Our dear friend, comrade and mentor Isabel Crook passed away peacefully in Beijing on August 20 at the age of 107 (108 according to the Chinese method of calculation).
Isabel was born on December 15, 1915 in Chengdu, the daughter of Canadian missionaries. From her early years she identified with the Chinese people, especially the rural poor, in their struggle for dignity and liberation. Following studies in Canada, she made her way to Britain, where she met and married David Crook, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), who had been a member of the International Brigades in Spain. Isabel, too, joined the CPGB in 1943 and devoted the rest of her life wholeheartedly to the cause of communism.
She and David traveled to the liberated areas of China in 1948 and the country became their home for the rest of their lives. They shared the destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese revolution, whether in good times or bad, but never lost their faith in the Communist Party of China and the bright future of China’s revolution, nor their passionate commitment to the liberation of working and oppressed people everywhere, but particularly in those countries groaning under the iron heel of imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism. In 2019, President Xi Jinping personally presented Isabel with the Friendship Award, China’s highest honour for foreigners.
Isabel was, and will remain, an inspiration to us and to everyone else who was privileged to know her. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to her sons, Michael, Carl and Paul, and to her whole extended family, and many comrades and friends.
The following article, which was originally published in the Chinese newspaper, Global Times, gives a small but poignant flavour of her extraordinary life and of the love rightly cherished for her by the people of China.
On Sunday, Isabel Crook, recipient of the Friendship Medal of China, pioneer in English teaching in China, and International Communist fighter and advisor of Beijing Bailie University, China’s earliest private university, died in Beijing at the age of 108, Beijing Bailie University reported.
Isabel Crook, a Canadian, was born in Chengdu, Southwest China’s Sichuan Province on December 15, 1915. During the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), she plunged into China’s rural development. Later, she went to Britain and married David Crook (1910-2000), who was a member of the Communist Part of Great Britain, and took part in the international anti-Fascist war. She joined in the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1943, and came to China to observe and study the land reform in the Liberated Area of Shanxi, Hebei, Shandong and Henan provinces.
In 1948, Isabel (as her Chinese friends always call her) was invited to teach at the Central Foreign Affairs School (the forerunner Beijing Foreign Studies University, BFSU) in Nanhaishan village, North China’s Hebei Province in 1948 at the invitation of the Communist Party of China. After the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, Isabel had taught in BFSU for more than 70 years, and trained a great number of scholars and diplomats for China.
As a scholar in anthropology and sociology, she wrote several books, including Revolution in a Chinese Village: Ten Mile Inn, and Xinglong Chang：Field Notes of a Village Called Prosperity 1940-1942, in which she observed and recorded the Chinese revolution and development through her own eyes and in her own way to the West and the whole world at large, making an outstanding contribution to China’s foreign friendly exchanges with other countries.
In 2007, she was awarded the title of “Tenured professor emeritus” by Beijing Foreign Studies University, and honorary doctoral degree by Toronto University. She also received other honors such as “One of the Top Ten Meritorious Foreign Teachers” by the Chinese government and the “the Most Influential Foreign Experts at the 40th Anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening-up” in 2016 and 2018 respectively. In September 2019, she won the Friendship Award of the People’s Republic of China, the highest medal of honor in China for foreigners.
Isabel had shown great concern to China’s rural development and dedicated herself to English teaching with numerous students. She died peacefully with her faith for the international Communist cause, and the love for the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people. According to her own will, no funeral will be conducted and her body will be donated for medical research. Our beloved Isabel is immortal!