This collection consists of letters written by Hattie Gregory to her relatives in Tarboro prior to and during her stay in China, as well as several letters and cables from R. H. Gregory and a letter from their daughter, Jane.
Early letters in the collection mention Hattie Arrington's travels prior to her marriage. The bulk of Mrs. Gregory's correspondence (1912-1934) reflects the insular life led by the roughly two thousand foreigners living in Shanghai's International Settlement in the early 1900s. Hattie's social life consisted of numerous bridge and mahjong parties, teas, flower shows, and dinner parties with other foreigners. She did not enter a Chinese home until 1919- seven years after her arrival in China.
The vast majority of the letters in the collection describe the daily domestic and social life of a fairly wealthy family. Household chores and child care were largely the responsibly of the family's many servants, who are described in detail (Sept., 1913). Other topics include the problems of decorating their house, clothing fashions, Jane's education, and the family's health.
The letters contain occasional, brief references to Chinese social and religious customs, including funerary practices (Dec., 1929), New Year's celebrations (January of most years), and the Mid-Autumn Festival (clipping enclosed in Sept., 1921). A good description of American church mission schools is given in a letter of October, 1931. British-American Tobacco Company business is not discussed, except insofar as it related to R. H. Gregory's frequent trips to Hankow, Moukden, Harbin, Pootung, Frangtze, and Tsingtao.
Letters of 1918 frequently refer to the war and its effects on prices, employment, and the exchange rate. War relief efforts, the British commandeering of steamers, the entertainment of American servicemen en route to Manila, local Red Cross work, and Red Cross aid to Siberian forces also are discussed. A letter (Feb., 1919) describes the government confiscation of all German property and the expulsion of German citizens from China. Despite these frequent references to war, Hattie writes that life in the International Settlement "has been disturbed but very little, if any."
Later letters, however, indicate that the situation was changing. One letter (Dec., 1925) describes conditions in Canton as "very disturbed," and by mid-1927 many foreigners had fled China because of warfare (April, 1927). Strikes by millworkers and postal employees and the execution of strike leaders also are discussed.
Finally, the collection contains a copy of a letter by Eva Grace, Jane's friend, describing her captivity and subsequent release, possibly in the Philippines (1945).
For related material, see collection #280 and Oral History Interview #31.