Laura Maude Wheeler papers , 1903-1966

Overview of the Collection

Wheeler, Laura Maude, 1874-1966
Laura Maude Wheeler papers
1903-1966 (inclusive)
4 linear feet, (10 containers)
Collection Number
Ax 372
Collection comprises correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, publications, postcards, and photographs relating to Methodist missionary Laura Maude Wheeler and her work as a teacher and school administrator in Tianjin, China from 1903 to 1948, and as an evangelist in the United States from 1949 to 1966. From 1943 to 1945, Wheeler was interned as a prisoner of war by the Japanese in China. She was a writer and traveler who was acutely aware of China's cultural and physical landscape and wrote widely on topics relating to Christianity in China.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Laura Maude Wheeler, known as "Maude," was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1874. Her father was a minister and had been a Methodist missionary to China. He took her and the rest of the family to China during his missionary service when Laura was six years old. She returned to the United States for high school and college, graduating from Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin. She taught for a few years before becoming a Methodist missionary in China in 1903. During her first term she was located in Peking at the Gamewell School. During her next term and throughout the rest of her missionary career, which ended in 1948, Wheeler worked in Tientsin in Northern China at the Keen School, first as a teacher and later as an administrator. She was a writer and a traveler, a collector of photos and pictures, and a person acutely aware of China's foreign, cultural and physical landscape. From 1943 to 1945, Wheeler was held in an internment camp, with around two thousand other foreigners, during the Japanese military campaign in China. After her retirement in 1948, she resided in Pasadena, California and continued to be an active evangelist, evident in her writings and correspondence from this time period. She died in July of 1966.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Laura Maude Wheeler Papers (1874-1966) consist of Wheeler's own memoirs, published and unpublished, publications of various Chinese missionary and educational groups, miscellaneous mementos, and a variety of images, which include postcards, photographs, and artwork. Her memoirs present a thoughtful, missionary's perspective on Chinese culture and some of her interesting experiences, particularly her internment by the Japanese during World War II and her description of the beginning of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The images of this collection provide a vivid account of China and missionary schools.

Series I, Incoming Correspondence consists of letters to Laura Maude Wheeler that post- date her missionary career. Many of the letters are addressed letters from religious groups, namely the missions branch of the Methodist church. There are also letters from Keen School students and alumni, some of whom knew Miss Wheeler.

Series II, Diary contains one diary of 1935-1938. This diary covers a variety of topics from Chinese culture and missionary life, which are laid out in a table of contents at the beginning. One of the most interesting subjects is Wheeler's firsthand account of the beginning of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, pgs. 36-53.

Series III, Manuscripts contains some of Wheeler's more formal writing about the topics of her life. Apparently they are derived from personal diaries, which are not present in this collection. Some of them have been reproduced in Wheeler's autobiographical book, Recollection of my Chinese Days. Some of the manuscripts are present in two copies, one earlier copy with proofreading notes and a finished copy. The subseries is in accord with Wheeler's organization. Subseries A, Biographies, contains five moralistic essays about the lives Chinese Christians and a U.S. soldier in China. Subseries B, Historical and Local Subjects, contains descriptions of various Chinese subjects, the devolution of churches, common villages and homes, monetary system, summer resorts of Northern China, and the homes of evangelist workers. Subseries C, Internment Camp, contains manuscripts describing Wheeler's internment by the Japanese in Weihsien, China during the Sino-Japanese War from 1943-1945, by then part of the conflict of World War II. She recalls the hardship that she and other foreigners experienced and their joy at the close of the War. Subseries D, Travel, contains manuscripts describing various locales. Wheeler relays a scientist’s account of Mongolia as well as her own travels in China and abroad. Some stories are vehicles for Christian morals and others are purely descriptive.

Series IV, Book contains two copies of Wheeler's book of memoirs, Recollection of my Chinese Days, 1903-1948. The first copy contains a biographical note by Wheeler's niece, page 2. The book consists of a summary of Wheeler's missionary experience, including different cities and schools she was located at, her various duties, people she knew, and general statements about political and cultural circumstances in China. In addition to this section there are printed versions of the manuscripts describing her internment and those describing her furloughs.

Series V, Educational Materials contains some of Wheeler's class notes and some of her educational aids, a handwritten religious booklet with translations, flashcards for memorizing the catechism in Chinese, and a book of Chinese songs.

Series VI, Educational Publications contains various publications by some Chinese mission schools with which Wheeler and her peers were affiliated. Subseries A, General Publications, contains two informative publications about Chinese missionary schools, "The Soochow University Newsletter" and a pamphlet entitled, "The Story of Christian Colleges in China." Subseries B, Administrative Publications, contains official information of Keen School and the Robincroft Family, progress reports, indexes of teachers and students, and a request for donations. Subseries C, Yearbooks, consists of the yearbooks from three Chinese missionary schools, Gamewell School, Peking Higher Primary School and Hwa Nan College.

Series VII, Religious Publications consists of informative pieces about Christianity in China and evangelical tracts. Subseries A, General Publications, contains an "Account of Peking Union Church Reunion," a description of the missionary progress within the Tientsin District, "Heroine in Peace and War," which is a biographical account of missionary Mary Gamewell, and an account of the 70 year history of the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society. Subseries B, Tracts, contains two evangelical publications, "Pray for Chinese Christians" and "The Voice of China."

Series VIII, Miscellaneous consists of various personal possessions. It contains passports and a Peking police registration, a published map of Tientsin with a hand-drawn map of the Northern Chinese missions, several Chinese prints with designs and characters, and picture descriptions originally located with the glass plate pictures.

Series IX, Postcards contains many postcards collected by Laura Maude Wheeler in her travels during furloughs and from China. The postcards are organized by the country of location.

Series X, Photographs is made up of photographs of various subjects, at times collected within albums. Subseries A, General Photographs, contains many photos of Chinese people and places from Keen School and the Tientsin District, as well as photos from other countries taken during furlough. The portraits provide a wonderful array of clothing and artifacts, as well as a sense of the environments of teaching and living. Subseries B, Wares, contains two catalogues, one of brassware and one of earthenware, from China. They both provide examples of the styles of China's products. Subseries C, Picture Books, contains three bound volumes of pictures with descriptions attached to each postcard or photo. The three themes of the booklets are Chinese Cave Temples, Korean Customs, and "How We Got our Bible," a biblical primer.

Series XI, Oversize contains a large album of photographs from Keen School, such as class photos and faculty photos, and several photos originally loosely contained within the album, as well as several posters, photographs, and art. The loose photos consist of Wheeler, Keen School students, faculty, and a few Chinese families as well as two Chinese drawings depicting stories; one depicts a nativity scene with Chinese characters. The posters are interesting examples of recruitment art, depicting scenes of agriculture and Christianity. There are two wide panoramic photographs, one of a group of missionaries, the other of the Shanghai waterfront. There is a Chinese calendar with a Christian scene and picture with enormous Chinese calligraphy.

Series XII, Photographs (PH121) contains additional photographs.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christian life--Methodist authors
  • Christianity--China
  • Methodist Church--Missions--China--Tianjin
  • Methodist women--China
  • Missions, American--China
  • Missions, American--China--Tianjin--Photographs
  • Prisoners of war--China
  • Prisoners of war--United States
  • Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945
  • Women Christian educators--China
  • Women missionaries--China
  • World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American
  • World War, 1939-1945--Prisoners and prisons, Japanese

Personal Names

  • Wheeler, Laura Maude, 1874-1966
  • Wheeler, Laura Maude, 1874-1966

Corporate Names

  • Keen School (Tianjin, China)
  • United Methodist Church (U.S.). Board of Missions. Women's Division

Geographical Names

  • China--Photographs

Form or Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts for publication
  • Photographs
  • Postcards--China