Rouse, C(lara) Ruth (1872-1956)

Missionary, student evangelist, and ecumenical pioneer

RouseBorn in Clapham in south London, Rouse came from a devout evangelical family in the Church of England. She early developed a capacity to understand other Christian traditions and, while never forgetting her spiritual aim, she became a convinced advocate of Christian reconciliation and unity. Rouse graduated from Girton College, Cambridge, when women were not yet granted degrees. Joining the Student Volunteer Movement during her college years, she started her vocational career as editor of the British Student Volunteer and pioneered in British, Scandinavian, and North American universities as traveling secretary among women students. In 1899 she went to India as a missionary but after two years returned to England because of ill health. While on convalescent leave she was asked by John R. Mott to visit various European countries in order to promote Christian work among women students. She was appointed a World’s Student Christian Federal (WSCF) secretary in 1905 and served in this position until 1924. While proving to be an effective organizer, speaker, leader, fund-raiser, and traveler, she remained first and foremost a missionary and evangelist. Through her worldwide service, she vitalized the missionary interest among students over three decades. After World War I she worked to restore international friendship and to relieve suffering and was instrumental in launching the European Student Relief.

From 1925 to 1939 Rouse served the missionary cause as educational secretary of the Missionary Council of the National Assembly of the Church of England. For decades she was one of the most influential women in the international Christian community. She was a member of the World’s YWCA Executive Committee (1906-1946) and YWCA president from 1938 to 1946. She was an active writer, producing a number of pamphlets, articles, and reviews over a span of more than 50 years. After retirement she won a reputation as a historian.

Franzén, Ruth. “Rouse, C(lara) Ruth,” Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 580.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Rouse, Ruth. John R. Mott: An Appreciation. Geneva: World’s Student Christian Federation, 1929.

Rouse, Ruth. Rebuilding Europe; the Student Chapter in Post-War Reconstruction. London: Student Christian Movement, 1925.

_____. The World’s Student Christian Federation, a History of the First Thirty Years. London: S. C. M. Press, 1948.

Rouse, Ruth, and Stephen Neill. A History of the Ecumenical Movement 1517-1948. London: Published on behalf of the Ecumenical Institute by S.P.C.K., 1954.

Rouse, Ruth, Stephen Neill, and Harold Edward Fey. A History of the Ecumenical Movement. 2d ed ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967.


Ruth Franzen, “Ruth Rouse.” In Mission Legacies, edited by Gerald H. Anderson et al., 93-101. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994.

Franzén, Ruth. “Ruth Rouse among students: global, missiological, and ecumenical perspectives.” Studia missionalia Svecana, 105. Uppsala: Swedish Institute of Mission Research, 2008.


Ruth Rouse.” Courtesy of Special Collections, Yale Divinity School Library, New Haven, CT.