Miss Phoebe Stone (石非比)

My student for this week is Miss Phoebe Stone (石非比, pinyin Shí Fēibǐ), who was the younger sister of the famous Dr. Mary Stone, one of the first Western-trained female physicians in China, and one of the first Chinese women to study in the United States. Mary is a little bit outside of the time period of my research, but Phoebe fits right in, and I’m excited to share her story with you.

A group of female doctors at the Elizabeth Danforth Memorial Hospital. Dr. Phoebe Stone is at the far right. Source.

Phoebe was born on 21 August 1891 in Kiukiang, Kiangsi province. She was raised “in an atmosphere of Christian piety and of radically nonconformist attitudes toward certain traditional Chinese values” (Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Vol. 3, pg. 128). Her parents didn’t bind the feet of any of their daughters (The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal, 1 May 1895, pg. 244) and they encouraged their daughters to learn to read and write. In fact, Phoebe attended a school founded by her mother for teaching Christianity to Chinese girls (The China Press, 30 May 1930, pg. 1). This “nonconformity” came about thanks to the experiences of Phoebe’s parents. Her parents were natives of Hupeh (Hubei) province and moved to Kiukiang during the Taiping Rebellion, a civil war fought between the Qing dynasty and a extremist Christian movement that ravaged the countryside in several provinces, including Hubei. Despite their lives being uprooted due to a violent Christian sect, the Stones were converted by the Methodist Episcopal Church missionary in Kiukiang and became some of the first Chinese Christians in central China (The China Press, 2 May 1931, pg. 7, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Vol. 3, pg. 128).

The Stones had 4 surviving children: a son, Luther, two older daughters, Mary and Anna, and then Phoebe, who was born 11 years after her next-oldest sister Anna. It’s unclear when the Stones started giving their children Western names; oldest child Mary did not have a “Western” Chinese name – her Chinese name was 美玉, or Měiyù – but one year after Phoebe’s birth, she went to the United States to study and took the name Mary Stone (their surname 石, or shí, means “stone” in Chinese). The same may have been true for second-child Anna; her Chinese name may have been “Renyin”. But I know that Phoebe’s Chinese name from birth was Phoebe (非比, or Fēibǐ), and I would guess that youngest-child Luther also had his name from birth. Both are names notably related to the Christian church.


Not long after Luther was born, tragedy struck. When Phoebe was only 8 or 9 years old, the Boxer Rebellion erupted against foreigners and foreign influences in China. Christian missionaries were the prime targets of the violence, and Phoebe’s father was one of the ministers who lost his life due to his connections with Westerners. It’s unclear where Phoebe was at this time. Mary and Anna were adults at this point; Mary was working at a clinic in Kiukiang, and she and the other doctors fled to Japan for a time (Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity). Phoebe probably stayed with her mother and baby brother, but I don’t know whether her mother also escaped to Japan or weathered the storm in Kiukiang.

If they did leave China, they returned not long afterwards, because Phoebe then attended Rulison-Fish Memorial School. This was a school founded by foreign missionary societies and named after Mrs. Sallie Rulison Fish, a missionary from Flint, Michigan who devoted her life and fundraising efforts to building this school. A new building for the school was built in 1901, not long after Mrs. Fish died, and it is most likely that school building that Phoebe attended (Annual Report, 1901, pg. 48).



Phoebe graduated from high school in 1910 at the age of 19 (The China Weekly Review, 23 Aug 1924, pg. 396). She then immediately went to America to study, paid for by her sister Mary. She entered the US on 15 April 1910 (entry paperwork). Although she was headed to Baltimore, Maryland, she took courses at Syracuse University that summer and lived at 307 University Place (General Catalogue 1911, pg. 382). Baltimore was her “permanant” address, though, because she took most of her coursework at Goucher College. Sadly, the Goucher Catalogue before 1913 does not have a list of students, but Phoebe was almost certainly there for the 1910-1911 academic year.

She returned to upstate New York to attend Syracuse University in the summer of 1911, living in Haven Hall this time (General Catalogue 1912, pg. 425). Then she returned to Baltimore for the 1911-12 academic year. The 1912 CSA Directory lists her as living in Baltimore and attending Goucher College. Then in 1913, we get some Goucher records. The Goucher Catalogue, published in October of 1913, lists Phoebe Stone as a student who entered the school in 1910 from Rulison Fish High School in Kiukiang. She lived in Glitner Hall and had completed 44 credit hours so far (Goucher Catalogue 1913/14, pg. 86). This would have been her junior year, and indeed, the following year’s catalogue lists her as having received her AB in 1914 (Goucher Catalogue 1914/15, pg. 70). She was the valedictorian of her class (The China Weekly Review, 23 Aug 1924, pg. 396).


The 1914 and 1915 CSA directories have Phoebe living in Baltimore as a Goucher College student, but that is only partially true. According to the 1914/15 Catalogue, and the 1915 Goucher College Alumni Register, Phoebe began taking graduate classes at Johns Hopkins University in 1914. However, she stayed at Goucher as a “resident fellow” (Goucher Catalogue 1914/15, pg. 71). This meant that she was awarded fellowship money from Goucher to attend Johns Hopkins (Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 10 No. 1, pg. 108). She continued to live at Glinter Hall, but took medical courses at Johns Hopkins beginning in the 1914-1915 academic year (University Register 1914/15, pg. 63). For some reason, she is listed as being from New York City; this error is repeated in the subsequent registers.


By the 1915-16 academic year, Phoebe had moved to 632 N Broadway (University Register 1915/16, pg. 69). She stayed at this address for the next 3 years (University Register 1916/17, pg. 69; University Register 1917/18, pg. 59; 1918 CSA Directory). Mary arrived after October of 1915 to take a postgrad course (pg. 80). Phoebe became more involved in the Johns Hopkins Chinese Students Club as the years went on, serving as the vice president in the 1917-18 academic year (Chinese Students’ Monthly, Vol. 13 No. 2, pg. 120).

Then, in 1918, Miss Phoebe Stone became Dr. Phoebe Stone, earning her MD (University Register 1918-19, pg. 395). She was also valedictorian at this graduation (The China Weekly Review, 23 Aug 1924, pg. 396).

“石非比,石美玉胞妹,1914年畢業於美國古徹學院,1918年畢業於美國約翰•霍布金斯醫學院,回國後接替石美玉主持醫院。” Translation: “Phoebe Stone, Mary Stone’s younger sister, graduated from Goucher College in 1914 and received her MD from Johns Hopkins in 1918. After she returned to China she took over Mary Stone’s hospital superintendency.” Source. 


As listed in the Johns Hopkins Register, she took an internship at Memorial Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts (University Register 1918-19, pg. 395). She worked specifically in pediatrics, overseeing the department during an infantile paralysis epidemic (The China Weekly Review, 23 Aug 1924, pg. 396). The internship was for less than a year, because Phoebe had returned to China by the end of 1918. Her older sister Mary had served as the superintendent of the Elizabeth Danforth Memorial Hospital since its founding in 1901, but she was leaving to return to the United States for more postgrad work. So Phoebe became the superintendent of the hospital in her sister’s absence (see link in previous photo).

In 1920, Phoebe and her sister Mary had decided to move on from Danforth. They moved to Shanghai and opened the Bethel Hospital at 17 Arsenal Road in Shanghai (The China Weekly Review, 23 Aug 1924, pg. 396). This endeavor was not only a hospital, but a middle and high school, an orphanage, a Bible school, and a training school for nurses. Mary felt very strongly that China needed a native class of doctors and nurses trained in Western methods so that the country could one day be self-sufficient in the field of medicine (Biographical Dictionary of Republican China). Phoebe was well loved and highly regarded by the community both in Kiukiang and Shanghai:


Translation: The doctor [Phoebe Stone] worked tirelessly, seeing patients day and night, no matter whether they were rich or poor, noble or lowly. Ever since she was hired, she has concentrated on diagnosis and treatment without exception. For her students, no matter whether they are dull-witted or clever, everyone improves under her teaching.

– Shen Bao, 3 June 1930, pg. 16


Johns Hopkins caught up with her in 1926 (Johns Hopkins Alumni Register, pg. 346), but by that point, Phoebe’s tireless work with patients and students had taken its toll. She contracted tuberculosis and fell ill. She first took a leave of absence from Bethel and traveled to the south of France to recover, but her condition did not improve. In 1927, she returned to Shanghai. That same year, there was unrest in Shanghai, so both Phoebe and Mary went to Korea, where Phoebe improved a bit. By the fall of 1929, she was so much improved that she returned to work. However, the winter was too harsh, and she soon became very ill again. She passed away at 65 Route de Siyes, Shanghai, on 29 May 1930 (The North China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, 3 June 1930, pg. 404).


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