Ida Sophia Scudder was born December 9, 1870 in India where her parents were missionaries. She grew up well acquainted with the trials of the missionary life. She also knew the pain of separation from loved ones. When she was a youth, her family returned to America for furlough after which her father sailed to India alone. Two years later her mother joined him, leaving her daughter with relatives in Chicago. She felt the pain of loneliness. With the passing weeks and months, the aching loneliness never ceased it merely subsided.


After high school, she remained in the United States to attend a “young ladies” seminary in Northfield Massachusetts founded by D.L.Moody. She had no intention of joining the family’s line of medical missionaries. She initially expected to get married and settle down in the United States but shortly after her graduation in 1890 she received an urgent cablegram informing her that her mother was seriously ill. Within few weeks she was on her way to India. Her purpose was to care for her mother and when that obligation was met she would return to America to pursue her own dream. Scudder’s stay in India was longer than she had planned. In addition to caring for her mother, there was urgent work to be done.

Although she was happy to be reunited with her family, she felt pressure from her parents and extended family not to shrink the Scudder duty of becoming a missionary but she wanted more than the toil of a missionary life. But then came the “three knocks in the night” a parable that was pulling her back to India. It was here she received her extra-ordinary call to serve the helpless women in India.


She had been sitting in the room when a high castle Brahmin stepped into the veranda, his young wife who was only fourteen was in labour and having a terrible struggle to stay alive. He begged Ida to come and help him. The barber women-india midwives had done much as they could, but without more help, his wife would die. Ida replied that she could do nothing about child birth. She told him that her father was a doctor and as soon as he returned home, she would bring him to help. “That would not be possible,” the Brahmin replied. No foreign man had ever entered his house. His wife would just die if Ida could not help her.

There are problems only you can solve. You are strategically created to rescue someone. It becomes critical when you are the only life-line left and without you, there’s no hope. You’ve got to answer the call of destiny because without your rising many will die.

Ida told him she was sorry but could do nothing. She went back to reading her books. In a while she heard footsteps on her veranda again, she thought may be the Brahmin had come back but no it was a Mohammadan. “Please,” he pleaded with her “come, help my wife. She’s is dying in labor.”

Heaven was knocking again on the door of Ida’s heart. But now through another voice; generations calling out to her to rise and rescue them from their hopeless state.

Ida’s father, Dr John Scudder, had returned home by then. He offered to go but the Mohammedan refused. No man outside of his family had ever looked to his wife’s face. I felt he was saying,

“Ida, if not you then nobody else; if you can’t intervene in rescuing my wife, I will bear the loss of losing her than letting another man look into her.” These men were so accustomed to tradition that nothing could break it, not even the death of a loved one. How I wish there would be desperate and committed Christians today who would rather uphold the law of the kingdom even in the face of death!

Ida returned to the room but this time she was restless. This was the second call and she couldn’t go back to her books again.

In a little while, she heard again in the veranda footsteps for the third time. This time the man was a high castle Hindu and he also had a young wife that was dying in labour. Would Ida please come? Only women could attend to his wife. Ida could only give the same reply she gave to others.


Ida was restless all night. She could not ignore the sight. But what could she do? It was the most traumatic night for her. She would later recount the experience in her own words;

“I could not sleep that night, it was too terrible. Within the very touch of my hands were three young girls dying because there was no human to help them. I spent much of the night in anguish and prayer. I did not want to spend my life in India. My friends were begging me to return to the joyous opportunity of a young girl in America. I went to bed early morning after praying much for guidance. I think that was the first time I ever met God face to face and all that time it seems like he was calling me into his work. Early in the morning I heard the “tom tom” beating in the village and it struck terror in my heart, for it was a death message. I sent my servant and he came back saying that all of them had died during the night. Again I shut myself inside the room and thought very seriously about the condition of the Indian women and after much thought and prayer, I went to my parents and told them I must go home and study medicine and come back to India to help such women.”

What has haunted you all these while? That might be the quiet beacon of purpose. Why not heed the call of destiny today? Why not rise up and respond to the alarms from heaven?

It seems heaven was saying to Ida, “How many more deaths do you want to see before you rise up for your generation?” Not until we come to the point of shutting ourselves up to find answers to life question are we going to produce great results. We must come to the same point Ida came to where we can also say, ‘I must.’


Graduating from Cornell University Medical School in the first class open to women, Ida traveled back to India and her life’s work began. For two years, she treated women patients in her father’s bungalow in Vellore, South India

Then in 1902 she moved into Schell Hospital built with the money she raised in America. She performed her first operation with no helper but the butler’s wife, Salome. Yet in time she became noted as a surgeon. By 1906 the number of patients she treated annually had risen to 40,000.

Ida began to train nurses in Asia. Her nursing school grew to become the first graduate school of nursing in India affiliated with Madras University.

Ida’s story proved that we don’t need big resources to start big visions. No, start with the little and watch it grow.

In 1909 she started her famous roadside dispensary, a ministry to patients in surrounding villages that expanded throughout the years to treat thousands each week, developing finally into Vellore’s rural unit for health and social affairs, administering public health service to a vast area.

Never satisfied, in 1918 with the help of women of many denominations, she founded a college to train women doctors. Beginning with seventeen girls all taught by herself, it grew into a great complex of building in a beautiful valley graduating thousands of skilled dedicated doctors.

The beauty of vision is seen when it is being passed on. You are only fulfilled when you have succeeded in raising others in your shoes that they may also walk in and bring others in.

In 1923 again with the support of many denominations, she built a larger hospital in the centre of Vellore. The small clinic Scudder Ida had opened after her father’s death had grown into 544-bed hospital staffed by 108 nurses and 174 nursing students. 200 doctors had graduated from the medical college and 275 nurses from the nurses’ training school. Now they were spread all over India and beyond.

The authenticity and strength of a vision is seen in its ability to stem the tides of trials. Despite the challenges and the opposition Ida had, the memory of those three young indian woman lost to the cold hands of death kept her going. And starting from a little bungalow, she built one of the pioneer Christian Medical Centre in the world, touching hearts and healing their bodies.

Ida Scudder is a story of a life full of compassion, courage and faith. She had her mind made up to a normal life of marriage with children but the impulse of divine destiny was stronger. She was moved to respond to the needs of the women of India. She never married!


Dr. Ida died in 1960 in her ninetieth year. It was May 24th. Vellore broiled in suffocating heat, yet crowds by the hundreds moved en masse into the centre of town; others poured in streams from the surrounding countryside. Stores were closed, shops shuttered, bazaars deserted. An awed hush pervaded the crowds. Hindus, Muslims, Christians – all were fused into one by heat of emotion stronger than India’s blazing sun. “Aunt Ida has gone!”

Its well over a century since she returned to India to meet the challenge of those three knocks in the night. Dr. Ida lighted a candle. In her hands it became a blazing torch. Her successors have taken up that torch of life, passed it from hand to hand, multiplied it by thousands until its light illumes not only the land of India but many other countries of the world.


Friend, will you also rise up to the needs your generation? You may never experience any knock on your door like Ida experienced but what about those nudges of the heart, the still small voices and the quiet calls of destiny? What will you do with this one life that you have?

Reviewer: Pauline MORKA (+2347066024275)

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