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Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions Records

Call Number: RG 42
Scope and Contents

The Student Volunteer Movement Board of Directors voted in October of 1943 to transfer the archives of the Movement to the Yale Divinity School Library. Further archival increments were sent to the Library through 1963. A large volume of Volunteer Declaration of Purpose cards were microfilmed by the Library and the originals destroyed. The remainder of the material is in its original, in some cases crumbling, format.

Besides documenting the activities of the Student Volunteer Movement in a very complete way, these archives also provide valuable information on various aspects of American religious life during the period 1886 to 1960. Religious conditions on American college and university campuses are documented. Vast files of student volunteer application and information sheets provide personal data on thousands of prospective missionaries.

These sheets, in addition to health examination blanks for the years 1923 to 1937, provide extensive information of potential interest to genealogists, biographers, and historians. The financial records and correspondence of the Movement provide documentation related to philanthropic support of religious causes in America. In short, the archives are a largely untouched mine of information for the historian of American religious life.

The researcher should be aware of the extent to which the Student Volunteer Movement archives are supplemented by other collections at the Yale Divinity Library. The Library holds the personal papers of various leaders and friends of the Movement including those of its founder and General Secretary (1920-1927) Robert P. Wilder; its longtime Executive Committee chairman and leader, John R. Mott; its first educational secretary Harlan P. Beach; volunteer and committee member Kenneth Scott Latourette; traveling secretary Lyman Hoover; and other supporters of the Movement such as Luther D. Wishard, George Sherwood Eddy, and Clarence P. Shedd. Also found at the Divinity Library are the early archives of the YMCA-Student Division and the World Student Christian Federation, two organizations whose leaders were intimately associated with the Student Volunteer Movement.

As might be expected in the archives of a long-lived and constantly evolving organization like the Student Volunteer Movement, the categories indicated by Series I through X are more clear-cut in theory than in practice. The archives were in a chaotic state due to the circumstances of their accumulation at the Library, inconsistencies in SVM procedures, and previous attempts by untrained Library personnel to organize portions of the material. In the detailed descriptions which follow, an attempt has been made to indicate points of overlap, gaps in documentation, and material of particular interest in each series.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

  1. I. Volunteer and inquirer forms and statistics
  2. II. Volunteer and inquirer correspondence
  3. III. General correspondence
  4. IV. Financial correspondence and records
  5. V. Organization and policy records
  6. VI. Field work
  7. VII. Publications and literature distribution
  8. VIII. Conventions
  9. IX. Relationships with other organizations
  10. X. Photographs
285 Linear Feet (673 boxes)
Related Names
Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions
Language of Materials