Type of entity
Authorized form of name
Reverend Florence Li Tim Oi (1907-1992) Fonds
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
The Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi was born on May 5th in fishing village of Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island. At that time in her culture, boy babies were highly prized and a bowl of ash was kept on hand to smother girl babies. But Li Tim-Oi’s parents did want her. Her Christian parents named her Tim-Oi which means “much beloved”
She completed her primary schooling at the age of 14, but with five brothers and two sisters, there was no money available for her to continue her schooling until she turned 21. While she was a student, she joined an Anglican church. At her baptism she took the Christian name of “Florence.” In 1931, when was still a student, she attended the ordination of an English Deaconess. During the service the Chinese born priest asked if there was a Chinese girl willing to sacrifice to the Chinese church. She knelt and prayed “God, would you like to send me?”
In 1934, she started a four year theological course at the Union Theological College in Canton. Her New Testament tutor was Geoffrey Allen. Her family couldn’t afford the tuition fees, so the Anglican Church paid her fees. While she was a student, she led a team of students rescuing the casualties of Japanese carpet bombing during the Second Sino-Japanese war.
She was ordained as a female deacon by the Bishop of Hong Kong on Ascension Day in 1941. (There was no separate deaconess order in China. She had a brief curacy in Kowloon, and then was appointed to the Portuguese colony of Macau, neutral territory which was crowded with war refugees. While she was there she ministered to the refugees and converted many of them to the Anglican Church. There was no priest and the passage from Hong Kong to Macau was long and dangerous because of the war. In 1941, the Bishop of Hong Kong travelled to the United States and had a meeting with Ursula and Reinhold Niebuhr on the subject of ordaining women. In 1943, when the Bishop was in the part of his Diocese that was in free China, he sent a message to Florence Li Tim-Oi to meet with him. Her journey was dangerous because she needed to go through Japanese lines. On January 25, 1944, he ordained her as a Priest of God.
After the war, under pressure from the purple guard (diocesan officials), and to the dismay of her bishop, Li Tim-Oi resigned her license as a priest but not her holy orders. She was put in charge of a parish near Vietnam, where she started a maternity home to prevent girl babies from being suffocated. During the more than 30 years that she lived in the People’s Republic in China, she was required to keep her faith and her calling secret. She was sent for a time to work on a chicken farm where she became “the captain of the chickens.”
The “bamboo curtain” was eventually lifted and Christian ministers received their back pay from the government, but when she left to live in Canada in 1983, she left her money and pension rights to good causes in China.
The 40th anniversary of her priesting was celebrated in 1984 at Westminster Abbey in her presence. At this occasion she was invited to Lambeth Palace to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, who at the time was unconvinced that women should be ordained. After meeting her, the Archbishop said “Who am I to say whom god can or cannot call? It takes one woman to change the thinking of the church.”
When she lived in Toronto she served as an honorary (non-stipended) assistant priest until her death on February 26, 1992. She is commemorated by the Anglican Church Canada on February 26th and by the Episcopal Church (USA) on January 24th
The Florence Li Tim-Oi papers were willed by Florence Li Tim-Oi to her sister Mrs. Rita Lee Chui, and by Rita Lee Chui to Renison College around 2002.
Aberdeen, Hong Kong Island
Republic of China
Hong Kong (city)
Union Theological College, Canton
People's Republic of China
Lambeth Palace, UK
Functions, occupations and activities
Mandates/sources of authority
Diocese of Hong Kong and Macau
The Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi is the sister of Mrs. Rita Lee Chui.
The Reverend Florence Li Tim-Oi was ordained as a female deacon with the Anglican Church in Hong Kong in 1941. She was stationed soon after her ordination at Macau. Because of the war between China and Japan, transportation between Macau and Hong Kong was dangerous if not impossible, so it was not possible to post a priest there. Uncomfortable with the lay nature of the services in Hong Kong, Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong and Macau ordained her as a priest. After the war she was pressured by a diocesan official to give up her priesthood. Due to the cultural revolution in particular (1966-1976) during which religious expression was banned, she was not free to practice her religion openly, so she practiced her faith in private. After restrictions on emigration was eased starting in the 1970's her sister was able to arrange to have her move to Canada where she already live. The Reverend Li Tim-Oi was able to be a priest again when she moved to Toronto nearly 40 years later.
Access points area
Subject access points
Place access points
Authority record identifier
Renison University College
Rules and/or conventions used
ISAAR (CPF) - International Standard Archival Authority Record For Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families, 2nd ed., Canberra: International Council on Archives, 2004
Level of detail
Dates of creation, revision and deletion
Chinese emigration. (2 September 2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_emigration
Christianity in china. (18 September 2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China
Florence li tim-oi. (4 September 2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Li_Tim-Oi
History of china. (20 September 2016). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_China
It takes one woman. (2009). Unpublished manuscript.