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Amy Beatrice Carmichael
Born December 16, 1867(1867-12-16)
Millisle, Northern Ireland
Died January 18, 1951 (aged 83)
Dohnavur, Tamil Nadu, India

Amy Beatrice (a.k.a. Wilson) Carmichael (December 16, 1867–January 18, 1951) was a Protestant Christian missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for fifty-five years without furlough and authored many books about the missionary work there.


Early life

Amy Carmichael was born in the small village of Millisle in Northern Ireland to David and Catherine Carmichael. Her parents were devout Presbyterians; she was the oldest of seven children. She was adopted and tutored by Robert Wilson, cofounder of the Keswick Convention. Her father died when she was eighteen. In many ways she was an unlikely candidate for missionary work. She suffered neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that made her whole body weak and achy and often put her in bed for weeks on end. It was at the Keswick Convention of 1887 that she heard Hudson Taylor speak about missionary life. Soon afterward, she became convinced of her calling to missionary work.

One story of Amy Carmichael's early life tells that as a child, Amy wished that she had blue eyes rather than brown. She often prayed that God would change her eye colour and was disappointed when it never happened. As an adult, however, Amy realized that, because Indians have brown eyes, she would have had a much more difficult time gaining their acceptance if her eyes had been blue.


Work in India

Amy Carmichael with Indian children Amy Carmichael with Indian children

Initially Amy travelled to Japan for fifteen months, but she later found her lifelong vocation in India. She was commissioned by the Church of England Zenana Mission. Much of her work was with young ladies, some of whom were saved from forced prostitution. The organization she founded was known as the Dohnavur Fellowship. Dohnavur is situated in Tamil Nadu, thirty miles from the southern tip of India. The fellowship would become a sanctuary for over one thousand children who would otherwise have faced a bleak future. In an effort to respect Indian culture, members of the organisation wore Indian dress and the children were given Indian names. She herself dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with coffee, and often travelled long distances on India's hot, dusty roads to save just one child from suffering.

Amy Carmichael's work also extended to the printed page. She was a prolific writer, producing thirty-five published books including His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said (1951), If (1953), Edges of His Ways (1955) and God's Missionary (1957). Best known, perhaps, is an early historical account, Things as They Are: Mission Work in Southern India (1903).


Final days and legacy

In 1931, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. Amy Carmichael died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription "Amma", which means mother in the Tamil.

Her example as a missionary inspired others to pursue a similar vocation. Noteworthy examples are: Jim Elliot, and Elisabeth Elliot.


"One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving."

While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary, She asked Amy, "What is missionary life like?" Amy wrote back saying simply,

"Missionary life is simply a chance to die."


(Partial List)

  • From Sunrise Land: Letters from Japan, Marshall 1895
  • Things as they are; mission work in southern India, London: Morgan and Scott (1905)
  • Lotus Buds, London: Morgan and Scott (1912)
  • Ragland, pioneer, Madras: S.P.C.K. Depository (1922) (Biography of Thomas Gajetan Ragland)
  • Walker of Tinnevelly, London: Morgan & Scott (1916) (Biography of Thomas Walker)
  • Candles in the Dark, Christian Literature Crusade (June 1982)
  • Rose from Brier, Christian Literature Crusade (June 1972)
  • Mimosa: A True Story, CLC Publications (September 2005)
  • If, Christian Literature Crusade (June 1999)
  • Gold Cord, Christian Literature Crusade (June 1957)
  • Edges of His Ways, Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade (1955)
  • Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael, Christian Literature Crusade (August 1999)
  • Whispers of His Power, CLC Publications (June 1993)
  • Thou Givest They Gather, CLC Publications (June 1970)
  • Ploughed Under : The Story of a Little Lover, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) (1934)
  • Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse, CLC Publications (July 2002)


  • Elliot, Elisabeth, A Chance to Die: the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael. Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1987.
  • Wellman, Sam, Amy Carmichael: A Life Abandoned to God. Barbour Publishing, 1998

External links

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