Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries, 1887-1962
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- 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.
- 2.4 Linear Feet
- Material in English
- Collection ID:
- Scope and content:
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.
- Biographical / historical:
Missing Title Date Event 1858 Mar. 30 Mary Elizabeth McCornack born Circa 1879 Graduated from Oberlin College, in Ohio 1889 Enlisted 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 1 Left New York for first missionary trip to Africa, via London and Portugal 1889 July 12 Arrived in Cape Town, South Africa 1893 June 14 Married to Dr. William Lamarcus Thompson in South Africa 1893 Oct. 19 Traveled by boat and foot for four months to a new mission at Mount Selinda, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) 1899 Jan. 9 Left the mission for New York, via Durban 1899-1901 In the United States 1901 Apr.-1910 July Second missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia 1910-1911 Attended church/missionary business meetings in the US (New York, and Cleveland) 1911 Sept. 15 Left from Boston for third missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia via Liverpool, and London 1912 Mar. 17 Arrived at Mount Selinda mission 1917 Apr. Left the mission for the Far East 1917 May Traveled to Hong Kong, Kobe, Kyoto, and Yokohama 1917 June Traveled to Victoria, Canada, then south to Seattle, Portland and Chicago attending meetings 1919 Jan.-1925 June Fourth missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia 1926 Sept.-1932 June Fifth (and last) missionary trip to Mount Selinda, Rhodesia 1932 Retired from mission work after 43 years 1936 Mar. 10 Died in Penny Farms, Florida at the age of 77 1947 Jan. 4 William Lamarcus Thompson died in St. Cloud, Florida at the age of 89
- Acquisition information:
- The Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 2004.
- Custodial history:
Originally, the papers of Mary McCornack Thompson were at Oberlin College, but were reacquired by the family at an unknown date.
- 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.
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- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
- Women missionaries -- Africa -- Personal narratives
Women missionaries -- South Africa
Missionaries -- Africa -- Diaries
Missionaries -- Africa, Southern -- Biography
Women missionaries -- United States -- Diaries
Missionaries -- South Africa -- 19th century
Missionaries -- South Africa -- Biography
Missionaries -- Zimbabwe -- Biography
Missions -- Africa -- 19th century
Missions -- Africa, Southern
Missionaries -- Africa -- Biography
Diaries -- Women authors
Travel -- Diaries -- 18th Century
Missions -- Rhodesia
Missions -- Africa, Sub-Saharan
Missions -- Zimbabwe
Presbyterian Church -- Missions
- Oberlin College -- Alumni and alumnae
Mount Silinda Mission (Zimbabwe)
Moody Bible Institute
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions -- Africa, Southern
Thompson, William L. (William Lamarcus)
Thompson, Mary McCornack
- Rhodesia and Nyasaland -- Race relations
Rhodesia and Nyasaland -- Social conditions
Rhodesia and Nyasaland -- Description and travel
Rhodesia and Nyasaland -- History
Zimbabwe -- Missions
Africa -- Description and travel
Africa -- Church history
Melsetter (Zimbabwe) -- History
Africa, Southern -- Languages
Africa -- Religious life and customs
Africa -- Race relations
Africa -- Ethnic relations
Rhodesia and Nyasaland -- Native races
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[Identification of item], Mary McCornack Thompson Diaries, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.