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Catherine Parham Papers, 1920-1973

Manuscript Collection #224

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Catherine Parham Papers
Creator: Parham, Catherine, b. 1901
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1920-1973) consisting of correspondence, newsletters, letters, Congolese Civil War, biographical notes, pamphlets, magazine articles, travel narratives, etc.
Extent: 0.65 Cubic feet, 550 items , consisting of correspondence, newsletters, mission reports, travel narratives, clippings, pamphlets, magazine articles, a thesis, and miscellaneous.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

April 3, 1973, ca. 550 items; Papers (1920-1973) including correspondence, reports, newsletters, clippings, etc. pertaining to missionary work in the Congo. Gift of Miss Catherine Parham, Asheville, N.C.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

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

Preferred Citation

Catherine Parham Papers (#224), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Miss Catherine Parham

Processing Information

  • Processed by S. Street, November 1975

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Catherine Parham was born January 3, 1901, in Stinson, (now Durand) Georgia. She attended Creighton-Shumaker Business College in Atlanta and worked as a secretary-bookkeeper in Atlanta (1918-1923). In 1923 Miss Parham volunteered for life service as a missionary under the Methodist Board of Missions. She then attended Scarrit College in Nashville, Tennessee (1923-1925), at which time she was commissioned a missionary.

Appointed to do church-centered social work in the West Virginia coal-fields, Miss Parham was stationed at Hemphill, West Virginia from 1925-1931. While there she was accepted as a missionary to the Belgian Congo, and in June, 1931, she sailed for Africa. Miss Parham was assigned to Tunda Station in the Central Congo and placed in charge of the Tunda Girls Home, a boarding school for Congolese girls. In 1944, the Women's School was also placed under her supervision. In 1945, Miss Parham was transferred to Elisabethville, where she was placed in charge of kindergartens, other teachers and women's education in general. Miss Parham returned to the U.S. in 1958. Due to her mother's ill health, she did not complete her last term of duty. Miss Parham remained in close touch with the Congo and returned to Lubumbashi, Congo in 1968-1969 to translate a children's Bible into Congo Swahili.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Personal correspondence consists primarily of letters from Miss Parham in the to her family and friends in Georgia. There are a few letters written by other missionaries and church officials to Miss Parham and several letters (some in Swahili) written to Miss Parham from her Congolese students. The majority of the personal correspondence falls between 1920 and 1958. After 1958 the bulk of the correspondence is made up of newsletters and reports.

Correspondence between 1920 and 1958 offers an excellent overview of the Central and Southern Congo during this period. Stressed are native dress, customs, appearance, traditions, health, and language. Detailed descriptions and information are given on native superstition, covering death and burial (January, 1935), marriage (January, 1932, August, 1933, August and November, 1934), and children (January, 1932). In contrast to this are the lengthy descriptions of native participation in Christian celebrations (March, 1932).

Miss Parham's trips to neighboring villages afford the reader with a look at life in the rural areas, such as Lubalin (1932), Diumbu (1933), and Minga (1934). Such correspondence describes the methods of transportation used in the Congo (1931-1958). A progression should be noted from walking or bicycling to driving cars and trucks and traveling by train. Advances in communication are also reflected through the shortened time required for letters and packages, the larger variety of mail order goods available, and the use of radios (1938). To keep up with these advances, the Congolese had to make certain changes. This encompassed changing some native traditions (education for women and use of medical doctors) and the native economy (the building of roads capable of supporting cars and moving to the city and mining jobs there). In her letters, Miss Parham deals with both of these aspects of progress. Women's education was of special concern to her and is dealt with at length (March, 1946). Also of interest is an excellent description of Elisabethville (March, 1946).

Detailed information is given as the climate (rainy and dry seasons) of the Central Congo area. Included are descriptions of how native agriculture is built around the climate and the varieties of fruits, vegetables, and flowering plants that were grown by the Tunda Village natives.

The work of the Tunda Girls School students is described at length. The subjects taught; length of school term; levels of education; clothing, food, and housing problems; and the reactions of both the students and their parents to the mission school itself are discussed. Other school and mission related correspondence is concerned with the lack of enough doctors throughout the area, the hold that the village witch doctors had on the people, and the need for educational programs on every level in both Central and Southern Congo. A letter of March, 1951, gives a Black-American minister's views of the Congo and the missionary work being done there.

Noted are two letters dealing with the educational programs for women in Elisabethville, the progress that had been made, and how the programs were operated (November, 1954) and a general progress report on education in Elisabethville (July, 1957).

Correspondence from 1960-1965 reflects the growing unrest and violence brought on by the Congolese Civil War. There are several excellent eye witness reports of the fighting and the airlift of missionaries from the more dangerous areas (July-September, 1960). Of special interest is a day-by-day report (October 7 - November 6, 1961) of the happenings, results of fighting, attitudes of Congolese, and missionaries' views of the revolution written by Bishop Newell S. Booth as he traveled through the Central Congo. Many newsletters deal with the place of the church and the missionaries in the Congo during and after the revolution.

Throughout the Civil War period there are accounts of Congolese being elected to important church offices. Noted is a change in church leadership from the missionaries to the Congolese. The election of the first Congolese Methodist Bishop (John Wesley Shangu) is mentioned in a letter of January, 1964. The remainder of Miss Parham's papers, 1965-1973, are primarily concerned with the translation of religious or church centered material into Congo Swahili.

Miscellaneous files include biographical material and correspondence on Bishop John Wesley Shangu, Luhahi Emile, and Moise Tshombe; diary entries (1933); reports, pamphlets and a Master's thesis "Christian Education for the Central African Community." The oversize file contains two maps. One map (1946) shows the location of Protestant missions in the Belgian Congo and the other map illustrates maritime trade (ca. 1954), routes to Africa from New York and from Antwerp Belgium.

Subject Headings Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Card Catalog Entries Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Reading Room's card catalog. This system is no longer maintained, but it is left in place to help on-site researchers locate particular topics in the collection.

Geographic Entry :

  • Congo, Africa

Autograph Entry :

  • Shangu, John Wesley, Bishop (2) 1967, 1968

Subject Entries :

  • AGRICULTURE— Africa— Congo
  • CLOTHING AND DRESS— Africa— Congo
  • COMMUNICATION— Africa— Congo
  • EDUCATION— ADULT— Africa— Congo
  • EDUCATION— Africa— Congo
  • EDUCATION— COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES— Africa— Congo
  • EDUCATION— Mission Schools— Africa— Congo
  • EDUCATION— Mission Schools— Africa— Congo
  • EDUCATION— WOMEN— Africa— Congo
  • MINES AND MINING— Africa— Congo
  • POSTAL SERVICE— Foreign Mail
  • RELIGION— Methodist— Africa— Congo
  • RELIGION— Methodist— Missionaries— Africa
  • RELIGION— Methodist— Missionaries— Africa
  • RELIGION— Methodist— Missions
  • SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS— Africa— Congo
  • SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS— Africa— Congo
  • SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS— Funeral Rites and Ceremonies— Africa
  • SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS— Holidays— Africa
  • SOCIAL LIFE AND CUSTOMS— Marriage— Africa
  • TRANSPORTATION— Africa— Congo
  • TRAVEL— Africa— Congo
  • WAR— CONGO CIVIL
  • WEATHER— Africa— Congo

Map Entries :

  • Africa: Belgian Congo (1946)
  • Africa: maritime trade routes (1954)

Date Entries :

  • 1930-1939
  • 1950-1959
  • 1960-1969

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Box 1#0224.1
Correspondence 1920-1953
Box 2#0224.2
Correspondence 1954-1973
Box 3#0224.3
V.I.P. file, pamphlets, miscellaneous

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. None of the original documents in this collection are digitally available online at this time.
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