This post contains the references named in the footnotes the story of Cornelia Leavenworth Bonnell, from former editor Charles E. Bunnell (Charlie to his friends) recently compiled Bonnells & Bunnells of Note (And a few Burnells & Burrells for Good Measure). The complete work is available on Internet Archive at this link: Charlie Bunnell's Bonnells & Bunnells of Note
The New York Times; March 8, 1893
Honor Girls at Vassar.
Poughkeepsie, N. Y., March 7. – The list of honors in the class of ’93 at Vassar has been published. The proportion is about the same as last year. The present senior class from fifty-three members secures nine honors.
They are awarded merely on the basis of scholarship throughout the four years course as follows: Henrietta Pratt, Saxton’s River. Vt.; Elizabeth Bradley, New-Haven, Conn.; Frances T. Belcher, Farmington, Me.; Elizabeth K. Adams, Nashotah, Wis.; Mary V. Clark, Springfield, Mass.; Lillie Clark, Hightstown, N. J.; Cornelia Bonnell, Waverly, N. Y.; Helena Van Vliet, Pouchkeepsie; Ethel Wilkinson, Chicago.
Footnote 5: “Cornelia Leavenworth Bonnell,” an article from an unknown source, page 215, provided courtesy of the Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College. It is a short bio stressing the religious nature of Cornelia and is possibly from a Baptist Missionary book or magazine. It was evidently written after her death in 1916.
Cornelia Leavenworth Bonnell
E. G. R.
On the walls of the bedroom of our beloved Miss Bonnell hung the picture a copy of which is given here, and during her last illness she pointed to this and said “Yes, that is I, that is I, a lost one sought and saved.”
This was the characteristic attitude of the wonderfully humble spirit of her who has so recently been taken from our midst.
Cornelia Bonnell was born in Waverly, N.Y., and graduated from Vassar College with highest honors though the youngest student ever admitted to that Institution. After her graduation she became interested in mission work and was for a time assistant secretary of the Baptist Women’s Missionary Board in Boston. During that time she rendered invaluable service to the missionary cause among the churches of that vicinity, and ably assisted in editing the publications of this society.
Having offered herself to the Baptist Mission for service in China, she spent the winter of 1896 and 1897 living in the Missionary Home in Newton Centre and taking lectures in the Theological Seminary. A serious physical breakdown and her naturally delicate constitution caused the Mission to refuse to send her out.
She was so convinced, however, that God had called her to work in China, she at once set about seeking for some other means of attaining this end, trusting God with her physical condition. This trust was justified by fifteen years of continuous service in a most difficult work.
Pg. 216 In 1899 she obtained a position as teacher in Miss Jewell’s Private School in Shanghai and was with her two years, doing most efficient and valuable work and proving herself a teacher of unusual ability. It was while there that her call came to the special Rescue Work in which she so untiringly labored and to which she so consecrated her every effort. Her Chinese sisters said with truth, “Yes, she laid down her life for us.”
It has been said of her by one of China’s senior missionaries, “You will find few lives in which there is such an abandonment to the desire to reach out and save others.” Always before her seemed to be the words, “Until He find it.” No depths were to deep, no road too rough and no task too menial for her to follow His steps in this seeking.
What Dr. James Stalker once said of another seems peculiarly fitted to her life, “In her work there was that quality, something rare, precious, fragrant recalling that flask of fragrant ointment poured on His head which the Savior defined as she hath wrought a good (literally illegible) work on me. In that work there was not only earnestness and laboriousness, but graciousness, winsomeness and originality. It was easy to see that all her activity was inspired by the love of the redeemer and that all the fruits and honors of it were laid at the Master’s feet.
Difficulties never seemed to daunt her spirit. At a time when she was left alone in one of the Homes while her fellow worker was away on vacation, a time of financial testing, she wrote, “These have been days I would of have missed as He has given such signs of His care for us by daily sending in what we need so that we have not been an hour in dept. I think it is lovely sometimes to walk with God like that. One gets a particular kind of intimacy with Him that is different and very assuring to me of His Personal Presence.” She seemed to turn every trying thing to special blessing. She wrote, “Strange, that meeting which at first I felt such a burden, I now enjoy. In such dependence on God as I am for it, I always get a real blessing through His undertaking it for me.”
Pg. 217 Prayer held a very large place in her life; - every act or plan for the work first to have been laid before God thus, for His thought and guidance in it, ere she would venture to bring it before her Committee and fellow workers. She was broad in her sympathies and her prayers were often remarkable for the far reaching thought expressed.
On one of her last days with us, she suddenly broke into prayer asking that God would safely lead those that are with young – for blessing on the mothers in every part of the world, for her own mother that she should not have more sorrow than she could bear, that we in the D??? of Hope should be kept in the spirit of the mother-love, since we had the young committed to our care; for blessings on every girl and child given to us that they should never feel the lack of a mother and that our dealings with them should never hard nor our love to them be cold. This spirit of the mother ____ was markedly with her as she went from the Receiving Home to the First Year Home, the Industrial House, the Children’s Home and the Home for Waifs and Strays, always _____ warm welcome, loving respect and obedience from every woman and girl.
In the midst of the hard and exacting work at the Mixed Court seeking to rescue victims from the cruel thraldom [sic] of their owners, it was for her the greatest relief and relaxation to hasten of an afternoon to Chiangwan and have little talks with the little children at the Home. One of these children said to her recently, “Mother (So they loved to call her), I had a vision of you last night and you had on a crown.” Miss Bonnell in a surprised tone replied, “Then I am to be given a crown when I go to Heaven,” as if it were a new throught to her – Ah! yes.
“Thou shalt be crowned, O mother blest!
Our hearts behold thee crowned e’en now.
The crown of motherhood, earth’s best,
O’ershadowing thy maiden brown.
Thou shalt be crowned! All earth and heaven
Thy coronation pomp shall see;
The Hand by which thy crown is given
Shall be no stranger’s hand to thee.
Pg. 218 Thou shalt be crowned ! but not a queen;
A better triumph ends thy strife;
Heaven's bridal raiment, white and clean,
The victor's crown of fadeless life.
Thou shalt be crowned! but not alone-
No lonely pomp shall weigh thee down;
Crowned with the myriads round His throne,
And casting at His feet they crown.”
[Retyped from copies provided by Jacquelyn Hoffman, Information Services Office Specialist, Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College, 161 College Avenue, Poughkeepsie, NY 12603-2804. Phone: 845.437.5436; Fax: 845.437.7425; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; On the web: http://www.aavc.vassar.edu. Original source unknown but it appears to be from a publication associated with the Baptist Church Missionary services.]
Footnote 6: Women Workers of the Orient; Margaret E. Burton; The Central Committee of the United Study of Foreign Missions, West Medford, Mass. 1918; pages 615-616:
“… Suppose that you had applied to your mission board to be sent to China. And suppose that no doctor would give you a medical certificate; and that after you had met your Board and tried to persuade them that you were able to go no matter what he doctors said, you had a serious illness which made everybody say, “There-you see!” Suppose! What would you have done? This is the story of what Cornelia Bonnell, Vassar, ’97 [sic], did. She secured a position in a private school for the children of foreign residents in Shanghai. And while she was teaching little Americans and Britishers, she learned the ways of the city she lived in, and learned the lives of some of its girls. Into Shanghai’s “City of Dreadful Night” she went, where little girls are bought and sold, where heavy coats of gaudy paint cannot hide the horror and anguish of young girl faces, , where hundreds of girls and children are lost every year in the horrible whirlpool of vice. For two years Cornelia Bonnell taught, then, at twenty-five years of age, she resigned her position and with dauntless disregard of the fact that she had no Board behind her to support her in her purpose to do what no one else had ever thought it possible to attempt, she went into the very heart of the “City of Dreadful Night.” In November, 1901, the “Door of Hope” opened, and for sixteen years Cornelia Bonnell rescued and cared for hundreds of girls and children who had been unwillingly sold or rented into a life of shame.
This is the work of the Door of Hope, as Mrs. Henry W. Peabody saw it three years ago. “Out in the sunny suburb we were taken to the Industrial Home, established by Miss Bonnell, Angel-of-Lost-Girls. She was not there, but Miss Morris and other workers greeted us, and took us through the rooms where hundreds of girls were at work. Some were doing dainty embroidery, exquisite baby dresses, trousseaux for brides, lingerie. Some were dressing fascinating Chinese dolls, carved skillfully from wood, representing various classes.
“’I wish you could be here for the Bible lesson,’ Miss Morris said. ‘It is wonderful to see how quick they are.’
“’But are they happy?’ I asked.
“’yes, even happy. We do not speak to them of the past of allow them to refer to the old life. It is literally blotted out as they enter here, and in a short time the worst of it seems to be forgotten.’
“One girl in the Bible class was studying John 14. I asked her what she thought heaven was like. Her face beamed as she said, ‘It seems to me it must be like a great big Door of Hope.’
“There were little children in another home farther out in the country, a real home under the trees where rescued children under ten years of age are taken and are helped in play and work to forget. ‘Who supports it all?’ I asked. ‘ Miss Bonnell, who started the work. She has done it all. She began with a little group of five praying women in Shanghai in 1900. She worked out the plan, organized a committee, has literally prayed these buildings into being, for there is no Board back of us. God has sent help as it was needed, as God sent the woman who was needed for this terrible task.'"
In 1916, Cornelia Bonnell’s frail body was no longer able to endure the strain she had put upon it; but her work goes on. Other missionaries are keeping the Door of Hope flung wide to every suffering Chinese girl who needs the shelter and the care that lie beyond it; and strong-faced, sympathetic Chinese workers are leading hundreds of tired-eyed girls back to life and joy and usefulness. Suppose Cornelia Bonnell had been content to be an invalid. Suppose!