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Gilbert and Minnie Pickett Bowles Family papers

Identifier: HC.MC-1161

Scope and Contents

The papers document the lives Quakers Gilbert Bowles (1869-1960) and Minnie Picket Bowles (1868-1958), missionaries and ministers in Asia and Hawaii for over 60 years, from 1896-1960. The majority of the collection originates during their life in Honolulu, where they moved in 1941 from Tokyo. There is an approximate split in which the first half of the collection regards Gilbert Bowles's "professional" work as part of Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Hawaii Branch, and the Honolulu Monthly Meeting and his work visiting Japanese and Japanese-Americans in Hawaii during World War II. The second half of the collection includes family letters from Gilbert and Minnie, daily memorandum diaries of Gilbert, guest books, and memorials and tributes re: Gilbert's death. Materials are also included from Gordon T. Bowles and Herbert E. Bowles, sons of Gilbert and Minnie. Topics of broader interest include the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans by the United States government during World War II, Quaker mission work in Japan, and relief efforts after World War II.


  • Creation: 1890-1974


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use

Conditions Governing Use

Standard Federal Copyright Law Applies (U.S. Title 17)

Biographical note

Gilbert Bowles (1869-1960), the son of Quakers Ephraim and Elizabeth Epperson Bowles received his B.A. from Penn College in 1898 and his M.A. in 1899/1900. He received a Litt.D. in 1938, an LL.D. from Whittier College in 1917 and another from Haverford College in 1938. He married Minnie M. Pickett in 1898. He arrived in Tokyo as a Quaker missionary in 1901 and spent 40 years there. He helped restructure Friends Meetings in Japan after the 1890s war with China. A teacher, leader, and administrator of Tokyo Friends Girls School, he was chairman of the trustees Friends’ Girls’ School, 1901-41. He helped lay the foundation of the present Tokyo Friends Center program. He strongly believed that international problems could be solved through concerted peaceful efforts, and in the case of Japan, would provide solutions to its international problems. He was a founder of the Japan Peace Society in 1906, which he served as corresponding secretary and director. In 1924, the Japan Peace Society transferred its work to the League of Nations Association of Japan and Bowles served as the Executive Secretary of its Foreign Section. Bowles promoted peace through the Japan branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He strove to reduce Japan's differences with Korea, China, and the U.S. He opposed the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924, suggesting it would strengthen Japan's military cult.

In 1941, Gilbert and Minnie Bowles removed to Hawaii where they worked with Japanese and Japanese-Americans who suffered from U.S. forced removal and incarceration policies. After the war, Bowles participated in various relief and rehabilitation projects in Japan, including work with the Licensed Agencies for Relief in Asia (LARA). Gilbert Bowles was the author of Jamaica and Friends Missions, 1899; and The Peace Movement in Japan.

Minnie Pickett Bowles (1868-1958) arrived to teach in Japan in 1893. During her long career at the Friends Girls School in Tokyo, Japan, Minnie Bowles taught Bible classes to more than 2,000 young men. Minnie also taught classes in cooking and sewing.

Gordon T. Bowles (1904-1991) was the son of Gilbert and Minnie Pickett Bowles. He married Jane Thomas in 1932. He received his B.A. from Earlham College, 1925 and Ph.D. from Harvard University, 1935. Bowles played an important role as a liaison officer representing the Department of State and an advisor to the Educational Mission to Japan. At Harvard, he was a research associate in the Division of Anthropology, 1935-38; then assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii, 1938-42. He served with the U.S. Foreign Economic Administration, Washington, D.C., 1942-44 and with the U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1944-47 then with Associated Research Councils, Conference Board, Washington, D.C., 1947-51. He was a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo, 1951-58; and then at Columbia University, New York, NY, 1959-60. He was professor of anthropology at Syracuse University, 1961--. As a Field researcher, he worked in West China and East Tibet, 1930-32, and in the Himalayas and North Burma, 1935-37. Bowles was author of New Types of Old White Americans (at Harvard and Eastern Women's Colleges), Harvard University Press, 1932; (Editor with Earl Wendel Count) Fact and Theory in Social Science, Syracuse University Press, 1964; and The People of Asia, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Scribner, 1977.

Jane T. Bowles helped to open the Hawaii Branch of the American Friends Service Committee, a group which supported those in need in Japan and Hawaii, especially during the war years.

Herbert E. Bowles, a physician, assisted with medical and social service, chiefly in Hawaii.

(Information from internal evidence; Contemporary Authors (online); Biographical Dictionary of Modern Peace Leaders (Greenwood Press, 1984).


12 linear ft. (22 boxes and 1 photograph in tube)

Language of Materials



The papers document the lives of service of Quakers Gilbert Bowles (1869-1960) and Minnie Picket Bowles (1868-1958), Quaker missionaries and ministers in Asia and Hawaii for over 60 years, from 1896-1960.


Gift of Gordon and Jane Bowles and Helen Bowles Nicholson et al., 1989

Related Materials

MC 1212: Bowles Family correspondence

Processing Information

Original processing information unknown. Reboxed and finding aid revised by Lily Sweeney, May 2021.

Gilbert and Minnie Pickett Bowles Family papers, 1890-1974
Lilian Sweeney
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • May 2021: Reboxed and finding aid updated
  • April 2022: by Nathaniel Rehm-Daly

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