Ivy Madeline Stokes
Ivy was my grandmother, I her only grandchild.
Ivy lived a thousand lives within her own demure vocation.
Here you can find out more about Ivy, including facts, pictures and much more.
As a medical missionary, Ivy Madeline Stokes, later Williams, undertook the position of Sister Tutor in China in the 1930s. She learned to speak Chinese in less than a year and then taught the nursing staff for the region. This led to her building beautiful friendships and being trusted by her team to go and deal with the Japanese authorities.
There were frequent examples of her going to plead for those imprisoned unfairly. Her remit grew and grew and with many adventures will leave you feeling empowered! Here is a tale of a quiet, devout and courageous lady who defied convention and lived as a truly emancipated woman. All of this is even more astounding when we discover that during her youth she had endured great poverty, hunger and parental alcoholism. She overcame these challenges by embracing education and by looking to contribute.
Ivy was, by any standards, a shy child: shy but mighty! Her father was afflicted with the illness of alcoholism and the family slid from affluence to insecurity during her childhood. He had been a successful entrepreneur with a building business, a decorating business, a small holding and more. It all crumbled.
Her character was shaped into being a life-long problem solver whose work ethic was unparalleled. She worked with those with similar illnesses who were abandoned by their families, friends and wider society.
She was delightful, dignified and devoted ~ faithful in ways that are so rare in this world ~ faithful to all that is good in humanity, compassionate to the sadder parts of the soul and wise to the power that is within us all. That’s why she deserved a book…because she was small in stature, strong in soul and mighty in mind. She showed us what a woman can be. It wasn’t right that you weren’t allowed to benefit from that gift.
1. She had never worn trousers in her life! (94 years!)
2. She had never been drunk! (Just like me!)
3. She spoke with an interesting turn of phrase: “Shall we look at television this evening?” “It is five and twenty minutes past the hour five my dearest.”
4. She said, “NO BEC NO” many times every day! (Can you believe that I needed that?)
5. She didn’t trust electrical devices like fridges but was bemused that her jellies never set!
6. When in the passenger seat of my car, despite never driving, she would offer to assist with the gear changes!
7. She was very frightened of pubs and alcohol and adored the Little Chef cafes!
8. Whenever she made sandwiches there were always skinned almonds inside them!
9. She sharpened pencils with a seven-inch bread knife! (never ever try this!)
10. Her name in China was YOUNG SPRING.
11. When she was terrified she didn’t speak English but reverted to Chinese!
12. She used to wave you off with the Chinese blessing to go safely which sounded like: “Shou Chim Ba!” and I would shout it back to her on the way into school.
13. She came to talk to my primary school teachers after they asked her about a hundred times! She was meant to come for half an hour in the lunchtime and ended up staying all afternoon whilst we had the longest playtime ever!
14. She was terrified of mules and wells and would be very cross with me for writing about her! She was far too humble so I am taking my chances whilst I can! When we meet again in Heaven (I hope I get in!) I pray she will be pleased!
15. She recycled everything! Nothing was ever wasted and her home was minimal before it was trendy.
Whenever she was worried then she would revert back!
Her given name was YOUNG SPRING which I think is such a beautiful gift.
She was too humble and never saw her own immense abilities or stunning soul.
That’s why she deserved a book and you need her to be your friend!
And much more!
Think about the big things in life that you have survived.
Well done! Sending you Ivy’s courage and care!
Ivy’s experiences in Shanghai were shocking.
The additional research I undertook was a true education about how we cherish human life….or tragically how little we value it at times.
And yet…Ivy tried to something to help.
This is when we found Ivy in another book! She is on the right!
How do you feel about coincidences or moments of serendipity? I find them delightful! I find them reassuring and inspiring in equal measure. One of them happened to us on the way to writing INSPIRING IVY.
It all started with my Dad’s neighbours who are our great pals. One day they told us that there was something in the local paper that might interest us. There was a book signing in Sunderland and it was with a book about a woman who had been a missionary to China. It had been compiled by her daughter and son-in-law and they would be in the bookshop for an hour that week to sign copies. I couldn’t go because I had a service and Kev was in the lab doing crazy shifts (nothing new there then!) so there was only Dad left to try.
When I say try ~ for a brave but very poorly lad to manage such a trip was a huge effort. It worried me greatly but he was keen to try and I was keen too. I tried not to nag or panic and just trusted: and how that trust paid off! He managed to attain a parking space very close to the shop, was the first person to arrive and had a seat for the entire duration: such joy!
However blessed the functioning had been, the blessings that emanated from that meeting were unparalleled. Dad met Helen and Neil Sinclair. Their generosity of spirit shone into our lives.
Now here is the magical coincidence… Ivy was mentioned several times in their book!!! There were even photographs of her in Manchuria! Photos that we had not seen and tales we had not heard.
Dad stayed for much longer than planned and thankfully did not pay too high a price for the effort of going. We rejoiced!
We were invited to the Sinclair’s home and spent many hours talking about the mission hospital where Ivy worked. Mr Sinclair urged me to be getting on with my book and that was the catalyst for this last stage of work.
Here is the magical part. His mother-in-law was called Marion (same name as my lovely Mummy) and lived in Sunderland for the last years of her life only a few miles away from Ivy and neither of them ever knew. They had spent years together in China on yaks, frozen rivers and being interrogated by the occupying Japanese forces and then ended up in the same corner of the North-East of England.
Had our kindly neighbour not spotted the article in the newspaper then we would never have known so much or been so enriched by such good souls.
Ivy in the operating theatre: she’s on the left!
Ive had the worst varicose veins! Her legs and feet were in a desperate state because she had stood for too many hours during surgery and never had her own shoes as a child.
She never had enough to eat and with an alcoholic father, she knew what it was struggle.
Ivy would be very cross with me.
She wouldn’t want me to have written a book about her.
She would have beseeched me with her legendary line:
“NO BEC NO! Oh please my dearest no.”
This is a defiance of mighty proportion because she was wrong. She was too humble.
I find myself using that line almost on a daily basis!
I find that my glorious coaching and counselling clients are too humble!
Humility is a wondrous thing but too much leads to a lack of balance and perspective. I try to restore balance and help them see their great worth! Ivy would love my clients!
She would call them, “MY DEAR ONES!”
She would be in awe of their talents and courage!
She would be right!
I’ve given talks and lectures about her life for the last ten years and everyone loved the story and the drama of it all.
I told them that I was her scuffy puppy Geordie Tornardo and had them shout out: “YES BEC YES!” as many times as possible!
Therefore my friend, when you’re telling yourself, “NO! NO! NO!”
Maybe think of me shouting, “YES! YES! YES!” in your ear.
Meet Mr Williams. The bravest and best of men. He was past the age of conscription at the start of the Second World War and still signed up.
His mine sweeper was hit and he was in the Naval hospital in Malta for a year with his wounds; desperate suffering that lasted for the rest of his life.
Never a word of fuss. Only ever duty, courage and care.
He found Ivy and what a powerhouse of goodness they were…
Their son is truly the embodiment of their bravery and beauty.
Ivy came home from China in her late thirties.
She was devastated to leave. She was going to change her life and start a new career.
Then difficulty hit her family and she solved it by making a very significant sacrifice. Read about the typewriter and the great work it went on to do!
In all of that disappointment came goodness.
Goodness she deserved because of her giving.
Goodness called Stephen in a demob suit and a back full of shrapnel.
Ivy’s inspirational teacher. August 1929.
How on earth did a shy, hungry and frightened child get herself to China?
I have often asked myself that question and wondered if it is possible to answer.
After years of research, reading and thinking I have three simple, yet profound answers!
1. HER FAITH.
2. HER MOTHER ~ CHARLOTTE
3. HER TEACHER ~ MRS FRAZER.
(I don’t know the Christian name of Mrs Frazer!)
Siblings Norah, Ivy and Dorothy as flower girls! 1912
Her father was afflicted with the illness of alcoholism and the family slid from affluence to insecurity during her childhood. He had been a successful entrepreneur with a building business, a decorating business, a small holding and more. It all crumbled.
I think those indignities shaped Ivy’s personality and her great fear of booze was ingrained deeply.
Her character was shaped into being a life-long problem solver whose work ethic was unparalleled.
She worked with those with similar illnesses who were abandoned by their families, friends and wider society
Meet Hayden…on his way to Shanghai with his new Miss Eye pal!
I found this photograph in Ivy’s battered old suitcase and it was exquisite.
It was taken by a professional photographer on board the SS Corfu on the six week journey to Shanghai. I love photographers!
Ivy was always immensely maternal, quietly good and joyous in the company of little ones.
This is Ivy’s handwriting from her annotated albums.
I can remember Ivy’s funeral very clearly. It was in our home Church which was full of good people. Many of whom had never met her but had learned of her reputation and came to support us.
The last 14 years of Ivy’s life were very difficult but I was the one who was with her when she died. I had been on my way to a politics lecture on a course I adored and planned to visit her afterwards. My energy was very limited at the time so everything had to be planned perfectly to keep me upright! Just at the point when I was about to turn off to go to University I felt something I had never felt before; a sudden and overwhelming need to go to Gran and not the lecture! I had never skived anything in my life.She would have gone mad with me for even thinking about it. But something made me miss that lecture and go to her.
Just as I walked in the nurse met me and said that she had rung my Father to come quickly. So I climbed on the bed next to her and started to say the prayers she so cherished so deeply. I was half-way through Evensong when she took her last breath and my parents rushed in. She had gone to be with her beloved husband Stephen and peace pervaded.