In winter 1902 in the ruins of post-Boxer Uprising Beijing, two women from two different worlds joined hands in friendship-the former concubine and legendary tyrant Empress Dowager Cixi, and the Midwest-born, devoutly Christian Sarah Pike Conger. Together, they made history. Middle-aged Iowan Sarah Pike Conger came to China in 1898 knowing nothing of its people or its culture, its temples or its halls of power. Yet she left seven years later one of China's most sympathetic defenders, bringing to its women and its most famous woman, the Empress Dowager Cixi, forbidden foreign aspirations toward education, autonomy and international sisterhood.
Grant Hayter-Menzies reveals for the first time the story of two women from worlds that could not seem farther apart-imperial China, the American Midwest-who found common ground before and after one of the greatest clashes between East and West, the fifty-five day siege of the Beijing foreign legations known as the Boxer Uprising.
The Empress and Mrs. Conger traces the parallel lives of Empress Dowager Cixi and American ambassador's wife Sarah Pike Conger, which converged to alter their perspectives of each other and each other's worlds: Mrs. Conger's love for China through her efforts to befriend, learn from and help Chinese women; the Dowager's appreciation, through Mrs. Conger, of the need for reform and the usefulness of cooperation with the West for the good of China. Using unpublished letters, diaries and photographs, and benefiting from the cooperation and assistance of relatives of Sarah Conger and the Empress Dowager, The Empress and Mrs. Conger recreates a world of the past while celebrating a friendship between East and West for the present and future to aspire to.
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