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Edward E. and Bertha Giffen graduated from Hastings College, a Presbyterian college in Hastings, Nebraska. Judging from their letters their families resided in Nebraska as well. In 1894, they became missionaries in Hankow, China. In 1895, they transferred to Ching-Ku. In 1896 Bertha contracted tuberculosis, which cut short their mission and forced their return to the United States.
The Giffen Family Papers are made up of one medium, outgoing correspondence from Edward and Bertha Giffen, during their two year mission (1894-1896) in Hankow and Ching-Ku, China. These letters are all written to their family, Bertha's mother, sister, Lilian, and brother, Plato, residing in Nebraska. The bulk of the letters are written by Bertha and reflect her missionary zeal. Personally, the letters portray the Giffens' missionary interests, observations of Chinese culture, Bertha's declining health due to tuberculosis, and longing for home. Historically, the letters describe some of the circumstances of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), a subsequent Chinese backlash directed towards missionaries, and a Mohammedan Rebellion, most likely a small movement of the revolutionary era. While some of the particular stories of the latter two events seem sensational and are unsubstantiated, they are nonetheless intriguing parts of the collection.
Series I: Correspondence consists of Edward and Bertha Giffen's letters home during their mission. Most of the stationary is uniform except for the first letter, written on a stationary depicting a Japanese landscape. Some of the more notable letters in the collection are as follows. The Sino-Japanese War's declaration is described in the letter of July 30th, 1894 and the war is updated in the letter of October, 7th. In the letter of March 22nd, 1895, Bertha relates witnessing Chinese soldiers practicing in Ching-Ku. The war's cease fire is noted on May 18th. Several aggressions against missionaries by the Chinese are noted; they are related to the Chinese defeat in the war in the letter of August 22nd, 1895. The attack of a missionary family by a mob is described in an August 19th addition to an August 16th letter. A massacre of missionaries in Fukien is noted in the letters of September 25th and October 15th. A Mohammedan Rebellion's violence is characterized in the letters of September 7th and October 15th, 1895 and in the execution of two officials related on October 24th. There are three unidentified letters at the end of the collection: two written by Bertha after her return to the United States, and one from an unidentified source to an unidentified recipient.
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[Identification of item], Giffen Family papers, A 298, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
|February 22, 1894-October 7, 1894|
|November 18, 1894-May 18, 1895|
|August 16, 1895-November 14, 1895|
|November 27, 1895-May 19, 1896|
Letters: Some are unidentified
|July 9, 1896-December 29, 1896|