International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy


    Hannah Riddell

    Status Medical Missionary
    Country United Kingdom


    Hannah Riddell was born in Hertfordshire, England in 1855. In 1877, she moved to Swansea with her parent and ran a boarding school for young ladies until she became bankrupt shortly after her father's death in 1889. She subsequently moved to Liverpool, where she was appointed deputy superintendent of the YWCA.

    Soon after, she joined the Church Missionary Society which had recently begun sending female missionaries overseas, and was posted to Kobe, Japan, where she arrived in January 1891. Several months later she was sent to Kuamoto in Kyushu. At Kuamoto, she visited Honmyoji Temple, where people affected by leprosy commonly congregated. Shocked by the condition of the sufferers, she decided to build a leprosarium, and the Hospital of the Resurrection of Hope was opened on 12 November 1895.

    In 1900 Riddell resigned from the CMS when it tried to remove her from Japan, instead choosing to stay on and direct the hospital indepdently. This she did until her death, successfully securing financial support from sources in Japan, England and America, although she has been criticised for expenditure on her own comparatively lavish lifestyle.

    Riddell maintained a strict segregation of her male and female patients under the erroneous belief that this would help to eliminate the disease. She was more successful in lobbying the government of Japan for more humane treatment of persons afflicted with leprosy. Following her pleas, legislation was passed in 1907 providing for the care of persons with leprosy, and five national leprosaria were subsequently built.

    She received the medal of the Blue Ribbon in 1906 and the order of the Sacred Treasure (sixth class) in 1922 in acknowledgement of her contributions to leprosy care.

    Hannah Riddell died in Kuamoto 3 February, 1932.

    Source: Julia Boyd, “Riddell, Hannah (1855–1932).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by HCG Matthew and B Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. (accessed September 13, 2006).

    This entry made 13 September, 2006.

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