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Ruth Rouse papers

Call Number: RG 313
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.

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”).

Related Materials

World Student Christian Federation records (RG 46)

1897 - 1957
6 Linear Feet (13 boxes)
Related Names
Rouse, Ruth, 1872-1956
Language of Materials