Joan Christopherson Papers, 1933-1975  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Christopherson, Joan, 1916-2002
Joan Christopherson Papers
1933-1975 (inclusive)
0.5 linear feet, (1 box)
Collection Number
Mss 110
Joan Christopherson was a professor in the University of Montana's Home Economics department. The collection consists of her letters home from Europe during high school and materials from her time at the University that document interest and activity in kindergarten and day care advocacy.
University of Montana, Mansfield Library, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library
University of Montana
32 Campus Dr. #9936
Missoula, MT
Telephone: 406-243-2053
Fax: 406-243-4067
Access Restrictions

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana-Missoula.

Funding for creating this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Joan Warnhuis was born November 29, 1916, at the Vellore Mission in India, where her father was a Dutch Reform minister and her mother, a physician. When Joan was eight, they left India for Holland, Michigan, her father’s birthplace. Soon after, he was appointed to a church on Staten Island, New York, and Joan finished high school there. After finishing high school in three and a half years, she was invited by her maternal aunts to spend the last semester in England and Scotland. She then returned to the States to attend Vassar College in New York, where she majored in history.

After Vassar, she went on to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she received a master’s degree in international affairs. She wished to distance herself from anything having to do with war, so service in the diplomatic corps (a longtime goal) seemed an unlikely option. Her pacifist beliefs led her to a position with the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, where she served for a time as field secretary, traveling in Ohio and Indiana. As a result, she found herself spending considerable time with Friends (Quakers), and eventually joined a Friends meeting. She earned a master's degree in early childhood education from Columbia University. In Cleveland, Ohio, she met Edmund Christopherson at a Friends meeting, and they later married. He was a conscientious objector who opposed World War II. He was assigned alternative service, first in North Dakota, and later in Missoula, Montana, where he was a smokejumper.

Once settled in Missoula, she taught high school English in Stevensville. Then she was hired in 1958 by the University of Montana (then Montana State University) to teach child development in the Home Economics Department, and to direct the nursery school and kindergarten. She retired from this position in 1975.

In addition to being a professor, wife, and mother, Joan was a life-long community activist. She was among the founding members of the Missoula League of Women Voters in the early 1950s and was active in the Missoula Democratic Party for many years. She was also a charter member of the Amnesty International chapter of Missoula and worked for many years with the state coalition against the death penalty. She served on the boards of Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) and the Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. She wa active on the University of Montana campus in the Women's Center. She also served as North Pacific Yearly Meeting’s representative to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, on Missoula Friends Meeting’s social concerns committee, and as Clerk of the meeting.

The Christophersons had four children – Ann, Jan, Jeanne, and Ian. Mr. Chrisopherson died in 1974. Mrs. Christopherson died October 18, 2002 in Ronan, Montana.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of Joan Christopherson's correspondence home from Europe during high school and materials from her time at the University that document interest and activity in kindergarten and day care advocay. The letters are addressed to her parents and siblings and document her travels in England and Scotland. The university materials relate to her work as director of the nursery school and kindergarten, and show strong advocacy for publicly-funded kindergartens in Montana and for state licensing of day care centers.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright not transferred to The University of Montana.

Preferred Citation

[Name of document or photograph number], Joan Christopherson Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana-Missoula.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is arranged in two series:

Series I: Correspondence, 3 folders, 1933

Series II: University of Montana, 0.25 linear feet, 1965-1975

Acquisition Information

Gift of Joan Christopherson, 1976 and 1989.

Processing Note

The original processors arranged and described only the correspondence; the University of Montana materials had been placed in the Archive's University Publications collection. In 2004, both portions were processed, and the collection was re-described. Thanks to Suzanne Sherman Aboufadl of the Missoula Friends Meeting for the complete biography of Christopherson she provided.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I:  Correspondence, 1933Return to Top

3 folders

This series contains letters that Christopherson wrote back to her parents and siblings during her travels in late high school. Letters are all dated and identify place of origin. Most are in the form of a daily journal, describing the places and people she sees.

Container(s) Description Dates
April 14-May 19, 1933
May 26-July 7, 1933
July 22-August 10, 1933

Series II:  University of Montana, 1965-1975Return to Top

0.25 linear feet

This series contains materials relating to Christopherson's service to the University of Montana's Home Economics Department as a professor and director of the kindergarten program. Most of the materials relate to kindergartens. A few are from the university's program, but most concern the debate in the late 1960s and early 1970s about the necessity of publicly-funded kindergartens. There are materials documenting the extent and availability of kindergartens in Missoula in the early 1970s, along with Christophersons' testimony to the 1971 and 1973 Montana Legislatures on the need for the state to fund and license kindergarten programs. Two folders on day care programs are mostly focused on the establishment of a day care licensing program in Montana in the early 1970s. Correspondence within these files indicates connections between this work and her activities in the League of Women Voters.

Container(s) Description Dates
Spain's Education Policy: A Focus for Press Dissent
Kindergarten, University of Montana
Kindgergarten: Research literature
Kindergarten: Licensing
Kindergarten in Missoula
Kindergarten bill
Kindergarten bill
Kindergarten: Do Children Need It?
Mary Jeanne Crocker
Day Care: Articles and clippings
Day Care: Licensing

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Americans--Great Britain--Correspondence
  • Day care centers--Licenses--Montana
  • Kindergarten--Montana--Finance
  • Kindergarten--Montana--Missoula
  • Nursery schools--Montana--Missoula

Corporate Names

  • University of Montana--Missoula--Employees

Geographical Names

  • Great Britain--Description and travel

Form or Genre Terms

  • Teenagers' writings, American--Great Britain


  • Early childhood educators--Montana--Missoula
  • Women educators--Montana--Missoula