*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 7th of September 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
On the 7th of September in 1903, Anenus and Adelle Mortensen welcomed their first child- Margaret Mortensen, in Somers, Wisconsin. Two sisters would join Margaret, and the family moved to Evanston, Illinois.
The family was devoutly Methodist- Margaret would excel in school and enroll at Wheaton College in 1921 (Wheaton, if you don’t know, lays claim to being one of the more important centers of the Evangelical intellectual tradition in America). After graduating, she taught school for one year before marrying Kenneth Landon. He had graduated from Wheaton and then received his M.Div from Princeton Seminary.
The two then signed up to be missionaries in Thailand (then it was called Siam). The couple would have three children in Thailand, and Margaret would also run a mission school. Intrigued by Thai culture, she and her husband began to read widely about the history of Southeast Asia. Kenneth would eventually receive a master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and work in the State Department in Washington, D.C.
But you may have heard about Margaret’s broad reading in South East Asian history. She was introduced to the works of Anna Leonowens- a somewhat mysterious British woman who had come to Thailand as an English teacher and to work at the court of the King of Siam (Apparently, Leonowens was the great aunt of Boris Karloff- the famous actor who was the original Frankenstein’s Monster- but that’s not where this show is going). Leonowens had written two books about her time teaching and with the king- these were 1870’s "The English Governess at the Siamese Court.” And 1872’s “The Romance of the Harem.” Neither sold particularly well, and there seemed to be some issues with her timeline.
Upon moving back to the United States, Margaret would take these two books and her research to publish Anna and the King of Siam. It is perhaps best understood as historical fiction- as the work by Anna Leonowens was a curious blend of history and fiction. Upon Anna’s book being published, the king of Siam noted that “[she] has supplied by her invention that which is deficient in her memory.”
Nonetheless, Margaret’s book would become a hit in 1944, the year it was published. It would sell over a million copies and be translated into 20 languages. It was made into a film in 1944 that became the basis for the musical “The King and I” by the famed duo Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It would win Tony’s- the film version starring Yul Brenner would win an Academy Award, and the show's revival would win another Tony. It was remade into a movie in 1999 with Jodie Foster, Chow Fun Fat, and a young Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy).
Margaret Landon would write another book, “Never Dies the Dream,” which was an account of her work in Thailand with her husband. The two would have four children- their son, Kenneth Jr or “Kip,” would record over 90 hours of interviews with his parents, which are digitized and today available at Wheaton College. Margaret would die in 1993 and be buried next to her husband at Wheaton Cemetery in Illinois. Born on this day in 1903, Margaret Landon- the missionary and author behind “The King and I,” was 90 years old.
The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Luke 18:
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor; you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 7th of September 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who has tried “breeding very small camels and producing very large needles.” He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who happens to know an author born in Wisconsin who went to Wheaton, married a fellow Wheaton alum who then went to Princeton Seminary. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.