Esther B. Rhoads papers
Scope and Contents
The papers of Esther Rhoads cover circa 1895 to her death in 1979 and include correspondence, documents, typescripts and manuscripts, pamphlets, albums, periodicals, blueprints, works of art on paper, photographs, notebooks, notes, scrapbooks, calligraphy, clippings, yearbooks, business cards, passports, diplomas, citations, and miscellaneous items.
Letters to Rhoads are filed alphabetically by name of author. There are large files of letters from close relatives and corporate bodies such as the American Friends Service Committee, Friends School in Tokyo, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Japan Committee. Letters document both Rhoads’s personal and professional work.
Letters from Rhoads. Esther Rhoads was a rather energetic correspondent; because of the close ties within her family and the interest of her relatives in her work, she wrote home often and in detail. Many of these letters include news of Friends in Japan other than herself, because many of them were known to the Rhoads family. Gaps occur at times when she was living or visiting in Philadelphia and had no need to write letters. After her permanent return home in 1961, many of her letters are Japan Committee business or printed holiday messages. Items in this series which are not letters to relatives are almost all professional or committee-related correspondence. The copies of professional letters begin with her work in California in 1941, although there are some copies of personal reports from earlier years in Japan. There are also letters dealing with Rhoads’s work with Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Japan Committee.
Letters to and from Others are divided into two sections. One is condolence letters on the death of Esther Rhoads, most addressed to Caroline P. Rhoads, from 1979. The second section represents general third party letters, arranged alphabetically by author, regardless of addressee. Almost all are to relatives of Rhoads. Some of these letters had been inadvertently mixed into the collection; others may have been enclosed with family letters to or from Esther, but they had been removed from their original contexts. These materials indicate the family-wide interest in Japan and missions.
Friends School (Tokyo) and Other Japanese Education contains a variety of material. There is a sprinkling of pre-World War II material, including financial data, reports, a 1937 history of the school, and photographs (including some dating from before Rhoads' arrival in 1917). Post-war items are present in abundance, because Rhoads was instrumental in rebuilding the school. Blueprints, student work, and printed materials are all well represented. The greatest strength of this series is probably in its post-war photographs, which number in the hundreds. They document the school over a period of about thirty years. Most are small prints and not identified.
World War II in the United States represents Esther Rhoads's work in the United States during the war years. In addition to official paperwork, there are notes, clippings, pamphlets, and photographs. There is information about Civilian Public Service Camps and conscientious objectors in general, as well as the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese-Americans, which was her main concern. Most of the photographs in this series are of forcibly removed Japanese-Americans and Western landscapes, with a few of AFSC children's camps, and possibly one snapshot of a CPS camp.
Post-World War II Relief and Other AFSC Work. Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA) activities are well-represented here, as is American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) work in post-war Japan, Korea, and a scattering of other locations. There is also some information about refugees in Hong Kong and Palestine. The quantity of LARA paperwork and photographs, including larger prints mounted in albums, is considerable. Japan expressed thanks to LARA in the form of numerous testimonials, art work, and calligraphy, also sometimes mounted in albums. AFSC was part of LARA, but had its own, separate activities. These included neighborhood centers, international student seminars, and work camps. Many small photographs are found here; unfortunately, most are only identified only as "AFSC."
Philadelphia Friends and Japan contains primarily organizational printed matter, from the early 20th century to about 1975. It represents the Foreign Missionary Association, the Mission Board, and the Japan Committee (most heavily, because of Rhoads's chairmanship). Pre-Japan Committee items seem to have come for the most part from Esther's relatives, and are incomplete.
Quakerism in Japan, General. This material concerns Japanese Quakerism outside of the Friends School and the Philadelphia-based committees. There are also items about mission work in general, including writings by Rhoads. Photographs and postcards depict Japanese Friends and American missionaries from various dates, some early in the century. There is also a gift album from Shimotsuma Meeting to Esther Rhoads, with photographs of people, places, and activities.
Japanese Imperial Family. Rhoads's association with the Imperial Family as an English tutor is represented here, although relatively little of the material, except for some notes and the Imperial Duck-Netting Party file, concerns her. There is an assortment of professional-quality photographs, and many clippings and complete periodicals. The wedding of Crown Prince Akihito and Michiko Shoda is prominent.
Tunisia and Algerian Refugees documents the 1960-1961 year which Rhoads spent based in Tunis, working on Algerian refugee projects for the AFSC. There are some notes, reports, documents, photographs, and general information about the refugees here; however, an equal quantity of material is concerned with tourism.
Biographical and Educational Information and Memorabilia. This large series contains a great variety of items related to Esther Rhoads's life outside of employment and other organizational affiliations, while it does include material from her own educational experiences. Materials include diaries and diary fragments, official documents, photographs and photo albums, childhood memorabilia, including art work and paper dolls; and a folder of papers on religious topics, perhaps written for Columbia graduate courses.
Japan, General. Items housed here are not concerned directly with Rhoads's work or with Quakerism. There are some informational materials about history, economics, and political matters, including the 1960 U.S. - Japan security treaty. Photographs of Japanese traditional culture, dating from early in Rhoads's time in Japan (and probably taken by her) may be of interest. There is also a file of clippings, with a few picture postcards, of the 1923 earthquake.
Alice Lewis Pearson. It is not known how Rhoads came to have these papers of her friend and mentor in Japan. They have been arranged as a small collection unto itself; with correspondence, then other papers, memorabilia, and photographs.
Anna C. Hartshorne. It is not known how Rhoads came to have these papers of her friend. They have been arranged as a small collection unto itself; with correspondence, then other papers, memorabilia, and photographs.
- circa 1895-1979
The collection is open for research use.
Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).
Esther Biddle Rhoads (1896-1979) was born into a Quaker family in Philadelphia, the daughter of Margaret Paxson Rhoads and Edward G. Rhoads, M.D. She had three siblings: Ruth Ely Rhoads, Caroline Paxson Rhoads, and Jonathan Evans Rhoads. She was educated at Germantown Friends School, Drexel Institute (now University), and Earlham College. She spent a significant amount of her life in Japan, mostly working as a teacher and later principal at Friends Girls School, Tokyo. Rhoads first arrived in Japan as a teacher in 1917 for a year; she then studied in the United States for several years, and returned to Japan in 1921. At Friends Girls School, Rhoads taught English, Bible study, foreign cooking, and sewing; coached sports and plays; and directed a dormitory.
Rhoads left Japan in 1940, and did not return until after World War II. During the war, she worked with Japanese-Americans in incarceration camps, as well as with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Rhoads returned to Japan in June, 1946, supported by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Mission Board, as AFSC representative to Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA). Rhoads was also heavily involved in the rebuilding of Friends Girls School. In 1949, Rhoads became principal of the school. She retired in 1960 and left Japan. From 1960 to 1961, Rhoads traveled to Tunisia for the AFSC to aid Algerian War refugees. After her return to the United States, Rhoads continued to be very involved in Quaker organizations. Rhoads died February 4, 1979, in Germantown, Philadelphia.
31 Linear Feet (39 boxes and 11 volumes)
The papers of Esther Rhoads (1896-1979), a member of an influential Philadelphia Quaker family, Rhoads was a teacher, later head, of Friends Girls' School in Tokyo for over 50 years. She was also of great importance in work with Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia and with the American Friends Service Committee, to assist Japanese-Americans affected by the War Relocation Act (forced removal and incarceration). Materials include correspondence, documents, typescripts and manuscripts, pamphlets, albums, periodicals, blueprints, works of art on paper, photographs, notebooks, notes, scrapbooks, calligraphy, clippings, yearbooks, business cards, passports, diplomas, citations, and miscellaneous items.
The collection is divided into 15 series:
- Series I. Letters to Rhoads
- Series II: Letters from Rhoads
- Series III: Letters to and from Persons other than Esther Rhoads*
- Series IV: Friends School (Tokyo) and Japanese Education
- Series V: World War II in the United States
- Series VI: Post-World War II Relief and Other AFSC Activities
- Series VII: Philadelphia Friends and Japan*
- Series VIII: Quakerism in Japan, General
- Series IX: Japanese Imperial Family
- Series X: Tunisia and Algerian Refugees
- Series XI: U.N. Regional Seminar on Civic and Political Education of Women (Ghana, 1968)
- Series XII: Biographical and Educational Information and Memorabilia
- Series XIII: Japan Miscellaneous
- Series XIV: Alice Lewis Pearson
- Series XV: Anna C. Hartshorne
The Esther B. Rhoads papers were donated to Special Collections, Haverford College in 1989 by Caroline P. Rhoads and Jonathan Rhoads.
Original processing information unknown. Revised by Thea Rugg; completed March 2019.
- Akihito, Emperor of Japan
- Algeria -- History -- Revolution, 1954-1962
- American Friends Service Committee
- Bryn Mawr College
- Friends Girls School (Tokyo, Japan) -- History
- Japan -- History
- Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
- Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends (Orthodox : 1827-1955). Japan Committee
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends (Orthodox : 1827-1955). Mission Board
- Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends Library
- Quakers -- Education -- Japan
- Rhoads, Esther Biddle, 1896-1979
- Society of Friends -- Japan
- Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Geneva, Switzerland (International Office)
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Evacuation of civilians
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Japan
- Esther B. Rhoads papers, 1895-1979
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- March, 2019: Revised and box listed added by Thea Rugg
- June 2022: by Nathaniel Rehm-Daly, Harmful Language Revision Project
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