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Gwen Coventry Papers

Call Number: RG 241

Scope and Contents

The Gwen Coventry Papers consist of 1 linear foot of material divided into five series:

I. Correspondence, 1958 - 1994

II. Notes and Writings, 1958 - 1990, n.d.

III. Documentation of Activities, 1975 - 1980

IV. Collected Material, 1976 - 1993, n.d.

V. Personal and Memorabilia, 1956 - 1979, n.d.

This record group provides a personal look at missionary work in northern India and Nepal between 1959 and 1979 and an institutional record of a United Mission to Nepal administrator between 1975 and 1980. In particular, it offers insight into the development of the UMN's activities in rural Nepal during these periods, especially the increasing distribution and diversification of services offered.

The first series, Correspondence, consists primarily of Gwen Coventry's personal letters to her parents, but also includes circular letters (addressed "Dear Friends") she wrote for UMN during her foreign missionary career.

The second series, Notes and Writings, contains observations of India and Nepal and personal reflections on the success of Gwen's missionary work, as well as outlines for talks and a series of handdrawn maps of the areas in Nepal in which Gwen worked.

The third series, Documentation of Activities, consists of reports, minutes, directives, and census data produced by Gwen or her colleagues primarily during her tenure as Community Health Director for Palpa District in Nepal. These papers include documentation not only of the Buling-Arkhala Project and the Food for Work Programme (both important UMN projects that Gwen helped to found), but also smaller projects like the Bojha Goat Improvement Project and census data and health records used to demonstrate the need for these larger projects.

The fourth series, Collected Material, consists of official UMN documents not directly related to Gwen's work, as well as some general material relating to Nepal or northern India. In this latter category is "Deforestation in the Mahabharat", a report on the economics of the region Gwen served perpared and published by her colleague, Gary Shepherd.

The fifth and final series, Personal and Memorabilia, contains newspaper clippings, a service bulletin, photos, and postcards, as well as an insurance policy and registration for a motorcycle in Gwen's name. It also includes a photocopied page from a book (possibly Jonathan Lindell's Nepal and the Gospel of God) which mentions Gwen's missionary work.


  • 1958-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1958 - 1980


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Heather Telfer


  1. I. Correspondence, 1958-1994
  2. II. Notes and Writings, 1958-1990, n.d.
  3. III. Documentation of Activities, 1975-1980
  4. IV. Collected Material, 1976-1993, n.d.
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1956-1979, n.d.


1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


These papers relate to Gwen Coventry, an Australian nurse, who worked as a Chistian missionary for Regions Beyond Missionary Union and the United Mission to Nepal in northern India and Nepal between 1959 and 1980. She served first as a hospital nurse in northern India and Tansen, Nepal, then as a community health worker in Bojha, Nepal, and finally as the director of the Community Health Programme for the UMN in Palpa District. She helped develop a structure of distributed rural dispensaries and traveling nurses, as well as founding agricultural programs as part of an increasingly holistic community development vision.

Biographical / Historical


1930 Jun 13
Born in Victoria, Australia to Roy Thomas Coventry and Evelyn Kathleen Coventry
1943 - 1946
Attended Strathcona Baptist Girls' Grammar School in Canterbury, Victoria.
Attended Scott's Secretarial College and worked as a secretary for the British and Foreign Bible Society in Melbourne.
1948 Oct - 1952 Jun
Trained as a nurse at Children's Hospital in Melbourne
Served as a bush nurse in New South Wales for six months.
c.1953 - 1956
Served as nurse in the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
Joined the founding staff at the Christian Service Center children's home in Melbourne
1958 Nov 22
Departed for India as a missionary for the Regions Beyond Missionary Union
Trained and worked as missionary nurse in north India and studied Hindi in preparation to travel into Nepal.
Traveled into Nepal and worked as a nurse in the UMN Tansen Hospital in Tansen, Nepal.
1960 Mar - 1961 Oct
Returned to Austraulia without permission of UMN and spent a year on the nursing staff at the Christian Service Center.
1961 Oct - 1962 Feb
Returned to RBMU and UMN, assisted the UMN secretary in Kathmandu, and studied Nepali in preparation for the UMN language exam.
1962 - c.1967
Served as nurse in UMN Tansen Hospital.
Became Nursing Superintendent of UMN Tansen Hospital.
1966 Jun 6
Published Nursing Notes, a curriculum for a two-year course for Auxiliary Nurses in Nepal.
1966 Nov - 1967 Oct
Returned to Australia on furlough.
1967 - 1975
Directed "Public Health" work in Palpa District, Nepal, based in Tansen until 1969. Traveled regularly through Palpa District, setting up clinics and providing basic medical care.
1969 - 1975
Founded and worked out of the Bojha Disensary in Bojha in east Palpa District.
1972 Sep - 1973
Returned to Australia on furlough.
1974 - 1975
Severe famine affected Palpa District, especially villages near Bojha, leaving many Nepali without food and forced to borrow money at high interest from wealthier landowners.
1975 - 1980
Directed efforts toward and for the Buling-Arkhala Project, a project of the UMN to significantly improve the argricultural and economic stability of the Buling and Arkhala Panchayats in east Palpa District.
1975 - c.1978
Returned to Tansen to direct UMN's Community Health Programme.
1978 Feb
Submitted, with others, the formal proposal of the Buling-Arkhala Project to the UMN Economic Development Board.
1978 Sep - 1984 Aug
UMN Economic Development Board approves plans for Buling-Arkhala Project and operates it until it is closed by order of His Majesty's Government of Nepal because of local politics and agreements with His Majesty's Government resticting UMN operations to certain geographic areas.
c.1978 May - c.1979 Mar
Returned to Australia on furlough.
1979 Jul - 1980 Nov
Studied in the Community Health Course at the Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences in Melbourne.
1979 Nov - c.1980 Jan
Returned to Nepal to undertake a comprehensive census and economic survey of the villages in the scope of the Buling-Arkhala Project. This survey marked the end of Ms. Coventry's work in Nepal.
1980 Feb - 1992 Aug
Cared for parents until Mr. Coventry died in 1981 and Mrs. Coventry died in 1992.
Obtained Bachelor of Education.
1981 Jan - c.1990
Taught Child Care section at Box Hill TAFE in Mebourne.
1982 - c.2003
Ministred to Cambodian refuges at Box Hill Baptist Church in Melbourne.
1995 - 1996
Returned to Nepal in late 1995 to trek to Bojha and reunite with friends from missionary days.
2004 Aug 11
Died in Melbourne, Australia, aged 74, from cancer.
Guide to the Gwen Coventry Papers
Andrew P. Shields and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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