Scope and Contents
The Ruth Rouse papers, 1897-1957, consist of Rouse’s personal accounts of her international work with the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM), World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), as well as her research files on the history of global ecumenism. About half of the collection had been processed as part of the WSCF archive in Geneva (as boxes 213.50.1-213.50.7); because it pertains mostly to Rouse’s work outside the WSCF, it has been separated into its own collection and re-processed along with five boxes of previously unprocessed material.
Rouse’s diaries span the bulk of her career—every year from 1905 to 1953, except 1908 and 1946—and contain short, almost-daily accounts of her travels and meetings with a wide variety of people. Rouse wrote about her experiences in each of the nearly seventy countries she visited during this time, giving both her general impressions and details of her own daily life. She notes who she meets with, conferences she attends or speaks at, books she reads, time spent in the office dictating, and leisure time spent skiing or visiting towns. She also makes occasional records of daily expenses. Her journals contain more in-depth accounts of her experiences, often summarizing her work in a particular country or with a particular community. The collection also includes Rouse’s private letters home from her travels, which detail her impressions of each country, the people she worked with, and her own struggles with health and work.
The travel reports in this collection, written while traveling for the Student Volunteer Movement and the WSCF, are mostly unofficial—intended to keep Rouse’s colleagues up-to-date on her activities, but not intended for publication or wider release. As a result, they contain rather candid accounts of the lives of students in each of the nearly seventy countries Rouse visited. For example, she discusses political and cultural relationships between Finland and Russia, contrasts in life in the Czech Republic and Slovakia before and after World War I, and relationships between Christians and Muslims in Istanbul under the Ottoman Empire. Because Rouse often re-visited countries over the span of a number of years—for instance, she spent a total of six months in Russia over six visits in twenty years—the reports often offer opportunities for comparisons of how life for young people, especially young women, changed over the course of the first half of the twentieth century.
Rouse’s correspondence is with a range of other leaders in the Student Volunteer Movement, WSCF, and other missionary and ecumenical organizations, particularly with leaders of women’s movements, including Hermine Baart de la Faille, Michi Kawai, Winifred Mary Sedgwick, Tissington Tatlow, and Norah E. Warren. The most extensive correspondence in this collection is with Suzanne Bidgrain and Rena Carswell Datta. Bidgrain served as a traveling secretary for the YWCA and the WSCF, as well as working locally with the French SCM. She also compiled the WSCF’s first multilingual hymnal, Cantate Domino. Datta served for a period as Rouse’s personal secretary, having previously been a secretary for the SVM in Glasgow. The majority of her life was spent at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan (then India), where she worked with her husband, Surendra Kumar Datta.
The research files in this collection mainly cover two of Rouse’s projects: the first on the history of missionary work, and the second on the ecumenical movement. With regards to missionary work, Rouse collected individuals’ descriptions of their calls and motives to mission, as well as notes on biographical sources about missionaries in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. She began recording these notes as early as 1904, and reviewed them throughout her career for a variety of different projects. Her notes on the history of ecumenism were collected as Editorial Secretary to the Committee on the History of the Ecumenical Movement, and consist of summaries and analyses of individual ecumenical movements, as well as correspondence with other members of the Committee. There is also a small amount of research material about the history of the World Student Christian Federation; the bulk of this research is in RG 46.
The biographical materials contain a file which Rouse compiled in preparation for writing a history of the Student Volunteer Movement through the medium of her own memoirs. There is also a small file of condolences and remembrances written about Rouse after her death in 1956.
- 1897 - 1957
Language of Materials
The materials are mainly in English, with some in French.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
This collection is organized into five series: Diaries and Journals, Travel Reports and Notes, Correspondence, Research Files, and Biographical Materials. Each series may be further organized into subseries.
Country names were modernized in the description, with the name Rouse used in parenthesis (e.g. “Hungary (Austria-Hungary)”); however, the original alphabetical ordering is maintained (e.g. “Hungary (Austria-Hungary)” filed under “A”). Existing regional groupings were also maintained, so materials pertaining to a specific country may be found both in an individual and a regional file (e.g. “Peru” under both “Peru” and “South America”).
6 Linear Feet (13 boxes)
The Ruth Rouse papers, 1897-1957, consist of Rouse’s personal accounts of her international work with the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM), World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), as well as her research files on the history of global ecumenism.
Biographical / Historical
Ruth Rouse was born in London in 1872 to an English father and a Scottish mother. She attended Notting Hill High School, followed by one year at Bedford College, London, and three years at Girton College, Cambridge University, where she received her M.A. She described her upbringing as “decidedly international and ecumenical,” with relations belonging to a wide range of Christian denominations: Anglicans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Quakers, and Roman Catholics. She was raised as a Baptist, but soon joined the Church of England.
Shortly after graduating from Cambridge, Rouse became one of the first women student secretaries of the young Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland, and helped to found many of the women student branches in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. She also traveled for two years in the United States and Canada, first for the Student Volunteer Movement and next for the Student Department of the YWCA. In 1899, she joined the Missionary Settlement for University Women at Mumbai (Bombay), for two years traveling widely through India in the interest of the Student Christian Movement.
In 1905, Rouse was made Secretary of the World Student Christian Federation for Work amongst Women Students. During her twenty years with the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), Rouse visited sixty-six different countries, including every country in Europe except Portugal.
During the first World War, Rouse did YMCA canteen work amongst British troops in France, and visited and spoke in many American, Australian and New Zealand camps, as well as some French. Her life nearly ended in 1918, when she was badly wounded at Étaples by a German bomb.
After leaving the WSCF in 1925, for fifteen years Rouse was the Educational and Editorial Secretary of the Missionary Council of the Church of England, which meant working closely with the International Missionary Council and the British Conference of Missionary Societies, and maintaining a knowledge of the missionary activities of all the Christian denominations, both within and without Britain.
During the whole of the Second World War, Rouse was in the United States, mostly at Yale Divinity School, where she was in charge of cataloguing the John R. Mott Library and the Archives of the WSCF (RG 46). During that time, she also wrote a history of the first thirty years of the Federation, which was published in 1948. She also worked regularly at the office of the World’s YWCA, which was in Washington, DC, temporarily.
Rouse served on the Committee of the World’s YWCA for forty years, including an eight-year term as the organization’s President, from 1938 to 1946. In 1946, the very day she left the Presidency, Willem Visser ‘t Hooft invited her to assist in producing the History of the Ecumenical Movement; she consented, and was made Editorial Secretary of the Committee on the Ecumenical History. The History was published in 1954, with Rouse as co-editor alongside Stephen Neill. Rouse died in England in 1956, at the age of eighty-four.
In the process of compiling and cataloguing the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) archive at Yale in the 1940s, Rouse split her own papers. Portions she added to John Mott’s collection, in order to fill gaps and enhance the official WSCF archive. Those records mostly include official reports, correspondence with other WSCF leaders, and some of Rouse’s notes on the history of the WSCF, and can be found in RG 46. The remainder of her papers she either sent to the main WSCF offices or retained in her home; this portion is generally of a more personal nature, and comprises this collection. About half of the collection was processed as part of the WSCF archive in Geneva (as boxes 213.50.1-213.50.7); because it pertains mostly to Rouse’s work outside the WSCF, it has been separated into its own collection and re-processed along with five boxes of previously unprocessed material.
- Guide to the Ruth Rouse papers
- Elizabeth Peters
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository
409 Prospect Street
New Haven CT 06511 US