Scope and arrangement
The eighty-one boxes comprising the Maud Russell Papers contain correspondence, writings, speeches, notebooks, clippings and other printed matter, photographs, and sound recordings; they also include minutes, newsletters, and subject files of the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy (CDFEP), and Far East Reporter files. These materials document Maud Russell's life and work for the Young Women's Christian Association in China from 1917 to 1943, her tenure as the executive director of the CDFEP in the 1940s and early 1950s, the speaking tours that took her on annual cross-country trips from 1953 to 1978, and her newsletter, the Far East Reporter, which she edited and published from 1953 until shortly before her death in 1989.
The great majority of this material reflects Russell's life-long interest in China and the role she saw for herself in bringing information to Americans on China's politics and people, at first in her employment with the YWCA and the CDFEP and later through her lectures and publications. Much of the correspondence from her years in China consists of Russell's copies of her outgoing letters to the American YWCA's New York headquarters and various regional Ys, describing her work and living conditions; most of the surviving incoming letters from ca. 1951 to 1980 are from friends who remained or returned to live in China after 1949 and regularly sent descriptions of and material about life in "new China", which Russell used for her talks and for the Far East Reporter. Her files of clippings and other printed matter also nearly all pertain to political events in China and aspects of Chinese society and culture.
Russell apparently weeded her files from time to time, possibly for lack of storage space; the volume of correspondence and printed matter increases noticeably after 1980.
Large runs of periodicals that arrived at the New York Public Library with Russell's papers, including the Peking Review and China Reconstructs, have been transferred to the Library's Periodicals Division.
The Maud Russell papers are arranged in ten series:
Roughly nine-tenths of Series 1 consists of correspondence, mostly Russell's copies of her outgoing letters. (As mentioned in the Scope and Content Note, Russell seems to have weeded her letter files periodically.) From 1918 to the early 1930s, most of these letters were to her family and to the "Asilomar group", the aggregate of college YWCAs in California, Arizona, and Nevada that raised funds to support her work in China. These letters include lively descriptions of the communities in which she lived and worked, the activities she shared with her friends, and her travels in different parts of China and Asia. Of particular note as well are Russell's letters to Mary Bentley and the Asilomar group that were written during her visit to the U. S. S. R. in 1932. (Very little else of the correspondence between Russell and Bentley is among these papers; the whereabouts of those letters, if they have survived, is unknown).
Correspondence from the late 1930s and early 1940s documents the challenges of living and working in central China during wartime. Most of the letters from this period are to YWCA colleagues in the U. S. and in other parts of China.
There is almost no incoming correspondence from 1918-1943, except for a number of letters of condolence Russell received after Bentley's death in November 1940. There are also scattered letters from relatives, and a few from such friends and acquaintances as Rewi Alley, Cora Deng, and Soong Ching-ling (Mme. Sun Yat-sen).
Letters from the middle and late 1940s mainly concern Russell's work for the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy. Along with the chronological files in Box 5 are separate files of correspondence between Russell and Evans Carlson, Agnes Smedley, Edgar Snow, and Anna Louise Strong, all concerning a mixture of personal and CDFEP-related matters.
The volume of incoming correspondence increases markedly in the 1950s. From 1951 to about 1980, virtually all of these letters are from Russell's friends in China, chiefly Talitha Gerlach in Shanghai and Rewi Alley, Anna Louise Strong, Israel Epstein, Elsie Fairfax-Cholmeley, and David and Isabel Crook in Peking. Most of these letters contain accounts of life and work in the People's Republic of China, frequently including information that Russell used in compiling the Far East Reporter. Letters written during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) are often as notable for what they omit as for what they relate.
Correspondence files from the last eight years of Russell's life show no sign of having been weeded. There are letters to and from her sister and nieces, old friends from her crosscountry lecture tours, and U. S. - China People's Friendship Association members, as well as the "China hands. ".
Researchers should note that there are also two boxes of Russell's correspondence, 1949-1982, in Series 10, consisting mostly of letters from Russell to Ira Gollobin that she wrote during her travels across the country and her trips to China.
Interfiled among the correspondence are the texts of trans-Pacific radio broadcasts made by Russell from China in the 1930s and early 1940s, and talks she gave in the New York area about China in the mid-1940s. The writings in Series 1 consist mostly of Russell's translations of political handbills in Wuhan and her term papers for her courses in social work at Columbia; of note also is an article from 1939, "Notes From a Summer Vacation in Yenan", describing her visit to the Chinese Communist Party headquarters there.
Speeches and writings by Russell that pertain specifically to the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy and the Far East Reporter are found in Series 2 and Series 3.
Initially called the Committee for a Democratic Policy Toward China, the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy (CDFEP) was founded in 1945. Its stated goals were to inform Americans about Far Eastern issues, to oppose American intervention in East Asian countries, and to seek peaceful solutions to political conflicts through such international organizations as the United Nations. The CDFEP's diverse membership included journalists, former missionaries, and East Asian scholars. (Ronald Reagan's name also appears on early CDFEP stationery as a sponsor.).
Through frequent conferences and a wide variety of publications, the CDFEP sought to provide politicians and the general public with an alternative perspective to that of the pro-Chiang Kai-shek China Lobby. After 1949, the Committee vigorously promoted American diplomatic recognition of the newly created People's Republic of China. In the Cold War climate of the early 1950s, however, organizations such as the CDFEP were increasingly regarded as subversive, Communist Party-controlled agencies that had conspired to bring about the "loss" of China to Communism. In 1952, as support and membership dwindled in the face of continuing FBI harassment, the CDFEP disbanded.
A more detailed overview of the history of the CDFEP is available in a series of articles from the U. S. - China Review (1982) by Karen Kerpen, based on her doctoral dissertation, in Box 28.
Evidently, many CDFEP records have been lost over time. Karen Kerpen notes in her dissertation and in Part III of her article that the McCarthy era was for the CDFEP "a time to protect supporters and sponsors from allegations or subpoena; files were hidden or destroyed and financial records were burned". (There is no citation for the source of this information.) In a June 30, 1961 letter to former CDFEP colleagues Israel Epstein and Elsie Fairfax-Cholmeley, Russell wrote about the housecleaning she was doing in preparation for moving to her Riverside Drive apartment, adding: "How I hated to throw away much valuable historical material collected during your days, but I just do not have place or use for them at present and there was no where to put them. ".
An early member of the CDFEP, Russell succeeded Harold Fletcher as its executive director in June 1946, serving in that capacity until the organization's demise. The materials in this series are evidently a combination of her own files and those of the CDFEP's. Roughly one-third is mimeographed and printed matter: press releases, pamphlets, and newsletters; there are also four boxes of subject files. Box 18 includes an apparently complete set of minutes of meetings, the CDFEP's constitution and by-laws, and a small amount of correspondence.
Boxes 29-32 of Series 3 contain a mostly complete set of Russell's publication, the Far East Reporter. (Because Russell did not use volume and issue numbers or dates, feeling that they would imply a time limit on the informational value of each issue, it is difficult to ascertain whether the New York Public Library's Manuscripts Section received a full run of the FER.) Interfiled among the publications, which are arranged by year, are copies of Russell's form letters to subscribers, itineraries for her speaking tours, clippings and other periodicals that she used as source material, and occasional letters from subscribers and potential contributors.
Boxes 33-43 contain financial records for the FER: Russell's ledgers, account books, receipt books, and lists of expenditures, interspersed with a few letters from subscribers. Box 44 contains various files (itemized in the box and folder lists for Series 3), including manuscripts, announcements of Russell's speaking tours and film showings, and her annual holiday letter to her subscribers.
Series 4 contains Russell's New York State and federal income tax records from the 1950s until a few years before her death. These files, along with the financial records for the Far East Reporter, may be of more than passing interest to researchers because of the occasional charges made by Russell's detractors that her newsletters and lecture tours were funded by suspicious sources, presumably the American Communist Party or the "red" Chinese government. Russell's painstaking itemization of business expenses seems to provide scant evidence for such accusations.
This series consists mostly of items in notebook form, among them a guestbook Russell kept during her first years in China, her daybooks - three- or four-line descriptions of daily activities from the 1930s through the 1980s - Christmas card and gift lists, and notes for speeches and from her three return visits to China.
Series 6 contains a diverse assortment of materials: notes, catalogs, and correspondence concerning Russell's collection of Chinese pottery; newspaper and magazine articles from the 1920s through the 1980s about her life and work; documents from and about the YWCAs of the U. S. and China, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s; an obituary for Mary Bentley and a few items concerning her nephew, the Berkeley artist and printer Wilder Bentley. Among the more unusual items in this series is a 1936 typescript (apparently never published) by an unidentified author, The Spirit of Yamato, evidently the memoirs of a western diplomat in Japan.
Most of Series 7 consists of clippings from magazines and articles about China, compiled by Russell from the mid-1920s through 1989. Earlier clippings are from the English-language Shanghai paper, the China Weekly Review; later ones are from the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Manchester Guardian, and other newspapers. Box 65 contains clippings about Russell's friends and colleagues, arranged alphabetically.
Series 7 also includes an assortment of China-related newsletters, including many from the 1940s from such organizations as Indusco and the China Aid Council. There is as well a nearly complete run of Anna Louise Strong's Letter From China (1962-1970).
Box 66 includes several books belonging to Russell and heavily underlined and annotated by her, including a 1924 New Testament in modern speech, and a long poem by the British poet laureate Robert Bridges, The Testament of Beauty (1930).
About a third of the pictures in Series 8 (Boxes 67-70) are snapshots taken in China by and of Russell between 1917 and 1936. The pictures, in albums and filed loosely in envelopes, mostly depict Russell and her friends and co-workers at the YWCAs where they worked and on holidays in various parts of China, and formal group portraits of YWCA staffs posing in front of their buildings. There are also pictures of Russell and her friends in other countries, including Japan, the Philippines, and India, taken during vacations and furloughs. Box 71 mostly contains pictures of Russell's friends from college days, pictures of Mary Bentley, and a number of pictures of Russell's China YWCA colleague Anne G. Seescholtz.
Later pictures include Russell's snapshots from her visits to China in 1959, 1972, and 1978 (Boxes 72-73); CDFEP photos, and friends in the U. S. and China (Box 74). Box 75 includes formal portraits of Russell's parents, her childhood home in Hayward, and pictures of her nieces and nephew as children, as well as more recent snapshots of them and their families.
The photographs in Boxes 76 and 77 are of China in the late 1940s and early 1950s, possibly originally acquired by the CDFEP. They depict such subjects as the People's Liberation Army, the celebratory parades of 1950 in Peking commemorating the first anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and developing industries in a number of cities.
Series 9 consists of cassette tapes made from three phonograph records* and four reel-to-reel tapes. [The Russell Papers contain a total of eight phonograph records, five of which are duplicates]. The phonograph records pertain to the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy, featuring addresses by Evans Carlson and Soong Ching-ling (Madame Sun Yat-sen) from 1946, and a question-and-answer session with Maud Russell about the CDFEP for radio station KPOJ in Portland, Oregon, 1950.
The tapes contain two separate interviews with Russell for radio station KRAB in Seattle, Washington, conducted in December 1962 and September 1963.
In 1991, the attorney Ira Gollobin, a close friend of Russell and the executor of her estate, gave to the New York Public Library a number of his files of material pertaining to Maud Russell and to the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy. Box 78 contains his CDFEP files, including legal material concerning its supposed "subversive" status (see also Box 28).
In Boxes 79 and 80 are Gollobin's letters from Russell, 1949-1982, mostly written during her many cross-country speaking tours. They provide an upbeat, lively picture of the busy schedule to which she held herself, her encounters with hecklers, and her optimism and faith in the majority of people who attended her talks and bought her pamphlets. Box 80 also includes Gollobin's remarks at Russell's 90th birthday celebration in 1983 and her memorial service in 1989, and legal correspondence concerning the donations of her pottery collection to museums.
Box 81 contains four folders of correspondence, 1938-1952 and undated, belonging to Ida Pruitt, which she apparently left behind when she moved to Philadelphia in 1961. These include letters of introduction that Pruitt brought with her to the U. S. when she left Peking in 1938, Indusco-related correspondence, and letters from her mother, Anna Seward Pruitt.