A native of Wisconsin, Elsie Reik (1893-1985) joined missionary service in 1922 and was sent to Foochow (Fuzhou) in southeastern China. She worked at the mission school as an educator of female students. Her movements during World War II are unknown. Reik was in Fuzhou in 1949 when the communists came to political power in China. This prompted Reik's return to the United States in 1950.
The Elsie Reik Letters from Foochow (Fuzhou) China collection consists of outgoing correspondence from Reik, primarily to her family in the United States. They are an unusual collection when set against similar collections on missionary women overseas. They constitute one of the more extensive assemblages of letters written by an overseas missionary; yet, their content is often rather slim and inconsistent. Reik maintained solid ties with her family and friends in the United States. Her letters are filled with reports on other family members and requests for updates. Consequently, many of the letters contain less information on the mission, missionary work, or Chinese political, social, and cultural life than other collections offer. Moreover, there is a significant gap in these voluminous letters from 1934 to 1949.
Despite these shortcomings, the Reik collection does offer some insights on missionary work and on life in Foochow (Fuzhou). She was upset by Chinese marriage traditions that obligated some of her former students to marry non-Christian men. Reik lauded the seeming advances that missionary education provided to female converts and she offered observations on the paradox of the second generation of women students (born into Christian households). Reik said they did not appreciate the struggles that their parents generation had endured--something that opened more options to them. Yet, Reik found these young women to be more ambitious; many of them continued on to universities in China and beyond. The last letters in the Reik collection offer glimpses of the upheaval that communist successes caused in the missionary community in Fuzhou, disturbances that caused Reik to leave China.
For more information on missionary women who resided in China during the same period as Reik, see the Myra Snow Correspondence (A 186), the Myra Anna Jaquet Papers (A 180), and the Elizabeth Wright Papers (A 301); all of these women lived in Tientsin (Tianjin); or the Edith Simister Letters from China (A183) who also lived in Foochow (Fuzhou); or the Clara Dyer Letters from Ch'iangli, China Collection (A 198), who lived in Ch'iangli. All of these collections are housed in Special Collections & University Archives, at the University of Oregon Libraries.
Available in microfilm as part of: Women's lives. Series 3, American women missionaries and pioneers collection (MICROFILM BV3703 .W66 2006, reel 51); Primary Source Microfilm, 12 Lunar Dr., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525.
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[Identification of item], Elsie I. Reik papers, A 166, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.
|1||1||Letters||December 1922-January 1923|
|1||2||Letters||February 1923-May 7, 1923|
|1||3||Letters||May 20,1923-June 17, 1923|
|1||4||Letters||June 26, 1923-January 1924|
|1||5||Letters||February 1924-March 1924|
|1||6||Letters||April 1924-May 1924|
|1||7||Letters||June 1924-September 1924|
|1||8||Letters||November 1924-December 1924|
|1||9||Letters||January 1925-March 1925|
|1||10||Letters||April 1925-May 1925|
|1||11||Letters||June 1925-July 1925|
|1||12||Letters||August 1925-December 25, 1925|
|1||13||Letters||December 30, 1925-April 1926|
|1||14||Letters||May 1926-August 1926|
|1||15||Letters||September 1926-December 1926|
|1||16||Letters||January 1927-March 1927|
|1||17||Letters||April 1927-May 1927|
|1||18||Letters||June 1927-October 1927|
|1||19||Letters||November 1927-July 1949|
|1||20||Letters||August 1949-December 1950; undated|