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A Purposeful Vision: Margaret Bailey Speer and Yenching University

Introduction and Early Life: MBS at Bryn Mawr

MBS’s focused nature was apparent from early on: during her years at Bryn Mawr she excelled academically, double majoring in history and economics. She also became very involved in religious groups on campus, such as the YWCA1 and the Christian Association, eventually replacing M. Carey Thomas’ niece, Millicent Carey, as president of the latter organization. A letter to her mother from early in her first semester reveals that she entered school with a clear picture of where she was headed. Describing a conversation with President Thomas about her best options for major and courses, she wrote that “[President Thomas] asked me what I intended to do when I was through college and I told her some sort of work with the women in the East. She seemed to think that was very nice and talked very amiably about the working girls she’d seen in China and Japan.” Always one to follow through, MBS would indeed immerse herself in “work with the women in the East” in later years.

1. MBS's mother, Emma Bailey Speer, served as the president of the National YWCA.