Theodora Elkinton Waring and her family papers. Courtesy of Jim Roese, photographer.
Haverford College’s Quaker & Special Collections Receives Gift of Elkinton Family Letters, Which Capture More Than 100 Years of Quaker History
HAVERFORD, Pa.— Haverford College’s Quaker & Special Collections has received a collection of more than 5,000 letters photographs, and documents from Rev. Dr. Theodora Elkinton Waring, a Newton, Massachusetts-based member of a prominent family of Philadelphia Quakers who devoted many generations to service. The letters, which trace the history of the Elkinton family (as well as the related Waring, Stokes and Mason families) from 1891 through 2001, address Quaker relief work in World War I and World War II and conscientious objection of young men during both wars.
The letters specifically detail first-hand accounts of the French Western Front in World War I, Kristalnacht in World War II, and the rescue of a Jewish businessman from a Nazi concentration camp. The letters also publicly detail efforts taken by Katharine Wistar Elkinton to arrange for the immigration of 1,000 Jewish women from Germany to New Zealand under the auspices of the International Federation of Professional Women, as well as arrangements Katharine made for the legal immigration of 140 Jewish women from Germany to places as disparate as Newfoundland and Great Britain.
“We are delighted to add ‘The Elkinton Family Papers’ to the Haverford Quaker Collection,” says Librarian of the College Terry Snyder. “The impact of the Quaker relief effort remains important in understanding the tragedy and complexities of war, as well as historical and contemporary concepts of global community. The opportunity for a range of scholarship is enhanced dramatically, both in the breadth and depth, by acquisition of this collection.”
“I am making this donation to Haverford College because of the institution’s strong Quaker tradition. Four generations of my Mason and Elkington family have attended Haverford,” said Dr. Waring. “I have known every correspondent except one great-grandmother. In reading each letter, I have gained amazing insight into the decisions my family members have made. They have upheld a sacred trust to serve their fellow man.”
The collection includes letters by Howard and Katharine Elkinton, the donor’s parents, written during their WWI-era relief work in France, and during their work in Berlin between 1938–1941. One particularly noteworthy letter includes Katharine Elkinton’s firsthand description of Kristallnacht in November 1938. “The crowds that thronged the pavement looked aghast—some almost stunned, some disgusted, a few thoughtless ones laughing and joking. All over Germany this occurred worse in the little towns than the big cities.”
The collection also features correspondence between the donor’s husband, Thomas Waring, a conscientious objector, and his friends in the military during WWII. The letters describe the launch of Cambridge Friends School; Thomas was the first head of the school and Rev. Waring was the school’s first librarian. It remains the only Quaker school in Massachusetts.
“I anticipate that the students in my International History of the United States class will be using these papers frequently,” says Assistant Professor of History Andrew Friedman. “They cover a crucial period when Americans reimagined their engagement with the rest of the world. The richness of the personal letters will also help students research the ways that major global historical events reached down into everyday lives.”
Rev. Waring first became interested in archiving her family’s correspondence after finding a rich trove of WWI-era letters from her mother five years ago. The project has become her singular focus since 2010, when she found and received further letters from the files of her father-in-law and brother.
Haverford College’s Quaker & Special Collections is already in possession of papers of other members of the Waring, Mason, Elkinton and Stokes families. Some of those documents focus on Quaker relief efforts, so this new parcel of papers adds significant dimensions to the College’s already-available resources.
Haverford's Quaker Collection spans the history of the Society of Friends from 17th-century Britain to the present day in many parts of the world, with emphasis on Quakerism as lived and practiced in the eastern United States and antecedent American colonies. The Quaker Collection consists of some 35,000 printed volumes and 2,400 linear feet of manuscripts, as well as numerous photographs, artworks, artifacts, furniture, films, videos, sound recordings, and digital files, including both analog-to-digital and born-digital materials.
Quaker and Special Collections is located in Haverford College's Magill Library in Haverford, Pennsylvania, fewer than ten miles from the center of Philadelphia, accessible by car and by public transportation.