The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Thoburn, Isabella

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2939505The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 — Thoburn, Isabella

THOBURN, Isabella, American missionary and educator: b. near Saint Clairsville, Ohio, 29 March 1840; d. Lucknow, India, 1 Sept. 1901. She came of Scotch-Irish parentage. She was educated in the Wheeling Female Seminary, supplemented by a year in the study of art at the Cincinnati Academy of Design. After teaching in the public schools for several years, she spent a year as an instructor in a private school at New Castle, Pa., and, in 1866, became preceptress of the Western Reserve Seminary at West Farmington, Ohio. In 1869, at the organization of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, she was selected as its first missionary, being assigned to work in India, whither her brother, James M. Thoburn (q.v.), had gone 10 years before. In April 1870 she organized a school for native girls at Lucknow with but six pupils and herself as the only teacher. She also engaged in evangelistic, Sunday school and zenana work. The grade of the school thus established was gradually raised as its attendance increased until a full high school course was offered. In response to a demand for still more advanced courses of instruction, classes in the lower collegiate grades were offered in 1887 and, in 1895, after having complied with the rigid requirements of the British Indian government, it was granted a charter as the Lucknow Woman's College. Climatic conditions, which seriously impaired her health, necessitated several extended furloughs, the years 1880-82, 1886-90 and 1899-1900 being spent in America, though they were years filled with activity in behalf of the cause to which her life had been devoted. The name of the Lucknow Woman's College was subsequently changed to that of the Isabella Thoburn Woman's College. Consult Thoburn, Bishop J. M., ‘Life of Isabella Thoburn.’