Pittman, Annie M.

1890 - 1968
China and Sarawak

Annie May Pittman was born on August 13, 1890, in Syracuse, New York state, the fifth child among six children of Eli Pittman, a pastor, and his wife Margaret Saunders.

She joined the Elmira Methodist church when she was 10 years old. At 16, Pittman was sure of her call to be a missionary. In 1915, she went to Chicago Training School and then to Oberlin Early Childhood Training School  in 1919. She graduated from the Cazenovia Theology College in 1924 and underwent medical training at a hospital for another seven months.

In August 1919, she was sent by the New York-based Woman's Foreign Missionary Society to Jiujiang, Jiangxi Province, China. She served as a missionary in China for a total of 30 years. 

From 1920-1924, she served in Huangmei District of the Jiangxi Annual Conference as a preacher and matron of the day school. From 1925-1932, she served in North Jiangxi and Huangmei District of the Jiangxi Annual Conference, helping to conduct leadership training for the Chinese as well as working in the day school. In 1927, missionaries were asked to leave the country as the civil war worsened. However, Pittman opted to stay put in Shanghai. Though she faced great pressure, she continued with the gospel ministry and some women's classes were even more successful. The number of students in the Jiujiang day school increased dramatically, leading to a shortage of teachers. 

Between 1934 and 1937, she continued serving in the Huangmei district. Aside from her teaching duties, she collaborated with the hospital there, helping to cure 1,798 trachoma patients and distributing soya milk to children suffering from malnutrition.

During the Japanese Occupation from 1938-1942, she went to Hong Kong and taught at a language school. She also participated in disaster relief work and preaching. She returned to the USA in 1943. When the Japanese surrendered in February 1946, she returned to Jiujiang where she remained till May 31, 1951. In 1949, the Communist party took over China and restricted all missionary activities. Buildings belonging to missionary bodies were taken over by the army. It was during this time that she fell into a pit and was badly injured.

She set sail for Hong Kong on January 22, 1951 and returned to the USA for debriefing in March that year.

Three years in Sibu

On December 30, 1952, Pittman set sail for Borneo after accepting an offer to work in the women's ministry there from a Miss Robinson who was in charge of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society. Pittman accepted gladly as she felt that God had opened a door for her to continue to serve in the East.

When she arrived, Blanche Apple put her in charge of clerical and finance work for the women’s ministry. After Blanche married and moved to Korea with her husband Paul Prince Wiant, Pittman took over the work of preaching, supervising the new building, the women’s ministry office and the office building at Lilin Road which was then under construction. Two other lady missionaries, Ellen Atkinson and Miss Katherine, also arrived that year from the USA. They assisted in Christian education and other ministries in school. Miss Kong Ting Yu was responsible for the medical ministry. The scope of work for the women’s division of the Board of Mission at that time included evangelistic ministry, medicine, children’s ministry and education. 

The dedication ceremony for the Methodist girls’ hostel was held on December 5, 1953. The hostel catered for female staff and students and Pittman was the matron. Short-term training was also conducted at the hostel.

On July 14, 1954, Pittman suffered another major accident when she was inspecting repair work on the first floor roof of the girls’ hostel. She missed a step, fell through the roof and ceiling and landed on the staircase landing on the ground floor. The fall fractured her thigh bone in three places. She was taken to Sibu Hospital for treatment. During her recovery, Ellen Atkinson took over her job as the matron and did the book-keeping of the accounts of the Women's Division Christian Service. At the Annual Conference from November 24-28, 1954, Pittman reported that her wounds were recovering. On February 10, 1955, she returned to the USA for further treatment and recuperation. 

She retired on February 1, 1956. Pittman passed away on July 10, 1968 at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, USA.

Pittman had a passion for the Chinese and when she had to leave China because of political reasons, she chose to serve the Chinese in Borneo. She met with accidents twice in the course of her ministry in foreign lands. Her life showed the commitment of women missionaries to the ministry.


© SCAC. This article from Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills is reproduced with permission of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, with editing for clarity and brevity.

[Missionaries to Sarawak: Footprints in the Land of Hornbills 1 and 2 are compiled by Wong Meng Lei (also chief editor), edited by Tumi Ngae, and translated by Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, and Chang Yi. Book 2 translators are Christina Tiong, K.T. Chew, Chang Yi and Ting Kong Sing.]