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Guide to the Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries, 1887-1962

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Abstract

Mary McCornack Thompson was an American Presbyterian missionary who spent over forty years (1889-1932) traveling and teaching in South Africa and Rhodesia.

The collection contains diaries, and a few letters. Main subjects are missionary life and travel in Africa. Materials range in date between 1887-1962.

Descriptive Summary

Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Creator
Thompson, Mary McCornack
Title
Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries 1887-1962
Language of Material
English
Extent
2.4 Linear Feet, 96 Items
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

The Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries date from 1887 to 1962 and are arranged into two series: Diaries and Correspondence. The bulk of the collection consists of 90 journals that contain detailed accounts of Mary McCornack Thompson's work as a Presbyterian missionary and teacher with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in South Africa. During her 43 years as a missionary Thompson worked briefly at the mission station at Esidumbi in South Africa, but she spent most of her time at the Mount Selinda mission in the Melsetter region of Rhodesia ( Zimbabwe). In the diaries, Thompson wrote of her daily activities as a missionary, including building and expanding the mission, encounters with locals, learning Zulu, wildlife, meeting other missionaries, teaching and praying. These detailed entries offer a glimpse into the social conditions, race relations, and native cultures of various South African regions. Thompson also recounts her many travels throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States, and Canada. Included in the collection is one folder of correspondence, mainly from William L. Thompson (Thompson's husband) regarding the collection and the transfer of Mary's diaries to Oberlin College.

The Diaries Series documents Thompson's almost daily activities between the years of 1887-1933, spanning all five of her missionary trips to Africa. Volumes 1-6 describe her first missionary trip (1887-1899), detailing her preparations for travel to Africa, her arrival, and her first encounters with native Africans. During this time Thompson married another missionary, William L. Thompson, and together they traveled for four months, mostly on foot, from South Africa to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). They settled at Mount Selinda, which would be their home in Africa for the next forty years. Volumes 6-8 describe Mary Thompson's visits to the United States between her missionary trips, including taking cooking and photography classes, and traveling around the U.S.

Volumes 8-35 detail her second trip to Africa (1901-1910), during which time the mission at Mount Selinda began to expand rapidly. Thompson often writes about elections at the mission, as well as prayer services and sermons. She occasionally mentions world events such as the explosion of Mt. Pelee in Martinique, the Russian Revolution, and the detention of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. She also describes her experiences with local natives who teach her the Zulu language. Volumes 35-40 cover Thompson's trip back to the United States in 1910. She describes lectures and meetings, and discussions on the outbreak of World War I. Her diary entries become less frequent during her stay in the United States.

Volumes 40-57 span her third trip to Africa (1911-1917), and entries tend to be bit longer and more descriptive. On this trip volumes 44-49 were written in diary volumes entitled "Warriors of Africa," whose covers depict African natives, and volumes 52-55 in volumes bearing the title "Empire Exercise," portraying historical events. Volumes 57 and 58 describe Thompson's travels during 1916-17 (at the height of World War I) to Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. Volumes 59-60 recount her time back in the United States; much of the content revolves around religious and political meetings on World War I, and the 1918 U.S. midterm elections..

Volumes 61-77 detail her fourth trip to Africa (1919-1925), and volumes 78-89 her fifth and last trip to Africa (1926-1932). Volume 80 does not begin until page 92, and is filled with various writing; some entries appear to be copies of diaries of historical figures. The diary entitled "Notes on Work at Moody Bible Institute" contains lecture notes, thoughts, scripture quotations, and observations by Thompson while attending a higher-education Christian organization, Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago in 1918, between her third and fourth missionary trips to Africa.

The Correspondence Series contains six letters regarding the collection and transfer of Mary McCornack Thompson's diaries after her death in 1936. The first five letters are from by William L. Thompson (Thompson's husband), to his nieces Margaret and Jay Urice, who are locating and collecting Mary's diaries. The sixth letter is from Jay Urice to Mr. Julian Fowler, a librarian at Oberlin College, about having Mary's diaries sent to Oberlin.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Contains 90 diaries maintained by Mary McCornack Thompson during her time as a Presbyterian missionary in Africa, documenting in great detail her daily life and work. The diaries provide a revealing look at daily missionary life in Africa (attending meetings, prayers, teaching classes), thoughts on scripture, weather, friends and other missionaries, daily chores (sewing, baking, gardening), brief glimpses of the culture and customs of the local Africans, as well as descriptions of her travels throughout the world, and encounters with friends and fellow missionaries. She also notes her thoughts about world events such as the Russian Revolution and World War I. Throughout the diaries she describes her travels across Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Far East. The entries are very matter-of-fact, describing situations, people, and events, but containing little introspection about how she feels. The journals are arranged by chronological volume numbers given by the author. Many small groups of loose materials were found laid into the beginning or end of the journals; these materials have been left in the journals; some of these items appear to be unrelated to the journals in which they were found.

Vol. 1: 1887 Sept. 13-1889 July 16

Contains an unbound journal and a loose photograph.

Box 1
Vol. 2: 1893 Jan. 1-Apr. 21
Box 1
Vol. 3: 1893 June 14-Oct. 19
Box 1
Vol. 4: 1893 Oct. 19-Dec. 18
Box 1
Vol. 5: 1894 July 24-Sept. 24
Box 1
Vol. 6: 1899 Jan. 1-Feb. 16
Box 1
Vol. 6.5: 1900 Jan. 1-Dec. 31
Box 1
Vol. 7: 1901 Jan. 1-Apr. 20
Box 1
Vol. 8: 1901 Apr. 21-June 21
Box 1
Vol. 9: 1901 Oct. 1-Dec. 31
Box 1
Vol. 10: 1902 Jan. 1-Mar. 22
Box 1
Vol. 11: 1902 Mar. 23-June 22
Box 1
Vol. 12: 1902 June 28-Oct. 2
Box 1
Vol. 13: 1902 Oct. 3-Dec. 30
Box 1
Vol. 14: 1903 Jan. 1-May 2

Contains loose drawings and pictures.

Box 1
Vol. 15: 1903 May 4-Sept. 25
Box 2
Vol. 16: 1903 Sept. 26-1904 Jan. 9
Box 2
Vol. 17: 1904 Jan. 9-Mar. 29
Box 2
Vol. 18: 1904 Mar. 30-June 16
Box 2
Vol. 19: 1904 June 18-Sept. 19
Box 2
Vol. 20: 1904 Sept. 20-Dec. 19
Box 2
Vol. 21: 1904 Dec. 10-1905 Apr. 4
Box 2
Vol. 22: 1905 Apr. 4-July 26
Box 2
Vol. 23: 1905 July 27-Dec. 31
Box 2
Vol. 24: 1906 Jan. 1-Apr. 9
Box 2
Vol. 25: 1906 Apr. 19-Aug. 16
Box 2
Vol. 26: 1906 Aug. 17-Dec. 31
Box 2
Vol. 27: 1907 Jan. 1-Mar. 31
Box 2
Vol. 28: 1907 Apr. 1-July 29
Box 2
Vol. 29: 1907 July 30-Dec. 31
Box 2
Vol. 30: 1908 Jan. 1-Dec. 31
Box 2
Vol. 31: 1909 Jan. 1-May 11

Contains loose drawings.

Box 2
Vol. 32: 1909 May 12-Sept. 2
Box 3
Vol. 33: 1909 Sept. 3-1910 Jan. 26
Box 3
Vol. 34: 1910 Jan. 27-Jun. 27
Box 3
Vol. 35: 1910 July 19-Aug. 22
Box 3
Vol. 36: 1910 Aug. 22-Oct. 9
Box 3
Vol. 37: 1910 Oct. 9-1911 Feb. 4
Box 3
Vol. 38: 1911 Feb. 6-May 24
Box 3
Vol. 39: 1911 May 30-Aug. 28
Box 3
Vol. 40: 1911 Sept. 12-1912 Feb. 12
Box 3
Vol. 41: 1912 Feb. 13-Dec. 31
Box 3
Vol. 42: 1913 Jan. 1-May 2
Box 3
Vol. 43: 1913 May 3-Aug. 25
Box 3
Vol. 44: 1913 Aug. 26-1914 Jan. 2
Box 3
Vol. 45: 1914 Jan. 4-Apr. 8
Box 3
Vol. 46: 1914 Apr. 9-June 20
Box 3
Vol. 47: 1914 June 21-Oct. 31
Box 3
Vol. 48: 1914 Nov. 1-1915 Feb. 9
Box 3
Vol. 49: 1915 Feb. 12-May 11
Box 3
Vol. 50: 1915 May 11-July 17
Box 4
Vol. 51: 1915 July 18-Aug. 12
Box 4
Vol. 52: 1915 Aug. 13-Oct. 21

Contains a map of South Africa.

Box 4
Vol. 53: 1915 Oct. 22-1916 Jan. 5
Box 4
Vol. 54: 1916 Jan. 6-Mar. 31
Box 4
Vol. 55: 1916 Apr. 1-June 2
Box 4
Vol. 56: 1916 June 3-Sept. 30
Box 4
Vol. 57: 1916 Oct. 1-1917 June 13

Contains postcards, and loose pressed plants.

Box 4
Vol. 58: 1917 June 14-Oct. 16
Box 4
Vol. 59: 1917 Oct. 17-1918 Jan. 12

Contains newspaper clippings.

Box 4
Vol. 60: 1918 Jan. 14-July 15
Box 4
Vol. 61: 1918 July 16-1919 Feb. 13
Box 4
Vol. 62: 1919 Feb. 14-1920 Apr. 4

Contains order form for WW I combat map.

Box 4
Vol. 63: 1920 Apr. 5-Nov. 6
Box 4
Vol. 64: 1920 Nov. 7-1921 Jan. 4
Box 5
Vol. 65: 1921 Jan. 4-Apr. 21
Box 5
Vol. 66: 1921 May 1-Aug. 20
Box 5
Vol. 67: 1921 Aug. 20-Dec. 28
Box 5
Vol. 68: 1921 Dec. 29-1922 Mar. 25
Box 5
Vol. 69: 1922 Mar. 25-June 19

Contains letters, and a photograph of a child.

Box 5
Vol. 70: 1922 June 20-Aug. 30
Box 5
Vol. 71: 1922 Aug. 30-Nov. 4
Box 5
Vol. 72: 1922 Nov. 6-1923 Jan. 18
Box 5
Vol. 73: 1923 Jan. 19-Apr. 27
Box 5
Vol. 74: 1923 Apr. 27-July 8
Box 5
Vol. 75: 1923 July 8-Nov. 12
Box 5
Vol. 76: 1923 Nov. 13-1924 Feb. 2
Box 5
Vol. 77: 1924 Feb. 2-1926 May 12

Contains a map of Baptist Missions in Africa (Belgian Congo), animal cutouts, stamps and letters.

Box 5
Vol. 78: 1926 May 13-1927 Feb. 10
Box 5
Vol. 79: 1927 Feb. 11-May 13
Box 5
Vol. 80: 1927 May. 13-Oct. 28
Box 5
Vol. 81: 1927 Oct. 31-1928 Jan. 18
Box 5
Vol. 82: 1928 Jan. 19-Dec. 31
Box 6
Vol. 83: 1929 Jan. 1-1930 Jan. 23
Box 6
Vol. 84: 1930 Jan. 25-Sept. 7
Box 6
Vol. 85: 1930 Sept. 8-1931 Apr. 7
Box 6
Vol. 86: 1931 Apr. 7-Oct. 29
Box 6
Vol. 87: 1931 Oct. 30-1932 July 18
Box 6
Vol. 88: 1932 July 16-1933 Jan. 31
Box 6
Vol. 89: 1933 Feb. 1-Nov. 24
Box 6
Notes On Work at Moody Bible Institute, circa 1918
Box 6

Contains six letters regarding the collection and transfer of Mary McCornack Thompson's diaries after her death in 1936. The first five letters are by Mr. William L. Thompson (Mary's husband) to his nieces Margaret and Jay Urice, who are locating and collecting Mary's diaries. The letters are all handwritten, with some typed copies. The sixth letter is from Jay Urice to Mr. Julian Fowler, a librarian at Oberlin College, about having Mary's diaries sent to Oberlin. Arranged chronologically.

Correspondence: 1944 Aug. 19-1962 Aug. 3
Box 6

Historical Note

DateEvent(s)
1858 Mar. 30Mary Elizabeth McCornack born
Circa 1879Graduated from Oberlin College, in Ohio
1889Enlisted in the missionary service, and sent to the mission station at Esidumbi, South Africa by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
1889 June 1Left New York for first missionary trip to Africa, via London and Portugal
1889 July 12Arrived in Cape Town, South Africa
1893 June 14Married to Dr. William Lamarcus Thompson in South Africa
1893 Oct. 19Traveled by boat and foot for four months to a new mission at Mount Selinda, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)
1899 Jan. 9Left the mission for New York, via Durban
1899-1901In the United States
1901 Apr.-1910 JulySecond missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia
1910-1911Attended church/missionary business meetings in the US (New York, and Cleveland)
1911 Sept. 15Left from Boston for third missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia via Liverpool, and London
1912 Mar. 17Arrived at Mount Selinda mission
1917 Apr.Left the mission for the Far East
1917 MayTraveled to Hong Kong, Kobe, Kyoto, and Yokohama
1917 JuneTraveled to Victoria, Canada, then south to Seattle, Portland and Chicago attending meetings
1919 Jan.-1925 JuneFourth missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia
1926 Sept.-1932 JuneFifth (and last) missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia
1932Retired from mission work after 43 years
1936 Mar. 10Died in Penny Farms, Florida at the age of 77
1947 Jan. 4William Lamarcus Thompson died in St. Cloud, Florida at the age of 89

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Provenance

The Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2004.

Processing Information

Processed by Loren Crippin

Encoded by Loren Crippin

Completed October 30, 2006

Accessions 2005-0019, 2005-0020 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.