One of my favorite camping destinations is Watoga State Park and every time I drive there, I pass a house that always makes me think I need to go there. I’ve been thinking that for at least 40 years but the time was never right because I’d have a car load of kids and dogs, be on a motorcycle with a group that wouldn’t appreciate the tour, or just not have time. In later years, it was never open when I could stop. The place I’m referring to is The Pearl S. Buck birthplace and….drumroll….I actually got to take a tour of it last weekend.
While Pearl Buck spent most of her life elsewhere in the world, she was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia, in the house where her mother grew up. A few months later, her missionary parents took her to China. Raised in a bilingual home, she was fluent in English and Chinese. She moved to the states to go to college but, after she married, she returned with her husband to China, to a region where she would base her book, The Good Earth, which won a Pulitzer Prize. She would later be the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for her authentic descriptions of peasant life in China.
While I had known that Pearl was an author and I had read several of her books, I didn’t know that she was such an extraordinary woman, a woman who lived her whole life just a few steps beyond normal. She was angered by existing adoption policies that considered Asian and biracial children to be undesirable, so she co-founded an interracial adoption agency that placed over five thousand children during a fifty year period. In 1964, she established what is now Pearl S. Buck International, which provides support to children ineligible for adoption. Through this agency, several orphanages were built to help address the severe poverty faced by children all over Asia.
She had not planned to stay in the states but after the Communist Revolution in 1949, the Chinese government would not allow her to return to a country she knew well and loved. She is buried in Pennsylvania but I’m sure her spirit still roams the good earth of China.