The Mary McMillan Papers, 1936-1997 and undated (bulk 1952-1991), consist chiefly of journals and printed material, but also include correspondence, writings and speeches, photographic material, scrapbooks, clippings, videocassettes, audio cassettes, and memorabilia. Arranged in nine series based primarily on the format of the material, the papers illuminate the personal life and professional work of McMillan, a United Methodist missionary and teacher at the Hiroshima Jo Gakuin College in Hiroshima, Japan. In addition to her work as a teacher, the collection documents McMillan's service to the Kyodan, a unifying organization for Christian missionaries in Japan, and to the hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as her peace activism. Also included are materials related to the Topaz Relocation Center, a Japanese-American internment camp in Utah where McMillan worked in 1943. The papers are mostly in English, but include some Japanese language materials.
The bulk of the collection consists of the Journals Series, whose 43 journals contain almost daily accounts of McMillan's work at Hiroshima Jo Gakuin College, her involvement with the Ushita Christian Church, and her encounters with friends and other people. Also included are her personal thoughts about world events, particularly those related to peace and nuclear disarmament. Beginning on Aug. 11, 1939 with the final preparations for her initial departure, McMillan records her activities through her first year and a half in Japan. The 1939 and 1940 journals document in depth McMillan's adaptation to life in Japan, including her training in the Japanese language and customs, her first visits to various cities throughout the country, and the difficulties she faced as an American woman in pre-World War II Japan. After she and other American workers in Hiroshima were forcibly evacuated on Feb. 29, 1941, journal entries are scarce; however, the almost-daily entries resume in 1952 and continue until the day of McMillan's death on July 19, 1991.
In addition to the journals, McMillan's professional work as a United Methodist missionary and teacher at Hiroshima Jo Gakuin College is well documented through the Correspondence Series, Writings and Speeches Series, and Printed Material Series. The Biographical Material Series includes McMillan's handwritten autobiographical notes, as well as newspaper and magazine clippings and booklets documenting McMillan's work at Hiroshima Jo Gakuin College, and with the Ushita Christian Church, which McMillan helped found in 1948. McMillan's correspondence also sheds light on her work through "mission letters," mass mailings which she wrote periodically as a way of updating her supporters in the United States on her work in Hiroshima.
McMillan also was a staunch advocate of world peace and nuclear disarmament, and after her retirement from the United Methodist Church in 1980, she spent much of her time writing letters and speaking in churches throughout the United States promoting her cause. McMillan's role as a pacifist is well well documented throughout the entire collection by her correspondence, photographs of demonstrations and marches, printed materials, and items in the Clippings Series. Much of the material in the Writings and Speeches Series and the Printed Material Series is related to peace activism, and covers topics such as the lingering effects of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and that city's fight for peace, the first-hand accounts of bomb survivors, and the United Methodist Church's pacifist stance.
Also contributing to an understanding of McMillan's life, the Photographic Material Series and the Memorabilia Series offer visual and three-dimensional documentation of her activities as a missionary, teacher, and friend to the Japanese.