An artist, teacher, and missionary to Korea, Florence Hedleston Crane was born in Paint Lick, Kentucky, to Dr. Wynn David Hedleston, a Presbyterian minister and professor of philosophy at the University of Mississippi, and Lillian Andrus Hedleston. Florence Hedleston attended the University of Mississippi (1904–8), majoring in botany. She was a lover of nature all her life and began at an early age to paint images of wild and cultivated flowers. Her early watercolor illustrations of flowers and landscapes show a keen eye and careful attention to the natural form. She received first prize in painting in her category at the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair.
In 1913 in Yazoo City Hedleston married John Curtis Crane, an ordained minister and a missionary of the Presbyterian Church, US. She traveled with him to Sunchon, Korea, and taught at the mission’s school for girls. She organized classes in the industrial department, manufacturing silk and other products. The entire process of silk making was done at the school, from the raising of the silkworms to the weaving of thread into cloth. The combination of her knowledge of botany and her artistic skills proved invaluable, as she and her students drew and painted designs for the textiles.
Crane also painted watercolors capturing the details of the life around her. She recorded all types of Korean dress and painted hundreds of landscapes and watercolors of exotic flora and fauna. She also collected the folk legends associated with the flowers she was painting. In 1931 her work appeared in an artistic and literary book, Flowers and Folklore from Far Korea, printed by Sanseido Press in Tokyo. The bookplates in the first edition were created using seven-tone wood blocks.
The Cranes lived in Korea during turbulent times. They had five children, two of whom died in infancy and are buried in Korea. In 1940 Curtis Crane became a prisoner of war, though he escaped shortly before Pearl Harbor. From 1942 to 1946 the Cranes lived in Pascagoula, where he served as the minister of the First Presbyterian Church. They returned to Korea as missionaries in 1946, 1949, and 1954.
During her career Crane’s paintings were exhibited in Seoul, Pyeng Yang, New York, and New Orleans as well as on the Gulf Coast. At the time of her death in Old Hickory, Tennessee, in 1973 she left hundreds of landscapes and more than a thousand paintings of flowers.
- Florence Hedleston Crane, Flowers and Folklore from Far Korea (1931)
- Choon Bok Lim, The Korean Mission of the Crane Family (1999)
- Mayumi Morishita, “Florence Hedleston Crane: A Mississippi Woman Painting in Korea” (master’s thesis, University of Mississippi, 2005)
- David G. Sansing, The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History (1999)