Skip to main content

Earle and Thelma Ballou Papers

Call Number: RG 165

Scope and Contents

This collection is notable for the regular, detailed correspondence of Earle and Thelma to their families in the United States. The same time period, from 1916 through 1940, is documented thoroughly by both Earle and Thelma, offering the opportunity of comparison between their differing views on issues and events. The correspondence is made more valuable by the availability of a biography of Thelma, Thelma Ballou: From the Green Mountains to the Middle Kingdom, by Patricia K. Ballou, which provides information about the Ballous' families and background. The Personal Items and Memorabilia series includes documentation of North China American School, where the Ballou children attended and of Yenching University, which Hubbard Ballou attended. An interesting set of glass slides showing mission activities and other scenes in China completes this collection. Additional materials were donated by the Ballou family in 2011, including correspondence, memorabilia, and the sermons/addresses by Earle Ballou found in Series VI.

The Ballou Papers complement papers of other ABCFM North China missionaries held by the Yale Divinity Library, including those of Hugh Hubbard, Harold Matthews, and Constance Buell.


  • 1911-1997


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Ballou family.


  1. I. Correspondence of Earle Ballou, 1916-1948
  2. II. Correspondence of Thelma Ballou, 1911-1948
  3. III. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1916-1997, n.d.
  4. IV. Photographs, 1918-1941
  5. V. Glass Slides, n.d.
  6. VI. Addendum: Sermons/addresses of Earle Ballou, 1938-1976


8 Linear Feet (21 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Substantive correspondence, photographs, and slides document the Ballous' life and work in China. Earle and Thelma Ballou were missionaries in Tianjin (Tientsin), North China, serving under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) from 1916 to 1948.

Biographical / Historical

Earle Ballou was born in Saxton's River, Vermont on May 17, 1892. After graduation from Yale College in 1912 he served as Academic Secretary of Dwight Hall, the Yale YMCA for one year and then attended Hartford Theological Seminary. Earle married his hometown friend, Thelma Havens, in March 1916. Thelma Havens Ballou was born in Chester, Vermont on December 8, 1890. For two years after her graduation from Middlebury College she taught English, history, biology, and German at Springfield High School, Springfield, Vermont, and then attended the Kennedy School of Missions in Hartford for one year.

Earle was ordained as a Congregational minister in June 1916. The Ballous left for North China in July 1916, where they served under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). Earle and Thelma were stationed in Tianjin (Tientsin) and Beijing (Peking). Their first son, Hubbard, was born in 1917 and he was later joined by three brothers.

While in China Earle worked closely with the Chinese churches both in Tianjin (Tientsin) and as Secretary of the North China Kung Li Hui and the National Christian Council of China. During the Second World War he was detained by the Japanese in Manila until September 1943 when he was repatriated on the Gripsholm. After three years as Executive Secretary for the United Board for Christian Colleges in China, he returned to China, only to be recalled in 1948 to be Acting Secretary for China for the American Board. From 1950 to 1959 he was Executive Secretary of the Congregational Christian Service Committee. He then was called upon by Church World Service to be interim director of a project in Hong Kong for five months and served the National Council of Churches in New York until his retirement in 1961, when the Ballous returned to their hometown, Chester, Vermont.

Earle Ballou died in 1987 and Thelma in 1988. Additional information about their lives and work is available in Thelma Ballou: From the Green Mountains to the Middle Kingdom, a biography published by the Ballou's daughter-in-law Patricia K. Ballou in 1997.

Processing Information

Place names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in the collection material or in an older version of the finding aid in parenthesis: e.g. “Beijing (Peking)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”.

Guide to the Earle and Thelma Ballou Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

409 Prospect Street
New Haven CT 06511 US
(203) 432-5301

Opening Hours