Lorena Kelly Papers

Manuscript Collection #208
Kelly, Lorena, 1903-
Physical description
1.27 Cubic Feet, 564 items , consisting of correspondence, newsletters, diaries, mission reports, travel narratives, books, photograph albums, scrapbooks, clippings, pamphlets, magazine articles, doll, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Lorena Kelly Papers (#208), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1921-1979) consisting of correspondence, newsletters, diaries, mission reports, travel narratives, etc.

Biographical/historical information

Lorena Kelly was born on May 17, 1903, at Mt. Mourne in Iredell County, N.C. She was graduated from the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina in 1925 and earned her M.A. at Scarritt College (Nashville, Tennessee). After a short period of employment at Centenary Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., Miss Kelly received a missionary appointment from the Western Carolina Conference of the Methodist church for educational work in the Congo.

Miss Kelly sailed for Belgium in 1935, where she intensively studied the French language for three and a half months. By May, 1936, Miss Kelly was at Wembo Nyama mission station in the Congo. In July she was transferred to the Tunda station. Her educational work during the 1940s and 1950s took her to Wembo Nyama, Tunda, Lubondai, and Lodja, where her influence was significant. In late 1960 Miss Kelly and a majority of Central Congo missionaries were forced to evacuate to the Mindola Ecumenical Center at Kitwe, South Rhodesia. Owing to the prolonged unrest and violence of the Congolese Civil War, Miss Kelly did not return permanently to Lodja until January, 1965, although she did spend some of 1961-1963 at Leopoldville. During her final four years in the Congo Republic, Miss Kelly was director of the Home Economics Department at Congo Polytechnic Institute (CPI). She left the Congo in July, 1969, after thirty-three years of missionary service.

Scope and arrangement

Miss Kelly's photographs, personal correspondence and mission newsletters (1935-1979) and reports of Miss Kelly and others (1936-1973) contain an excellent overview of the Congolese scene during this period. These papers pertain to such aspects of native culture and customs as hunting skills, food preparation, marriage, death, and burial. The development and expansion of missionary work, school activities, enrollment, and native acceptance of and progress within the church-related educational system also are discussed. Climate, geography, transportation, urban and rural life, agriculture, and the spread of Western technology are corollary subjects of value. Correspondence of the 1960s provides valuable information about the Congolese Civil War and the development of a university system within the Congo Republic.

Material of the 1935-1936 period pertains to Miss Kelly's preparation for missionary work, her Atlantic crossing aboard the S.S. WESTERNLAND, travel and study in Brussels and Antwerp, her voyage to Africa, and her arrival at Wembo Nyama station. In July, 1936, Miss Kelly was transferred to Tunda station. Correspondence from Tunda and mission newsletters (1936-1937) provide information concerning visits to the station, including that of Miss McKinnon, secretary of the Woman's Mission Council (Aug., 1937); and medical work, including the opening of a leper colony (Oct., 1937). A report entitled "Thirteen Years of Medical Work At Tunda Station" provides insight into the development of the Tunda medical facility and native reaction to western medical treatment (1923-1936).

Correspondence and newsletters (1937-1940) give details of the missionary efforts in education, medicine (Jan. 4, 1938), and social reform at Tunda and Wembo Nyama (June-Oct., 1937). Progress in the Normal School and Woman's School (Jan., 1939) is described. Accounts of Miss Kelly's trips to Lodja, Leubo, Lubondai, Mutolo, Elizabethville, Leopoldville, and Minga (1938) provide insights into Congolese geography and urban development. Of special interest are descriptions of the visit to Wembo Nyama of Bishop Arthur James Moore and Bishop John McKendree Springer (Aug., Oct., 1939) and details of the Diamond Jubilee Conference of Protestant mission work at Leopoldville (July, 1938; Jan., 1939). Reports of annual and regional missionary conferences are included in the material for 1937-1940.

Correspondence, newsletters, and reports of the 1940s pertain to the educational progress and school activity at Wembo Nyama, Lubondai, and Lodja (1941-1944, 1946-1949). Construction of new facilities, improvement of curriculum, and development and expansion of the rural school network are stressed (1940, 1942, 1946-1949). A mission newsletter (Aug. 9, 1942) relates perils and precautions of war-time travel and contains a narrative of urban life in Johannesburg, South Africa. Also included are accounts of extensive travel through Africa: Ft. Victoria, South Rhodesia (1942); Lake Makamba (1945); Biera and Umtali, Portuguese East Africa (1946); Cape Town (1946); Lourenco Marques station, South Africa (1946); and Luluabourg (1949). These accounts describe the urban and rural sections of Africa and the Protestant missionary work therein.Of special interest is a 1943 report by Miss Kelly given at the Elizabeth Conference entitled "Spiritual Messages of Central Conference" and a thirty-four-page travel report, "My Trip Home" (June-Nov., 1946), which is exceptional in its description of African native life and missionary presence. Correspondence from Brussels (May-June, 1947) mentions postwar conditions in Belgium.

Additional correspondence (Dec., 1941-Jan., 1942), photographs, and a report (1946) pertain to Miss Kelly's travel by ship between Africa and New York.

A variety of material reflects the nature of missionaries' activities during the 1950s. Correspondence and newsletters discuss Miss Kelly's educational work at Lodja (1951-1958), including the establishment and progress of the Home Economics School; construction projects (Feb., 1951); and conferences at Lodja (Aug., 1956) and Leopoldville (Feb., 1956). Another letter (Apr. 18, 1959) discusses the visit of King Leopold III of Belgium to Lodja. Other items include Miss Kelly's writings: "Spiritual Attainments, Girls School, 1948-1951" ; "Report to Strategy Conference" (1952), containing an excellent overview of all missionary activity, goals, and achievements; and "Notes on My Trip to the Holy Land" (May 21-29, 1956). A map (1952) shows the location of Protestant missions in the Congo area.

Letters, newsletters, and other material (1960-1965) reflect the growing unrest, violence, and dislocation brought on by the Congolese Civil War. A newsletter (Sept. 19, 1960), gives details of the missionary evacuation to Mindola Ecumenical Station, the acceptance of church leadership by natives during the crisis, and activities of missionaries at Mindola. Correspondence and newsletters (Dec., 1960-Mar., 1961) discuss government and military harassment of missionaries, Congolese unrest and violence, growing popular opposition to missionaries, and the missionaries' return to and re-evacuation of Lodja. A "Report on the Tribal Troubles at Lodja" (Mar., 1964) discusses a legendary account of the origin of the tribes in the Congo, the history of Methodist missionary work, influence of Arab slave trading and forced labor in the area, the effect of Belgian colonial administration, and causes of the current instability and unrest. Another report, "Nine Weeks With the Congo Rebels," gives a day-by-day account (Aug. 3-Oct. 20, 1964) of the capture and eventual release of a group of missionaries. "Wembo Nyama and the Mulelists," another report, gives a briefer account of the same incident. A Christmas newsletter (1964) discusses further violence directed toward missionaries.

Additional material of the 1960s concerns the continuation of missionary work. A Christmas newsletter (1960) outlines the "Five Point Program of Education for Africans" at Mindola Ecumenical Station.Also included is a descriptive history of Congo Polytechnic Institute (Feb. 7, 1961) and letters pertaining to a missionary consultation at Elizabethville (May 28, 1961), the All-African Literature Conference at Kitwe (June 24, 1961), and a Home Economics Consultation at Elizabethville (Aug. 20, 1961). Letters from Leopoldville (Sept., 1961-July, 1962) provide further information on CPI and the home economics program, and the establishment of social clubs and centers for women. Correspondence and newsletters from Mulinqwishi (Nov., 1964-June, 1965) pertain to missionary activities there and elsewhere, including the selection of two natives as Methodist church bishops (Dec., 1964-Jan., 1965). Mission newsletters from Lodja (Aug., 1965-Feb., 1969) discuss the growth of the girls' high school. Personal correspondence (1966-1969) reflects the nature of missionary and educational work at Lodja and Kinshasa; the continued growth of CPI; and the proceedings of conferences at Lodja (1965), Kutubua (1966; May, 1968), Sandoa (Dec., 1966), Kinshasa (Aug., 1967; Jan., 1968), and Wembo Nyama (Mar., 1968). Nairobi, Kenya is described in correspondence of July and August, 1966. Letters (July, 1965-July, 1969) from Miss Kelly's former students and friends express their appreciation for her work.

The collection contains miscellaneous material of importance. A diary (1935-1936), written in French, discusses Miss Kelly's preparations to leave for the Congo and her arrival. A second diary (1964-1967) describes one of Miss Kelly's furloughs in the United States (1964) and her activities in the Congo. The papers also contain North Carolina church bulletins, dated and undated newspaper clippings, and several articles and pamphlets on mission work. Books in the collection include Miss Kelly's Good Housekeeping (Luuder Pudipudi), written in the Otetela language and I Saw It Happen, as well as a booklet by Frank C. Laubach, How to Teach One and Win One for Christ. Two photograph albums (1935-1970) contain numerous views of missionary homes; school, hospital, and church buildings; conferences and anniversary celebrations; missionaries; and native activities, including printing, furniture manufacture, and cooking. The photographs were taken at various locations, including Wembo Nyama, Lodja, Tunda, Ndjate Lokole, Kitenge, Leopoldville, Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, Katako Konebe, and Kimpese. Also included are views of notable individuals such as Bishop John Springer. Photographs and postcards depict Capetown; Johannesburg; and Lobito and Luanda, Angola. Several photographs show scenes aboard a ship (1935), probably taken during Miss Kelly's trip to Belgium.

A scrapbook (1924-1930, undated) pertains to Miss Kelly's education, church work, and activaties with young women. Programs, mementoes, and autographs of classmates concern activities of the class of 1925 of the Woman's College. A group of photographs depict students and others at Scarritt College (ca. 1930). Additional photos show girls andactivities at Camp Cemechu, possibly at Mount Airy (1926?); the Business and Industrial Girls group and Sunny Acres camp of Centenary Church in Winston-Salem (1930); Elna Lee Jubilee Camp; and a Girl Scout camp at Winston-Salem. A lengthy newspaper article (1926?) describes Lake Junaluska and religious activities there.

For further information see Oral History Collection, O.H. 5.

Administrative information
Custodial History

August 21, 1972, ca. 300 items; Papers (1922-1969) including correspondence, newsletters, reports, publications, and clippings regarding Congo missionary work

December 15, 1972, (addition) ca. 150 items; Papers (1936-1969), including correspondence, newsletters, clippings

June 13, 1977, 90 items; Correspondence (1936-1971), diaries (1936, 1964), photograph albums, clippings, miscellaneous

November 9, 1977, 6 items; Correspondence (1947)

February 22, 1982, 20 items; Papers (1921-1979), including correspondence, a program, and a clipping. Gift of Miss Lorena Kelly, Asheville, N.C.

October 7, 2016, (unprocessed addition #5), 0.25 cu. ft., 2 items; Collection addition includes a typed letter dated Sept. 12, 1949, written by Lorena Kelly from the Belgian Congo to Mrs. Sprinkle concerning dolls made by Kelly's students. Also included is one of the dolls. Gift of Pat Setzer.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Miss Lorena Kelly

Gift of Ms. Pat Setzer

Processing information

Processed by N. Maddox; J. Janvier, February 1975

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Kelly, Lorena, 1903-
Methodist Church--Missions--Congo (Democratic Republic)
Missionaries--Congo (Democratic Republic)
Missions--Educational work--Congo (Democratic Republic)
Antwerp (Belgium)--Description and travel
Brussels (Belgium)--Description and travel
Congo (Democratic Republic)--Description and travel
Congo (Democratic Republic)--History--Civil War, 1960-1965
Congo (Democratic Republic)--Social life and customs

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Correspondence and newsletters, 1922-1936
Box 1 Folder b Correspondence and newsletters, 1937-1939
Box 1 Folder c Correspondence and newsletters, 1940-1949
Box 1 Folder d Correspondence and newsletters, 1951-1959
Box 1 Folder e Correspondence and newsletters, 1960-1965
Box 2 Folder a Correspondence and newsletters, 1966-1979
Box 2 Folder b Native correspondence, 1965-1969
Box 2 Folder c Reports, 1935-ca. 1973
Box 2 Folder d Miscellaneous material
Box 2 Folder e Newspaper clippings
Box 3 Scrapbook, 1925-1929
Box 4 Folder b I saw it happen, by Lorena Kelly, 1977
Box 4 Folder d How to teach one and win one for Christ, by Frank C. Laubach
Box 4 Folder e Diary, 1964
Box 5 Photograph album, 1935-1970
Box 6 Photograph album, ca, 1935-1952