Pearl S. Buck spent most of her early life in China. Born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsborough, West Virginia, she was on her way at three months old. Her parents, Absalom and Caroline Sydenstricker, had come back to the United States specifically for her birth, but were eager to return to their missionary work in China.
Pearl’s parents didn’t subscribe to the attitude of many westerners, that the Chinese were inferior. They refused to allow the use of the word heathen and ensured that Pearl and her siblings grew up in a bilingual home. In addition to being tutored by her mother, she learned classical Chinese from a scholar and the local dialect from playmates.
Pearl returned to the US in 1911 to attend Randolph-Macon Woman’s College where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. She returned to China as a missionary in 1914. From 1914 until 1934, when Pearl left China for the last time, she married John Buck, had one daughter and adopted another, and taught English Literature.
East Wind: West Wind, Pearl’s novel, was published in 1929 and was the first in a very prolific career. She wrote stories, novels and non-fiction, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for The Good Earth, her second novel and the first of The House of Earth trilogy. Her Nobel Prize in Literature came in 1938.
The Eternal Wonder, a novel uncovered in a storage unit last year and returned to the Buck family, is scheduled for release later this year. It is believed that she wrote the manuscript shortly before her death from cancer in 1973.
Photo credit: Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 Bestanddeelnummer 925-7294 (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands license, Wikimedia Commons.)
Find out what else happened on June 26 in Women’s History.