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Charlotte B. DeForest Papers

Call Number: RG 178

Scope and Contents

In Series I, Correspondence, the Original letters subseries begins with letters written by Charlotte to her parents as she left them in Japan and began her journey to continue her education first in Germany and then in the United States. Charlotte had literary interests and wrote substantive, detailed letters throughout her life. Charlotte's letters to family members dating from 1907 to 1912 are primarily from Japan, except when she was on furlough or vacationing in Guling (Kuling), China. Circular letters written by Charlotte date from 1940 to 1951 and relate primarily to her activities at Kobe College. Also of interest in Series I are letters written to Charlotte by Kobe College alumnae who were affected by the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

In 2022, a series of eight printed volumes of transcribed correspondence and other papers were added to Series I. These volumes, with accompanying CDs with the digital files, are from a project to transcribe Charlotte DeForest letters in the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Archives, 1810-1961 (ABC 1-91) held in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. The project was done by Motomi Tsugami of Kobe College as part of the Sougou-Kenkyu Project, 'Reading Missionary Letters of Charlotte De Forest and others', supported by the Kobe College Research Center from 2016- to 2022. The digital files are available the Divinity Library's server.

Series II, Writings, provide valuable autobiographical information about Charlotte DeForest, as well her writings on a variety of Japan-related topics. Journals kept by Charlotte in Japan, when she was eleven to fourteen years old (1890-1893), provide fascinating detailed information regarding the activities and feelings of a missionary child of the era. The later diaries are of the five-year variety.

Series III, Subject Files, includes material related to Kobe College and several files relating to Charlotte's translation and publication projects. She worked with Japanese writer Tasuku Harada, who was pastor of the Kobe Kumiai Church and later president of Doshisha University of Kyoto, to versify Japanese nursery rhymes that Harada had translated into English. Correspondence and drafts relate to the publication of The Prancing Pony: Nursery Rhymes from Japan.

Series IV, Personal Items and Memorabilia, includes biographical information, photographs of Charlotte DeForest and Kobe College, and collected memorabilia. One folder of correspondence in this series relates to Charlotte's inquiries regarding familial history of the incidence of cleft (or hare) lips. The folder of biographical information regarding Charlotte's brother John includes genealogical information about the DeForest family.


  • 1879-1967


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from UCBWM offices.


  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Writings
  3. III. Subject Files
  4. IV. Personal Items and Memorabilia


2.5 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, writings, and collected material in the Charlotte B. DeForest Papers document her work in women's higher education in Japan, her literary efforts to translate Japanese poetry and children's books, and her work with Japanese-Americans. Charlotte Burgis DeForest was the daughter of ABCFM missionaries to Japan and a graduate of Smith College. She was a missionary educator in Japan from 1903 to 1940, serving on the faculty and as president of Kobe College. During World War II she was involved in work with Japanese-Americans incarcerated by the United States during World War II.

Biographical / Historical

1879 Feb 23
Charlotte Burgis DeForest was born in Osaka, Japan, daughter of ABCFM missionaries Elizabeth Starr and John Hyde DeForest, who served in Japan from 1874 to their respective deaths in 1915 and ca. 1910. Charlotte's sister Lydia and her husband William B. Pettus were missionaries to China serving under the YMCA.
In America on furlough with parents
1894 Feb-May
In private boarding school in Hanover, Germany
Attended, graduated from Newton High School, Newtonville, MA
B.A., Smith College
1902 Sep -1903 Aug
Assistant superintendent of Missionary Home, Auburndale, MA
Returned to Japan as missionary serving under American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
Language study in Sendai
Taught English at Kobe College, with time for language study
1906Apr-1907 Mar
Traveling to visit schools; language study
1907 Apr
Returned to Kobe College: In charge of Sunday School work and later appointed as head of the Bible Department
M.A., Smith College
1910-1911 Oct
Acting Principal of Kobe College during absence of Miss Searle
1911Nov -1913
On leave of absence
Studied at Hartford School of Missions
Returned to teaching at Kobe: English, Bible, Music
Appointed President of Kobe by Woman's Board of Missions of the Interior
Studied at University of Chicago
L.H.D. degree from Smith College
At Kobe
1925 Dec - 1926 Dec
Business trip and health leave in U.S.
1929 - 1934
On Doshisha University Board of Trustees
1935Jun -1936
On furlough in U.S. and Europe
Received medal from Hyogo Prefectural Education Association
Resigned presidency of Kobe; named "Honorary President"; received various citations and medals from Japanese government
1941- 1943
Worked part time in American Board Library
1942 -1943
Volunteer work at Boston Immigration Station for Japanese-Americans incarcerated by the United States during World War II
Taught nine month course in Japanese language to Army Student Training Unit at Pomona College, Claremont, CA
1944 Jun - 1945 Dec
Worked as "junior counselor" in Social Welfare Department of the U.S. government at Manzanar, CA Relocation Center for Japanese incarcerees from West Coast (e.g., for military hearings)
Returned to Kobe College to teach and help rally alumnae
On leaving Japan, received Fourth Grade of the Order of the Sacred Treasure
Retired at Pilgrim Place, Claremont, CA
Invited by alumnae to attend 85th anniversary of Kobe College

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in 2020 to address outdated or harmful descriptive language. During that revision, description was changed in the abstract and scope and contents note for the collection. References to Japanese- American "relocation" and "detainees" during World War II were removed and replaced with community recommended and currently accepted terminology in 2020, such as "Japanese American incarceration." Previous versions of this finding aid may be available. Please contact the Divinity School Library for details. If you have questions or comments about these revisions, please contact the Divinity School Library or the Archival and Manuscript Description Committee. For more information on reparative archival description at Yale, see Yale’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description

Guide to the Charlotte B. DeForest Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
2002, 2022
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2021 May: Finding aid revised to replace outdated or harmful descriptive language. See the processing note for more information.

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