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Series VI: Field Work

Call Number: RG 42, Series VI

Scope and Contents

From the 1886 Wilder-Forman deputation to the cooperative ventures in the late 1950s, the Student Volunteer Movement consistently viewed field work as the most important part of its program. The aim of field work was to develop missionary enthusiasm and thereby recruit volunteers, to educate regarding missionary concerns, to establish continuing student volunteer fellowships, and to promote the quadrennial conventions. Series VI contains over twenty linear feet of material and is divided into three sections.

A. General field work

The records in this topically arranged section include annual reports and statistics, form letters, procedural instructions and publicity releases. Of particular interest is a series of volumes which are compilations of very specific information regarding campus visits during the period 1909 to 1931. These volumes provide valuable documentation of the state of religious life on American campuses during this period.

B. Field staff recruitment

The chronologically arranged correspondence of this section dates from 1930 to 1955 and concerns the recruitment of traveling secretaries. The SVM's traveling secretaries were primarily recently graduated volunteers not yet gone to the field or missionaries home on furlough. Many letters were exchanged with denominational boards in the effort to obtain personnel and financial support for the SVM field work program.

C. Traveling secretary correspondence

Following two folders of general material, the correspondence in this section is arranged alphabetically by the names of the traveling secretaries. The correspondence dates from the early 1900s to the late 1950s and includes letters exchanged between the secretaries and SVM headquarters, as well as letters concerning local arrangements for visits, itinerary planning sheets, and publicity releases regarding specific secretaries. In some cases the files of correspondence include letters from before and after the traveling secretary's term of service.

D. Traveling secretary reports The reports in this section are of three types:

1. Monthly reports: During the early years of the Movement traveling secretaries filled out forms describing their activities on a monthly basis. These monthly statements are available only for the

periods 1897 to 189S, 1927 to 1929, and 1931 to 1933, but the information which would have been found on the forms was largely entered into the record books of section A of this Series. The monthly reports are arranged by year and alphabetically by the name of the secretary within the year.

2. Financial reports: A small section of traveling secretary financial reports covers the period 1930 to 1942 and contains records of expenses.

3. Campus visit reports: Of most interest are the reports submitted by traveling secretaries concerning their visits to specific campuses throughout the United States. These reports have varying formats but generally contain information regarding the activities of the secretary during his or her visit and the state of student missionary interest at the institution. The campus visit reports date from 1928 to the late 1950s and provide valuable information regarding religious conditions on American campuses. They are arranged in two sequences,one dating from approximately 1928 to 1933, and the other dating from 1933 to the late 1950s. The reports are arranged alphabetically by state and within each state by the name of the institution visited.

E. Records of student volunteer unions and groups

According to Student Volunteer Movement policy, individuals were first and foremost members of the national Movement, but local volunteer "groups" (formerly called "bands") and regional volunteer "unions" were found to be effective means for providing fellowship and support for volunteers. From the earliest days of the SVM, relationships between the national Movement and its local and regional expressions were often a problem. Local groups tended to gradually lose contact with the aims and mood of the national headquarters and to settle into their own traditions. Some groups, for example, became involved in home missions projects at a time when the national Movement was striving to confirm its commitment to the foreign side of missions.

Relatively little mention is made of student volunteer unions and groups in the annual reports of the SVM General Secretaries before the 1920s. The Movement was anxious not to appear as a rival to the YMCA and YWCA groups on campuses. When the organizational arrangement of the Movement was changed in 1920 to allow for more student participation, the student volunteer unions became somewhat more important because the student members of the new General Council were to be elected by the regional unions. In 1936 the Movement changed its policy on local volunteer groups, recommending that they no longer exist as autonomous organizations but rather incorporate their activities into other religious organizations on campus. It was not until 1947 that this policy was reversed.

The material in this section dates from l892 to 1954. Preceding the material which relates to specific regional, state, or city unions are three records books and several folders of general material including manuals with suggested procedures for student volunteer groups and unions. Also included in this first section are materials related to the campus representative system which the SVM experimented with in 1945 and materials related to a 1933 survey on 'missionary interest in the colleges." Records of local groups, such as a 1903 minute book of the Bryn Mawr College Student Volunteer Band, are not listed separately in this section, but rather will be found amidst the regional, state, or city union records.

Among the earliest records of cooperative regional activities are sample union constitutions from the 1920s. A major function of the regional unions was to sponsor missionary conferences for the area of their jurisdictions, which was usually a state, but in some cases covered a wider geographical area and in other cases was limited to a metropolitan area. Reports on regional conferences are available in Series VI, Section D.

Some unions were much more active than others, and this is reflected in the quantity of newsletters, correspondence, announcements, and so forth available for each union. One of the most active unions appears to have been the Georgia Union. Letters exchanged between Georgia Union leaders in the 1930s provide interesting insight into the problems faced by the Union, particularly in relation to its efforts to promote interracial conferences.


  • 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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