M. Louise Avett Papers

Manuscript Collection #422
Avett, M. Louise, 1902-1994
Physical description
0.5 Cubic Feet, 2 archival boxes, consisting of correspondence, clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
M. Louise Avett Papers (#422), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1930-1949) including correspondence; agriculture and gardening; export of flowers and vegetables; travel account; letters and miscellaneous.

Biographical/historical information

Louise Avett, a native of Norwood, N.C., attended Davenport College, Duke University, and Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee. The Western Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church sent her to teach in Soochow, China, in 1932, and later to do rural work in the West China localities of Huchow, Chekiang, Suining, and Szechuan. She remained in China until after the conclusion of World War II.

Scope and arrangement

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence of Miss Avett to her family, although a few letters were penned by friends of Miss Avett and other missionaries. Most of the correspondence describes Miss Avett's personal feelings and activities during the early years of her service (1932-1936).

Much of the correspondence pertains to agriculture and gardening. Letters describe primitive tools and farming methods (Nov., 1932), fertilizer (Dec., 1932), growing seasons (Apr., 1933), the condition of crops (Arp., 1933, June, July, 1934; Oct., 1939; Apr., 1944), plowing with water buffaloes (May, 1933), harvesting rice (Sept., 1933), the export of flowers and vegetables in Miss Avett's garden (Mar., May, June, July, Sept., 1933; Mar., Apr., Sept., Oct., Dec., 1934; Jan., May, Oct., 1935; Feb., May, Nov., 1936; Mar., 1937; Feb., Apr., Oct., 1939; Jan., 1940; Apr., 1942; Feb., Oct., 1943; Apr., June, July, 1944).

Travel accounts describe Miss Avett's train trip across the U.S. and Canada and her voyage to China (Aug., 1932), as well as travel by river boats, trains and buses throughout China. Miss Avett traveled to Kuling (July, 1933), Shanghai (Nov., 1933; Oct., 1934), Huchow (Oct., 1934) and Peking (July, 1936; Aug., 1937), and from Hangchow to Huchow (Feb., 1939). Additional correspondence describes travel-related problems caused by war (Sept., 1940) and travel from Chengtu to Suining (Feb., 1944). Letters describe sightseeing in Peking (Apr., 1933; Aug., 1937), Peiping (Oct., 1937), and Nanking (May, 1934), and shopping in Shanghai (Nov. 29, 1933). A letter of July 22, 1935, pertains to a visit to Hiroshima and includes a discussion of Japanese lifestyle and culture.

Social and cultural activities of the Chinese people are amply represented in the correspondence. Letters describe holidays and celebrations such as Christmas (Nov., 1932; Dec., 1933; Jan., 1934; and Dec., 1934), the Chinese New Year (Feb., 1933; Feb., 1934; Jan., 1936; Feb., 1937; Feb., 1939; Feb., 1943), birthdays (Jan., 1940; Nov., 1941; May, 1942), the celebration of the middle of the eighth lunar month (Sept., 1934), and Chinese Independence Day (Oct., 1935). Commentary on traditional customs and ceremonies for betrothal (Sept., 1934; Jan., 1944), and funerals (Jan., Mar., 1933; May, Oct., undated, 1934; Apr., Oct., 1936; Jan., 1940) is very informative.

Many of the letters pertain to the preparation and consumption of Chinese food. They describe the foods in an ordinary diet as well as in special holiday feasts (Jan., Nov., 1933; Feb., Apr., Dec., 1934; Jan., 1935; Oct., 1936; Feb., 1937; Feb., 1939; Dec., 1942).

Other aspects of social life and customs are described in the correspondence. They include the rebuke of foreigners (June, Sept., 1933; Feb., 1934); the dress, mannerisms, and customs of men (May, July, 1933; Feb., May, June, Dec., 1934), women (Sept., Nov., 1933; Jan., Feb., June, 1934; Feb., 1944), and children (May, June, Sept., Nov., 1933; May, 1934; Dec., 1943); the dedication of a new home (Oct., 1936); and the carrying of "firebaskets" for warmth (Dec., 1942; Dec., 1943). Two letters (Mar., May, 1945) vividly describe customs, clothes, and sights in India.

Miss Avett discusses the nature of missionary work. Letters pertain to the programs and problems of teaching at mission schools at Changshu (Sept., Dec., 1933; Feb., Sept., Oct., Dec., 1934; Sept., 1935), Huchow, Chekiang (Feb., Aug., Oct., 1936; Sept., 1939), and Suining (Aug., 1941; May, 1942). Miss Avett also describes the religious and social activities of missionaries (July, 1933; Jan., May, July, 1934; Dec., 1936; July, 1940; Apr., Aug., Nov., 1942; Oct., 1943; Apr., July, 1944; Feb., 1946; Sept. 22, 1949; and undated, to Bernice).

Non-Christian religious events are also described in letters (Jan., Nov., 1932; Aug. 9, 1933; Mar. 8 and July, 1934; and undated to Juanita).

Some of the letters describe the impact of the Sino-Japanese War and World War II on life in China. Descriptions pertain to the Japanese invasion of China (Nov.,1937) and the effects of war on the Chinese economy (Jan., 1939; July, Aug., 1941; June, 1943; Mar., June, 1944) and on missionaries (Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., July, Aug., Oct., 1939; Feb., 1940; Aug., 1941).

Miscellaneous topics mentioned and commented upon are a Chinese play (Jan. 14, 1933), road building (Sept. 8, 1933; Feb. 23, 1934; Feb. 10, 1937), local trade and industry (May 24, 1933; July 7, 1933; Mar. 8, 1934; Apr. 2, 1939), folklore concerning weather (Mar. 23, 1934) and evil spirits (Oct., 1936), population control (Oct. 5, 1934), climate and weather (Apr. 2, 1939; July, 1939; July 1944; Oct. 29, 1947), and country homes (Nov., 1936).

The collection contains a few miscellaneous items. Letters of August 28 and October 16, 1936, enclose photographs of Miss Avett, other missionaries, and sites in Peiping. A folder of miscellany contains two unidentified photographs and newspaper clippings pertaining to the Chinese New Year and student demonstrations at Wuchang.

Administrative information
Custodial History

February 20, 1981, 185 items, 185 p., 0.430 cubic feet; Correspondence (1930-1949), clippings, and photographs of Methodist missionary to China Gift of Miss M. Louise Avett, Asheville, N.C.

June 30, 1981, Correspondence (1931-1943), clippings, and photographs of Methodist missionary to China. Gift of Miss M. Louise Avett, Asheville, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Miss M. Louise Avett

Processing information

Processed by J. Smith, October 1982

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.

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Correspondence, 1930-1932
Box 1 Folder c Correspondence, Aug.-Dec., 1933
Box 1 Folder d Correspondence, 1934
Box 2 Folder a Correspondence, 1935-1936
Box 2 Folder b Correspondence, 1937-1939
Box 2 Folder c Correspondence, 1940-1943
Box 2 Folder d Correspondence, 1944-1949
Box 2 Folder e Miscellany