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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Missionaries, Teachers, & Clergymen

Complementing the rich sources relating to African American schools are papers documenting other groups' educational activities.

Clara Ellen Tarte Davenport and her students in Unalaska. Between 1910 and 1912. Teacher Clara Davenport, standing, (front row, center) with her students. Box 1, Noah Cleveland Davenport Papers. Library of Congress Manuscript Division.16

Education and social customs of the native people of Alaska are reflected in two collections. A diary and papers (10 items; 1910-12) kept by Clara Ellen Tarte Davenport (1885-1974) and her husband, Noah Cleveland Davenport, recount their voyage from Seattle, Washington, to the Aleutian island village of Unalaska and their teaching experiences after arriving there. The ecclesiastical records of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America, Diocese of Alaska (87,000 items; 1733-1938), covering the administration of numerous parishes and chapels, contain information on women missionaries who traveled to Alaska and on native women who joined the church or attended its schools.

Correspondence of Harriet Fidelia Coan (1839-1906), a teacher in Punahou, Hawaii, may be found in the papers (5,000 items; 1818-1923; bulk 1832-82) of her parents, Presbyterian minister Titus Coan and his wife, Fidelia Church Coan (1810-1872).

The diary (1 item; 1835-37) of Bostonian Caroline B. Poole (1802-1844) describes her daily life as a teacher in Monroe, Louisiana, and the Julia G. Alexander Collection of Alexander and Graham Family Papers (35 items; 1812-61) contains a notebook and other items relating to the New York and Tennessee teaching career of Sarah Ann Graham Alexander (1807-1839?).

Harry Augustus Garfield's correspondence with his sister, Mary Garfield Stanley Brown (1867-1947), concerns her education in Cleveland, Ohio, and at Miss Porter's boarding school in Farmington, Connecticut. Also in Garfield's papers (60,000 items; 1888-1934) are letters of his daughter Lucretia Garfield Comer (1894-1968) relating to her schooling, her work as a teacher with the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky, and her views on World War I, peace, and social reform.

Education of Native Americans, particularly Navajo Indians, is the focus of a small collection of papers (200 items; 1951-74) relating to the career of Hildegard Thompson (1901-1983), who served for a time as chief of the education branch of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Alice Hirsch, a student of Maria Kraus-Boelté (1836-1918), compiled a collection (200 items; 1904-13) about her mentor, a pioneer in children's early education, who helped establish in 1873 the New York Seminary of Kindergarteners, a training school for kindergarten teachers. The papers of Lyman Bryson (12,000 items; 1893-1977; bulk 1917-59), on the other hand, contain his correspondence with Lucy Wilcox Adams, Mary L. Ely, and other women teachers about adult education programs.

Two other male educators, whose careers and writings bear on women's educational history and women's role as mothers, are William Torrey Harris (13,000 items;1866-1908) and Angelo Patri (30,000 items; 1904-62; bulk 1924-62). Harris served as superintendent of schools in nineteenth-century St. Louis, Missouri, and wrote on the benefits of women's education, including articles titled “Ought Young Girls to Read the Daily Newspapers?” (1888) and “Why Many Women Should Study Law” (1901). Following in Harris's footsteps was Patri, an author and public school principal in New York City, who for forty years wrote a syndicated column “Our Children,” which popularized John Dewey's progressive educational principles. Patri also wrote articles for numerous magazines aimed at women, including Farmer's Wife, McCall's, Parents Magazine, and Young Wives. Of particular note in his papers are letters from troubled parents seeking his childrearing advice during the Depression.

Religious leaders also frequently expressed opinions about women's education. Methodist clergyman and educator Matthew Simpson (5,000 items; 1829-1929; bulk 1833-84) supported female education and wrote about female heroism. Information about the Northfield Seminary for girls may be found in the papers of nineteenth-century evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody (200 items; 1854-1937; bulk 1864-99).

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.


  1. In August 1910, twenty-five-year-old Clara Ellen Tarte (1885-1974) married her Bellingham Normal School classmate Noah Clevelend Davenport (1885-1976) and returned with him to Alaska, where he had spent the previous year as a teacher in a federal government school on the Aleutian Peninsula. The Davenports' joint diary describes their home in the village of Unalaska and their experiences teaching school there. On September 6, 1910, Noah wrote that Clara “was pleasantly surprised at the brightness, good manners and cleanliness of the children. They were studious and not inclined to mischief.” Back to text