長きにわたる奉仕を終え、帰米。71才。梅光女学院に200冊の書物と、校庭後ろの山上に祈祷黙想の場所として煉瓦造りの頑丈な東屋を建築し寄贈した。この「祈りの家」は1945年7月2日の下関大空襲で焼失を 免れた数少ない建物として現存する。




梅光学院は、2014年に下関開学100周年を迎える。「温厚篤実にして寡言」「学生を愛すること尋常でなく」「女 子教育家としてはた宗教家として申し分なし」と語り継がれるビゲローの志と平和への希求は、「祈りの家」と共に今も梅光学院に生きている。


記録出典:梅光女学院史(黒木五郎著 1934)、梅光女学院遠望(梅光女学院同窓会編1987)ほか

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