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From the Yangtse river in China to Danby, Vermont, Pearl S. Buck enlightened the lives of many people through her teachings, literature, and her quest to assure every child the right to be adopted.Born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia, Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was the fourth of seven children born to Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker. Three months after her birth, the Sydenstrickers returned to their home in Chinkiang, China.Pearl's father was away often, searching for Christian converts, while her mother ministered to Chinese women. In 1900, while her husband was away, Caroline and the children were forced to flee to Shanghai in an attempt to avoid rebels of the Boxer Rebellion. When the rebellion ended, the family was reunited in Chinkiang and, shortly after, returned to the United States for another furlough.While living in China, Pearl was educated at home by her mother, and a Chinese tutor who taught her to speak both English and Chinese. In 1907, she was sent to a boarding school in Shanghai, called the Jewell School, to finish her education.After returning to the United States in 1910, Pearl enrolled at the Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she studied psychology. Upon her graduation in 1914, she returned to China to teach at the Presbyterian Board of Missions, and take care of her mother, who had become ill.In 1915, Pearl met John Lossing Buck, a Cornell graduate and agricultural economist. By the end of 1921, Pearl's mother had passed away, her father and sister had moved in, and her relationship with John was failing.In 1924, Buck returned to the United States in search of medical attention for her daughter. During that time, Buck returned to college and in 1926, earned a master's degree in literature from Cornell University. She also adopted a child.When Buck returned to China in 1927, the country was in an uproar. The Bucks were rescued by American gunboats and transported safely to Japan, where they spent the next year before returning to China.Realizing that the upheaval in China was not likely to settle quickly, Buck returned with her children to the United States. Her first book, “The Young Revolutionist,” was written to explain the role of missionaries to children.Once again, Buck returned to China, and in 1930 completed her first novel, Winds of Heaven. The manuscript was submitted to the John Day Company and published under the title East Wind, West Wind. Her second book, The Good Earth, was published in 1931, became a best seller for two years in a row, and later won her the Nobel Prize in Literature.In 1934, Buck divorced her husband and returned to the United States, where she took a job at the John Day Company as an editor. Within the next year, she purchased Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, married Richard Walsh, her publisher, and they adopted the first of six more children.Buck continued her writings while actively participating in women's and other civil rights activities. She wrote and published articles in the NAACP journal, Crisis, and Opportunity magazine. In 1942 Buck and Walsh founded the East and West Association to promote cultural exchanges and understanding between Asia and the West.In 1949, when adoption agencies refused to aid in the adoption process of American-Asian children, Buck founded Welcome House. As the first international adoption agency for interracial children, Welcome House has since helped to place more than 5,000 children into families.Buck also established and funded the Pearl S. The foundation provides funding and sponsorship for children from Asian countries.Pearl S. Buck died in Danby, Vermont, on March 6, 1973, and is buried at Green Hills Farm.
For additional famous women, see Important and Famous Women in America.