Jessie L. Wolcott Papers

Manuscript Collection #236
Wolcott, Jessie L., b. 1896
Physical description
0.22 Cubic Feet, 90 items , consisting of correspondence, travel accounts, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Jessie L. Wolcott Papers (#236), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1939-1950) consisting of correspondence, travel accounts, letters, missionary, etc.

Biographical/historical information

Miss Jessie L. Wolcott was born in Iowa in 1896. She began her Methodist missionary career in China in 1922. Miss Wolcott's Central China Conference's activities were centered for the most part in Nanking (Jiangsu Province). The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 forced the departure of foreign missionaries; upon their return in 1939 the city was under Japanese occupation. This new situation did not deter Miss Wolcott from performing her religious, educational and relief tasks during the years 1939-1940. For the next two years Miss Wolcott served as principal of several Methodist schools in Nanking and as chief administrator of the South City Church. Civilian relief projects were expanded including the establishment of self-help programs and an eye clinic. The beginning of hostilities between the United States and Japan in December of 1941 necessitated the departure of the American missionaries. Miss Wolcott returned to the United States in 1942 where she worked as a secretary for a knitting company in Berkeley, California, until 1945. After the cessation of hostilities, Miss Wolcott reapplied for a China assignment and arrived back in Nanking in January of 1946. She became secretary-treasurer of the Field Committee and spent most of the year attempting to reopen Hwi Wen Girls School. In the spring and fall of 1948 Miss Wolcott traveled through neighboring Anhui Province, obtaining experience as a street preacher. In April of 1949, Nanking was occupied by the Chinese Communist Army. After a period of steadily increasing pressure, Miss Wolcott left the mainland in February of 1951.

Scope and arrangement

The collection consists of correspondence and explanatory notes appended to travel accounts.

The collection consists of correspondenceand explanatory notes appended to travel accounts. The bulk of the correspondence falls between the years 1939-1942. In addition to describing her mission-related activities, Miss Wolcott devotes much of her attention to economic conditions in Nanking, its rural hinterland and Anhui Province. The rising inflation in eastern China can be traced through Miss Wolcott's mention of commodity prices, exchange rates and charges for making change. Miss Wolcott also wrote copiously concerning conditions under the Japanese occupation, including Japanese efforts to reconstruct Nanking, economic exploitation, Japanese martial law, the attitudes of the conquered toward their new masters, the extent and effectiveness of the occupation, and one instance of "Nipponization" of Chinese elementary education. Changes in local dietary habits due to economic hardship, Chinese and Japanese attitudes towards Americans, local social customs and travel conditions are also discussed in the correspondence.

The major topics discussed in Miss Wolcott's letters for the period 1946-1950 include the worsening inflation under the Nationalists and its effect on postwar reconstruction and missionary activities. The effect of the United States Army on relief work and missionary activities is also a topic of interest. The two travel accounts (1948) included in the collection provide a contrast between the postwar conditions of areas untouched by the Sino-Japanese War and those rural areas under Japanese military control. The accounts also provide information as to travel conditions and expense and the areas of greatest refugee concentration. The last five letters (June 30, 1948 to November 19, 1950) describe the anxiety of many as to the ability of the Nationalist Government to survive, conditions in Nanking during the Chinese Communist occupation and the tension of the missionary community during the period prior to the direct Sino-American clash in Korea.

Administrative information
Custodial History

August 1, 1973, 80 items; Papers (1939-1950) of missionary to Nanking, China, including correspondence and travel accounts. Gift of Miss Jessie L. Wolcott, Asheville, North Carolina

Source of acquisition

Gift of Miss Jessie L. Wolcott

Processing information

Processed by R. Kepner, January 1974

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
Wolcott, Jessie L., 1896-
Methodist Church--Missions--China--Jiangsu Sheng
Missionaries--China--Jiangsu Sheng
Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945
China--Description and travel
China--Economic conditions--20th century
China--History--Civil War, 1945-1949
China--Social life and customs--20th century