1930 to 1965

Before going to China, Ann earned a Masters in Social Work from University of California, Berkeley.

Ann Delinquents

Between 1957 and 1965 (when she left for China), Ann worked at several organizations which helped disadvantaged young people, primarily in New York. If you were alive then, you’ll remember that they were called “delinquents.” Here she is with some of the girls she worked with at Hudson Guild Neighborhood House. They are going shopping together. That’s Ann on the right.

A poem by Ann’s mother, Gwen Tompkins, to Ann (as an adult, not a baby)

ANN 10.26.14 - 001

I have a Daughter

She can cook
or write a book.
She can sew
or tell you what to do.
She can be a leader
or tell you how from her reader [criticism/self-criticism pamphlet].
She’s always too busy,
so a little dizzy.
She’s quite a daughter.
Her Ma can’t do without her.


Ann and her brother, Commodore, aboard the Wander Bird

Ann Tompkins began her life aboard the schooner, Wander Bird, at the age of 2 months. Her brother began his at 2 weeks. The ship was not only their home, but their school and their playground. This was the beginning of her life of adventure!

Out on the bowsprit of Wander Bird with her family

If you’re wondering where Ann’s sense of adventure came from, it might just be from hanging out with her family on the bowsprit of the Wander Bird (and living to tell that tale!!)


Ann as a young woman

After living on the high seas and before moving to China, Ann was far from idle. She hitchhiked across the country twice and went to Latin America.


“The next morning Wander Bird came to the great storm sea. It was a dark and ugly day, filled with forebodings. The chill and colorless sun rode like a thin daytime moon behind sheets of cloud….The ocean was shimmering silk. Through it there drove a long and tremendous swell which raced from horizon to horizon with tireless speed and grew from hour to hour. The wind’s purr changed to a moan….Just this way, Ann and Commodore knew very well, does a sea build up….until at last there rises a great and dangerous sea….At noon Wander Bird, already fighting, drove across the fiftieth parallel. She was at grips with Cape Horn now. ‘It’s onlucky, turrible onlucky,” groaned William.’Fridays a bad day, anyhow, but today’s Friday the thirteenth!’ He scowled as he went about his tasks. ‘Why couldn’t we get heah some other day?'” – excerpt from “Two Sailors and Their Voyage around Cape Horn” by Warwick M. Tompkins, Ann’s father – 1939


Ann setting the table for Thanksgiving on Wander Bird

Thanksgiving was celebrated on Wander Bird. Here is Ann setting the table and also helping Harrison, the ship’s cook, fix Thanksgiving dinner. Harrison and his wife, Mary, were to become lifelong friends of Ann.


Harrison and Ann preparing dinner

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