John Magee

Based on: “John Gillespie Magee”, Yale University Library: Divinity Library
Thomas Rabe, John Rabe. Sein Leben, seine Zeit. Heidelberg 2009

Last updated: 10/07/2019

Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library

John Gillespie Magee was born on October 10, 1884 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1906, he received a B.A. from Yale University and a B.D. from the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1911. The following year he was ordained as a minister of the Episcopal Church and moved to China. There he met his future wife, Faith E. Backhouse, an English missionary from the China Inland Mission.

In 1937, Magee helped set up a refugee hospital and served as chairperson of the International Red Cross Committee. He was also a member of the International Committee for the Nanjing Safety Zone. In December 1937, Magee made a film about the atrocities committed by the Japanese. It was smuggled out of the country and shown to government officials in the United States, in the hopes that they would impose sanctions on Japan, but to no avail. Upon Magee’s return to the U.S. in 1938, he went on a tour speaking about the Nanjing Massacre. During his own talks about the atrocities in Nanjing, John Rabe had also shown a copy of Magee’s film.

Magee returned to China in May 1939 but left again in the following year. He died in 1953.

Testifying and Contesting War Experiences in China and Japan