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Mary E. French (born 1848) Papers

Mary E. French (born 1848) Papers

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MARY E. FRENCH (born 1848) PAPERS, 1874-1887

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:French, Mary E., 1848-
Title:Mary E. French (born 1848) Papers
Quantity:0.5 Linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:This collection contains the papers of Mary E. French of Dunstable, Massachusetts, who served as a missionary in India on two occasions in the late nineteenth century.
Collection Number:MSS 484

Series List

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the papers of Mary E. French of Dunstable, Massachusetts, who served as a missionary in India on two occasions in the late nineteenth century. Her letters, journal extracts, and manuscripts describe her experiences abroad while living and working in rural India. Also present is a letter from Captain Isaiah Bray, reporting on the voyage of the Morning Star to Micronesia in 1878-1879.

Folder 1 contains writings of Mary E. French about her missionary work in India. Included are letters (1875) from Midnapore in West Bengal, and extracts of her journal (1885-1886) from Khamgaon in Maharashtra. The journal extracts are partly handwritten, partly typed, and partly printed, as if they were being prepared for lecture or publication.

Folder 2 contains letters from "Lizzie", Mary Elizabeth French, to her sisters Susan and Sarah. The letters were written from 1874-1875 and 1883-1887 and span both of Mary French's trips to India. They describe in great detail her adventures and struggles while serving as a missionary there. Also in Folder 2 are single letters to Mary's nieces Nellie (Peabody) Fuller, Clara Hall, and Emily Hall, as well as fragments of other letters most likely addressed to her sisters. Folder 3 contains one letter to Mary E. French from Shewanti Canaran, inviting Mary to stay with her in Colabra and learn the language [Marathi].

Folder 4 contains the transcript of a long letter written in 1879 to Brother Hall from Captain Isaiah Bray, commander of the third Morning Star. Brother Hall is likely Samuel Hall, Mary E. French's brother-in-law. In this letter, possibly the only one written on this voyage, Captain Bray summarizes an eight-month voyage from Honolulu to the South Pacific, during which the ship visited 26 different islands (some more than once). Much of the letter deals with the role that religion played in the success of the voyage.

Folder 5 contains an 18-page typewritten manuscript describing life in Kamgaon, India, and the surrounding area, especially the challenges of preaching the Christian gospel message to non-believers. The manuscript is not signed but was written by a female missionary, presumably Mary E. French. Folder 6 contains an 80-page handwritten report describing the customs of Indian Hindus in the area near Calcutta. It was written by a female missionary, again most likely Mary E. French, although it is unsigned. The author was a keen observer of daily life both within the home and in the town. The report concludes by arguing that Indian women are indebted to missionary ladies for their education and culture. Folder 7 contains poetry and ephemera including postage stamps and a card in Braille.

Biographical Sketches

Mary Elizabeth French was born on March 14, 1848, the daughter of Ebenezer and Sarah (Richardson) French of Dunstable, Massachusetts. She travelled to India as a missionary from 1874 to 1876 and again from 1883 to 1887. While home in the United States she gave public lectures concerning the manners and customs of the Indian people and the need for missionary labor among them. Her death date is unknown. See Appendix I for relevant French family genealogy.

Captain Isaiah Bray was born on August 20, 1844 in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, the son of Jeremiah and Jane Bray. An experienced navigator and devout Christian, he took command in 1878 of the Morning Star, the third ship of that name. The intention of the voyages of each of the five ships named Morning Star was to bring Christianity to the people of Micronesia. Captain Bray led several such expeditions to Micronesia. He died on April 2, 1915 in Honolulu.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Bray, Isaiah, 1844-1915
French, Mary E., 1848-
Hall, Samuel, 1834-1912
Hall, Sarah French, 1836-1908
Peabody, Susan French, 1839-1908
Morning Star (Missionary vessel : 1871-1883)
Hinduism and culture
Khamgaon--Maharashtra (India)
Midnapore (India : District)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Mary E. French (born 1848) Papers, MSS 484, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


Some of this material was donated to the library by Marion Wilkins on October 14, 1941.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lee Jacoby, April 2015.

Related Material

Family Gathering on the French Homestead in Dunstable, Mass., October 8, 1879. Printed for Private Distribution, 1879.

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