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Series I: Volunteer and Inquirer Forms and Statistics

Call Number: RG 42, Series I

Scope and Contents

Included in Series I are the forms and record keeping devices used by the Student Volunteer Movement to keep track of its members and prospective members. The enormity of the Movement's record-keeping task becomes apparent when one considers that by 1932, 48,866 individuals had volunteered and many non-volunteers were also on the Movement's mailing lists. There are over fifty linear feet of records in Series I, dating from approximately 1888 to 1956. The material is divided according to the following formats;

A. Declaration' information and Address cards

1. Declaration cards: In order to become a member of the Student Volunteer Movement, a student was expected to sign a declaration of purpose card and complete a follow-up information blank. The wording and explanatory material on the declaration of purpose card were changed several times during the Movement's existence but the centrality of this written commitment remained constant. From the card's earliest phrasing, "I am willing and desirous, God permitting, to become a foreign missionary", to its later two and three option formats, the formal declaration of purpose was thought to be an effective means of crystallizing nebulous missionary interest into productive missionary action. Thousands of declaration of purpose cards are found in the Movement archives. Those from the period 1888 to 1922 have been microfilmed and the originals destroyed. The over fifteen hundred cards available for the period 1941 to 1953, in addition to the signed declaration, also provide basic information about the volunteer, including his or her address, academic affiliation and area of study, denominational ties, and so forth. The declaration cards on microfilm and those from the period 1923 to 1941 are arranged first by the year in which the card was signed and within each year in two alphabetical sequences, for men and women respectively. The later cards are arranged alphabetically in two blocks. The first "A" to "Z" sequence includes cards signed during the years c.1941 to 1949. The second "A" to "Z" sequence includes cards signed during the years c.1945 to 1953.

2. Information cards: Some of the cards included in this section were completed by student volunteers to provide updated information about their status and future plans. Others were created by the Movement headquarters staff to facilitate the processes of compiling statistics and matching missionary candidates with suitable openings. The earliest cards in this section date from c. 1925 to 1932 and provide information about the volunteers who sailed during a given year, including their destinations and denominational affiliations. Portions of an extensive alphabetical sequence of cards dating from 1942 to 1949 are classified using a colored tab system to indicate academic specialization, field and vocation preference, race, and so forth. The key to the classification system is found preceding the "A's". The cards which provide updated information on volunteers date from 1948 to 1954 and are of interest for tracing the paths taken by volunteers who did not make it to the foreign field.

3. Address cards: The cards in this section provide names and addresses of volunteers and prospective volunteers, with no additional information. The cards all date from the 1940s and 1950s and were apparently used as a mailing list for SVM periodical publications. Some cards are arranged in alphabetical sequences according to the year in which they were removed from the mailing list files. Addresses were removed from the files upon request of the person involved or because the address was no longer correct. previously in contact with the Movement. These address update cards are in no particular order.

B. Application blanks

Over thirty linear feet of application blanks dating from the period 1888 to 1936 are arranged in alphabetical order. These blanks vary in format but are generally two sides of one sheet. The information supplied by volunteers on these prerequisite application blanks included full name, home address, marital status, educational circumstances and plans, denominational affiliation, extra-curricular activities, motivation for volunteering, field preference, and so forth. The detailed responses required by these forms are very revealing of the personalities and backgrounds of the applicants. Particularly interesting in terms of evaluating the work of the Student Volunteer Movement and the general missionary enterprise in America are the reasons given by the volunteers for their choice of a missionary vocation. In reading through the application blanks one is struck by the wide range of types of individuals who volunteered, from Episcopalians to Pentecostals, from highly competent medical school students to obvious misfits. In a few cases, incomplete blanks were returned to the Movement with the irate comments of unsympathetic parents.

The application blanks are generally stamped with the ultimate disposition of the volunteer such as "Sailed," "Deceased," "Renounced," "Withdrawn," etc. Other related forms or correspondence are occasionally attached to the blanks. The application of a female who married after volunteering was routinely filed under the name of her spouse. An index which provides access to the maiden names of married woman volunteers is located before the "A's" in this section.

C. Health examination blanks

The missions boards had rigorous health standards for candidates, so the physical condition of a volunteer was of crucial importance in determining his or her likelihood of making it to the foreign field. The Student Volunteer Movement had always encouraged volunteers to have physical examinations performed when they first applied for membership. Beginning in 1924 this encouragement took on a more concrete form as all new volunteers were sent health examination blanks to be completed in conjunction with their physician and then sent for appraisal to consulting physicians associated with the Movement. The four linear feet of health forms in this section are arranged alphabetically and date from approximately 1923 to 1937. In addition to the specific information provided by the examining physician, the forms also contain certain information supplied by the applicant about his or her general condition, outlook and family health record.

D. Statistical records

The statistical records related to volunteers are primarily in bound volumes. They describe the results of the Student Volunteer Movement recruitment activities from various perspectives. In three volumes volunteers are listed in numerical order, or by the date of their signing the declaration of purpose card. In other volumes volunteers are listed by their institutional affiliation or by their denominational affiliation. In still another volume volunteers who actually sailed during the years 1886 to 1921 are recorded in a generally alphabetical format. Other statistics relate to the results in terms of personnel of the general American missionary enterprise. The statistical compilations found in this section will be of interest to the researcher because they distill important information out of the bulky files of forms and information cards found elsewhere in the archives.


  • 1886-1964


Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection:

The materials are open for research.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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