Venetia Cox Papers

1889, 1907-1958
Manuscript Collection #263
Cox, Venetia, 1892-1979
Physical description
4.51 Cubic Feet, 11 boxes and 1 oversize folder, consisting of correspondence, diaries, songbook, typescript travel accounts, English-Chinese translations, newsletters, photographs, clippings, a memorial, yearbooks, scrapbook, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Venetia Cox Papers (#263), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1889, 1907-1958) consisting of correspondence, diaries, yearbooks, scrapbook, songbook, typescript, travel accounts, photographs, newsletters, etc., related to attendance at Salem Academy and College (1908-1911) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and to the work (1917 to 1950) of Protestant Episcopal music missionary Venetia Cox (of Greenville, North Carolina) in China. Also includes letters and school materials related to Lo-I (or Louis) Yin who attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, from 1949 to 1951 on a scholarship related to Venetia Cox's music missionary work with Huachung University, Wuchang, Hupeh, China.

Biographical/historical information

Born in 1892 and a native of Winterville, N.C., Miss Venetia Cox was a missionary music teacher in mainland China between 1917 and 1950. Supported by the Episcopal Church, Miss Cox taught for her first twenty years in China at the American Mission School located in the city of Hankow in Hupei Province. However, in 1937 the Japanese invasion of the country forced the personnel and students of the mission to become wanderers, and for the next thirteen years Miss Cox experienced the plight of millions of Chinese, that of being a refugee. Continually uprooted, she moved from province to province; yet, her zest for teaching proved to be inexhaustible. Finally, in 1950 she left China at the request of the newly installed communist regime. She died in Greenville, North Carolina, on January 25, 1979.

Scope and arrangement

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence (1917-43) from Miss Cox to her mother, Mrs. B. T. Cox. In her letters Miss Cox vividly describes the trials and pleasures of her years spent among the Chinese people. Her descriptions of the people, their land, religions, economy, and politics provide valuable insight into the turbulent environment from which Chinese communism emerged.

Correspondence (1917-23) deals with the difficulties of adjusting to the Chinese language and customs and reveals the Chinese as a people unable "to cope" (4/27/19) with the chronic medieval status of their country, a country forever being wracked by flooding, famine and disease. Numerous accounts are offered which portray the wretched condition of the populace and its consequence, the heavy toll on human life. The subservient role of the Chinese woman is also frequently noted. Unwilling to break with the past, the Chinese continue the crippling practice of foot-binding, which is graphically described by Miss Cox (11/18/17, 10/19/19), and continue the inhuman traditions of either drowning or selling girl babies, who are regarded as "worthless" (7/7/18). "If Christianity never did anything," she says, "it is unbinding the feet of Chinese women . . ." (12/29/18). Miss Cox's observations on religion run throughout, describing the "ignorant" practices of Buddhism, contrasting American missionaries to those of other nationalities (1/16/18), and relating the efforts of the National Christian Council to unify Christianity in China under a National Christian Church (11/5/22). Split between North and South China's unstable political condition is depicted, with descriptions of student unrest (1919-20), civil strife (1920-23) and banditry (1922-23) included. American military presence in China is also mentioned, specifically the presence of five American destroyers in port at Chin Wang Tao and a "large camp of American soldiers" also located there (8/2/23).

Correspondence (1924-32) deals primarily with the flooding of Hankow, which "looks like Venice" (8/10/31), and the efforts by the missionaries to relieve flood victims. Also depicted is an event that took place in Shanghai, where police used force against student protestors and martial law was declared during this "crisis." (6/6/1925)

The remainder of the correspondence (1933-43) recounts the invasion of China by the Japanese and Miss Cox's migration to escape the onslaught. Some of the observations made during her journeys include descriptions of the Chinese method for growing tobacco (9/25/40), her travels down the historic Burma Road (7/27/41), and a visit by an American aviator in his P-38 (10/13/42). Also cited are numerous examples of the horrendous inflation which gripped the Chinese economy during the war (6/25/43).

There are four diaries in the collection. The first diary (1908) recounts Cox's time at The State Normal and Industrial School in Greensboro, North Carolina. Entries include her remembrance of learning how to "talk, walk, and sit" (9/23/08); thoughts on attending different Christian churches (10/4/08); and a meeting she attended where a missionary came to speak on the work that must be done in China. Cox soon felt that it was her "duty to go and teach all nations" (11/12/08). The second diary (1910) documents her activities while a junior at Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Entries include her description of music recitals she participated in accompanied by copies of her programs; numerous parties she hosted accompanied by newspaper clippings depicting the events; and her feelings of being "frightened" when nominated librarian (Saturday, 1910).

The third (1917-20), which contains photographs, provides an account of Miss Cox's visit to the Presidential Palace in the Forbidden City and a meeting with President Hsu Shih-Chang (11/21/17). Additional entries include a revealing conversation with a young Chinese student about his country's negative characteristics (12/14/17) and a fascinating description of the "heathen temples" and religious ceremonies of Buddhism (1/19/18). The fourth diary (1939-40) entitled "A Never-to-be-forgotten Journey" narrates her travels from Winterville, N.C., where she had returned on furlough, to Chennan, a small town in western China. Contained are accounts of her ocean voyage aboard the "Empress of Japan"; her visits to Tokyo, Kobe and Yokohama, Japan; and her rigorous train trip from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Yunnan Province in China.

Other items in the collection include three yearbooks (1909-11) from Salem Academy and College titled "Sights and Insights"; a book (1911) titled "The Girl Graduate: Her Own Book" which describes her school year in 1911; a typed account (1938) by Miss Cox of the transference of her school from Wuchang to Chuan Hsien; a bulletin (1919) entitled "Students' Strike," which presents grievances directed at the Peking government by rebellious Chinese students; newsletters (1920-36) from the District of Hankow; a manuscript (1958) entitled "A Report of the Experiences of the Rev. Nelson E. P. Liu and Wife," which describes the reindoctrination techniques by Chinese communists; a cyclical chart giving the (12) animal signs for each Chinese year; a list of Yen proverbs translated from Chinese into English; a Chinese music book written by Cox; photographs; clippings; and a memorial (1907) of Cox's grandmother, Mrs. Mary Smith, one of Winterville's leading citizens.

Oversized materials include an entire issue of The Progressive Farmer (Raleigh, NC) Vol. 4, No. 5 (12/3/1889) and a clipping entitled "Covenant of the League of Nations" from the Central China Post (2/17/1919).

Administrative information
Custodial History

June 15, 1974, 1 item; Diary (1939). Gift of Mrs. A. T. St. Amand, Winterville, N.C.

January 16, 1975, 10 items; Consisting of songbook, typescript travel accounts, photographs, clippings, and memorial.

December 8, 1976, 185 items; Correspondence (1917-1943) and a diary (1917-1920). Gifts of Mrs. Olivera Rouse, Greenville N.C.

March 7, 2001, 3 Containers, 259 items, 1.3 cubic feet; Papers, 1889-1935 [Bulk: 1922-33], including Salem Academy & College (Winston-Salem, NC) scrapbook ("The Girl Graduate") of photographs, letters & notes, clippings, memorabilia & printed materials, etc. (1909-11) & Yearbook (1911); correspondence with her mother, Mrs. B.T. Cox (1922-35, undated) dated American Mission School, Hankow, China; and printed materials relating to missionary activities in China (1924-29, undated) and music copyrights, also oversized materials including an entire issue of The Progressive Farmer (Raleigh, NC) Vol. 4, No. 5 (12/3/1889) and a clipping entitled Covenant of the League of Nations, "Central China Post" (2/17/1919). Donor: Kelly L. Adams.

October 26, 2005, 650 items, 0.450 cubic feet; Papers (1908-1910, 1931-1938) compiled by music teacher and missionary at St. Hilda's School, in Wuchang, China, including letters, clippings, and reports sent to her mother, Mrs. B. T. Cox, Winterville, NC, 1931-1938; diary notebooks and yearbooks from her years at Salem Academy and College, Winston-Salem, NC, 1908-1910. Rec'd 10/26/2005. Donor: Ms. Kelly L. Adams.

May 11, 2016, (unprocessed addition #5), 2.0 cubic feet; Material found at 126 N. Harding Street in Greenville, North Carolina, the former home of Protestant Episcopal music missionary to China Venetia Cox. Includes letters and school materials related to Lo-I (or Louis) Yin who attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, from 1949 to 1951. Yin apparently played the violin and came to the United States to attend the college on a scholarship related to Venetia Cox's music missionary work with Huachung University, Wuchang, Hupeh, China. Donor: Zachary Perkinson.

November 13, 2020, (unprocessed addition #6), 0.01 cubic feet; Photograph of Venetia Cox taken at Zenith Studio in Hankow, China. Gift of Gary L. Bartle.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. A. T. St. Amand

Gift of Mrs. Olivera Rouse

Gift of Kelly L. Adams

Gift of Zachary Perkinson

Gift of Gary L. Bartle

Processing information

Processed by N. Fulghum, April, 1977

Processed by David R. Miller, October, 2009

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
Cox, Venetia, 1892-1979
Corporate Names
National Christian Council of China
North Carolina State Normal and Industrial School--Alumni and alumnae
Salem Academy and College (Winston-Salem, N.C.)--Alumni and alumnae
Floods--Hankou (Wuhan, China)
Music teachers--China
Women missionaries--China
China--Description and travel
China--Economic conditions--1912-1949
China--Politics and government--20th century
Xu, Shichang, 1855-1939

Container list
Box 1 Folder b Correspondence (1906-12). 3 items
Box 1 Folder f Correspondence (January-October 1919). 10 items
Box 1 Folder g Correspondence (February-June 1920). 12 items
Box 1 Folder h Correspondence (July-December 1920). 18 items
Box 1 Folder i Correspondence (January-April 1921). 5 items
Box 1 Folder j Correspondence (January-April 1922). 3 items
Box 1 Folder m Correspondence (February-June 1924). 16 items
Box 1 Folder n Correspondence (July-November 1924). 16 items
Box 1 Folder p Correspondence (July-November 1925). 15 items
Box 2 Folder a Correspondence (January-June 1926). 21 items
Box 2 Folder b Correspondence (July-August 1926). 8 items
Box 2 Folder c Correspondence (September-December 1926). 16 items
Box 2 Folder d Correspondence (January-June 1927). 5 items
Box 2 Folder e Correspondence (July-December 1927). 2 items
Box 2 Folder f Correspondence (April-December 1928). 15 items
Box 2 Folder g Correspondence (January-May 1929). 12 items
Box 2 Folder h Correspondence (July-December 1929). 12 items
Box 2 Folder i Correspondence (January-June 1930). 13 items
Box 2 Folder j Correspondence (July-December 1930). 19 items
Box 3 Folder a Correspondence (January-June 1931). 18 items
Box 3 Folder b Correspondence (July-December 1931). 16 items
Box 3 Folder c Correspondence (January-June 1932). 14 items
Box 3 Folder d Correspondence (July-December 1932). 13 items
Box 3 Folder e Correspondence (March-December 1933). 2 items
Box 3 Folder f Correspondence (February-December 1934). 12 items
Box 3 Folder g Correspondence (January-June 1935). 12 items
Box 3 Folder h Correspondence (July-December 1935). 7 items
Box 4 Folder a Correspondence (January-June 1936). 10 items
Box 4 Folder b Correspondence (July-December 1936). 11 items
Box 4 Folder c Correspondence (February-October 1937). 6 items
Box 4 Folder d Correspondence (January-June 1938). 8 items
Box 4 Folder e Correspondence (July-December 1938). 12 items
Box 4 Folder f Correspondence (January-November 1939). 5 items
Box 4 Folder g Correspondence (March-December 1940). 6 items
Box 4 Folder h Correspondence (January-October 1941). 5 items
Box 4 Folder i Correspondence (March-December 1942). 10 items
Box 4 Folder j Correspondence (March-September 1943). 6 items
Box 4 Folder k Correspondence (September 1966). 1 item
Box 5 Folder c District of Hankow Newsletter (June 1920-April 1936). 24 items
Box 5 Folder d The National Council Protestant Episcopal Church: Department of Missions-China Bulletin (March-November 1927). 17 items
Box 5 Folder e Central China Christian Educational Association-Regulations (1925-26; undated). 4 items
Box 5 Folder f American Church Mission Newsletter (September-October 1926). 2 items
Box 5 Folder g Bill of Reciept (June 14, 1912). 1 item
Box 5 Folder h In Memoriam: Mary Nelson Smith (July 31, 1907). 6 items
Box 5 Folder i Newspaper Clippings (1910-1971; undated). 22 items
Box 5 Folder k Typescript (1907-30; undated) containing newspaper articles, the twelve Chinese signs, and eastern North Carolina information. 11 items
Box 5 Folder l Genealogical Information (undated). 1 item
Box 6 Folder b The Girl Graduate: Her Own Book (1911). 1 item
Box 6 Folder d Sights and Insights: 1909; yearbook for Salem Academy and College. 1 item
Box 6 Folder e Sights and Insights: 1910; yearbook for Salem Academy and College. 1 item
Box 6 Folder f Sights and Insights: 1911; yearbook for Salem Academy and College. 1 item
Folder os1 The Progressive Farmer (Raleigh, N.C.) newspaper, Vol. 4, No. 5 (3 December 1889), and a clipping entitled "Covenant of the League of Nations" from the Central China Post (17 February 1919)
Box 5 Folder n Photograph of Venetia Cox taken at Zenith Studio in Hankow, China.