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Herbert Hoover and China

Timothy Walch, Director of the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, writes

"I would like to add a word or two about the Hoovers in China. As Ron notes, the evidence for Mr. Hoover speaking Mandarin is slim. It is likely that he understood what was being said to him in Mandarin, but could neither read or write the language. Mrs. Hoover was a different case, however. Among her papers at the Hoover Library is her English-Mandarin dictionary. It is clear from contemporary evidence that she not only understood Chinese, but also wrote and read the language. There also is anecdotal evidence that Mrs. Hoover would occasionally speak to Mr. Hoover in Chinese during their White House years. The Hoovers arrived in China in April 1899 and lived through the siege of Tienjin. Being an engineer, Mr. Hoover and his detail were responsibie for maintaining the battleworks; Mrs. Hoover worked as a nurse. Although both Hoovers knew how to fire a gun, there is no evidence that they ever shot at the boxers. They left China in August 1900".

My comment: I was delighted to hear from Tim, especially as I plan to devote postings to Hoover as part of my modest campaign to heal the rift between the Hoover Institution and Stanford University. I hope we can count on Tim to correct and amplify my postings about Hoover. Elena Danielson can also vet my postings. The Hoovers lived in China just over a year. It is remarkable that the remarkable Lou Henry Hoover could learn Mandarin from scratch (?) and write a dictionary in such a short time. How come? How did the experience affect Hoover's views on international affairs?

Also as part of my modest campaign, I plan to propose that Stanford sponsor annual Hoover lectures, dealing with various aspects of his career in an impartial way. One of these lectures could be on the Hoovers in China.

Ronald Hilton - 11/21/01