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Hayes Family Papers

Call Number: RG 18
Scope and Contents
These papers, dating from 1888 to 1994, provide vivid accounts of the missionary experiences of Paul and Helen Hayes (1921-1935), details of Paul's ministry after returning to the United States, and their family and social lives. Paul and Helen met, as they often quipped, "on a slow boat to China." Although sent under the auspices of different boards, their mutual devotion to mission work, shared theological ideals, and sheer enjoyment of each other's company cemented their relationship. They studied together at the University of Nanking Department of Missionary Training, dated frequently, and corresponded much while apart. After deciding to unite in marriage, Helen realized that she must transfer her affiliation from the Reformed Church Foreign Mission Board to the Methodist Episcopal Church Foreign Mission Board so that she could serve with her husband. Since the Methodist Board was obligated to pay the costs incurred by the Reformed Board for her service, Helen often teased Paul that she had been "bought and paid for like a Chinese bride." Due to the Depression in the United States, the Methodist Board could no longer support the Hayes' missionary work in China. They were asked to return to the States in 1935 and serve in the Methodist Church, first in Minneapolis, followed by an appointment in North Dakota, and back to Minnesota where they remained for the rest of their lives. Paul "retired" three times, but essentially continued to minister in various capacities until the disabilities associated with advancing age made it impossible.

The CORRESPONDENCE of Series I is valuable for its great detail and completeness. Arranged by main correspondent, the sections are divided by family and general letters. Letters sent by Paul and Helen to their families back home document their voyage to China, experiences with Chinese life, language and customs, their friendship, courtship and subsequent marriage and family life. Letters exchanged between Paul and Helen during their courtship and marriage reveal their deep affection for each other, which endured faithfully through sixty-six years of married life. Weekly correspondence with their adult daughters serves as a dialogue on family matters, ministry, social and political concerns, reminiscences of the past and plans for the future. Both Paul and Helen were attentive to detail in their writing, so their correspondence serves as the most complete record of their missionary service, ministry, and personal lives.

Paul's general correspondence constitutes his self-titled "Journal", consisting of copies of all the letters he sent and received every year from his youth to his death. The letters reveal his stance as a social and peace activist, and include correspondence with organizations to which he offered moral support and financial assistance. He corresponded with such political figures as Presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Reagan, Senators Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey , Alan Cranston, Edward Kennedy, Wendall Anderson, Walter Mondale, and Rudy Boschwitz, Representative Donald Fraser, and Congressman Martin Sabo. He did not hesitate to give credit where credit was due, or express displeasure over their decisions with which he disagreed. He supported such causes as world hunger, disaster relief, human rights, nuclear disarmament, handgun control, the Democratic Party, the Black Panther Party and gay/lesbian rights in the church. He opposed capital punishment, abortion, drug, alcohol and tobacco use, and mandatory retirement.

Series II, BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTATION, provides a subject-oriented approach to researching the Hayes family. Preserving his original arrangement, the series documents schools attended, mission work, churches served, places lived, trips/vacations taken, and special interests of Paul G. Hayes. While less material is available for Helen Hayes, her Midwest China Oral History Transcript provides valuable insight into her perspective of their China missionary experiences.

Paul Hayes' memoirs are a special attraction of the WRITINGS of Series III. Elsie Hayes Landstrom encouraged him to record these valuable memories and edited the manuscript extensively. It is a very valuable documentary of Paul's entire life. Also of interest are Paul's manuscript sermons, dating from 1907 to 1935 and 1961 to 1983.

Elsie also encouraged her mother to compile her memoirs, but this proved to be a difficult task for Helen, who was busy with duties at home and church and in declining health. Two notebooks, partially filled with her reminiscences, complement her husband's memoirs.

Elsie's talent for writing was discovered at an early age. Although she wrote for pleasure and profit throughout her life, her writings in this series constitute a sampling of her projects dating 1981-1991. They include the memoirs of Dr. Hyla Watters, which she edited, a story of the Hayes family in China, and an account of her return to the place of her birth in China.

Of interest among the family's collected items in Series IV, PERSONAL ITEMS AND MEMORABILIA, are Paul's glass slides of China, Helen's notes for talks she gave on China, and some of Elsie's collected research materials on Wuhu, China.

The photographs in Series V are largely identified.

The Hayes Family Papers are a valuable addition to the China Records Project at the Yale Divinity School Library. They complement other collections of China missionaries, particularly the papers of Albert and Celia Steward (RG 20), with whom they served in China from 1921-1935 and remained lifelong friends.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Elsie Hayes Landstrom and Lois Hayes Anderson, 1987.
  1. I. Correspondence, 1918-1991, n.d.
  2. II. Biographical Documentation, 1898-1994
  3. III. Writings, 1907-1991
  4. IV. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1888-1981
  5. V. Photograph Albums, 1890-1949
23 Linear Feet (59 boxes)
Related Names
Hayes, Paul G.
Language of Materials