Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections
Mount Holyoke College seal
Fiske papers, 1841-1866.
3 boxes (1 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0536 (LD 7092.8 Fiske)

Abstract:
Fiske, Fidelia, 1816-1864; Teacher and missionary. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1842. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary teacher, 1858-1864. Papers contain letters and her book entitled, "Recollections of Mary Lyon." Primarily consisting of letters regarding her journey to Persia and her founding of a girls' school while a missionary there.

Terms of Access and Use:

Unrestricted.

Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Fidelia Fiske was born on May 1, 1816 in Shelburne, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Rufus Fiske and Hannah Woodward Fiske. Fiske was educated in Shelburne district schools and spent one term at Franklin Academy. She taught in Shelburne's district schools before entering Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1839. Her education was interrupted in 1840-1841 while she recovered from typhoid fever. She returned in the fall of 1841 and graduated in 1842. After teaching for a year at the Seminary, she convinced her family that despite her poor health she was going to accompany Dr. Justin Perkins to Persia. She sailed from Boston on March 1, 1843. In Orumiyeh, Fiske was in charge of founding a girls' boarding school. The school continued to grow under Fiske's supervision from its opening in October of 1843 until her failing health forced her to return to United States in 1858. In the United States she was a teacher at Mount Holyoke between 1859-1864, until her death of "general inflammation of the lymphatic vessels" on July 26, 1864, in Shelburne, Massachusetts; she was forty-eight years old.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of Fidelia Fiske consist of papers chiefly relating to her work as a missionary in Persia from 1843-1858, and to her later work at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Of particular importance are letters written by Fiske between 1843-1864. These documents describe her voyage to and overland travel in Persia, her work with her school and the villager's reactions and political resistance to her work. These sources are complemented by other writings, including her book, "Recollections of Mary Lyon" (1866). Biographical material includes an obituary published in July, 1864 in an unidentified newspaper. The biographical information is supplemented by books, articles and notes written after her death. The collection also contains a small amount of memorabilia, including a New Testament Bible in Syriac, as well as a series of photographs which includes a portrait of Fiske and photos of The Fiske Female Seminary in Persia.

Material from this collection is available in an online digital format.

This collection is organized into five series:


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Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

Unrestricted.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Fidelia Fiske Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA

History of the Collection

Summary of Correspondence, 1841-1875

Fidelia Fiske was teaching at Mount Holyoke Seminary in 1843 when Dr. Perkins, missionary to the Nestorian Christians in Persia, called for someone to accompany him and his wife on their return to Persia in order to found a school for girls at Oroomiah. Fidelia was chosen and on March 1 then sailed from Boston. Fidelia's first letter addressed to Miss Whitman was written on March 13 aboard their "frail bark;" she felt that she would "meet no more my dearest earthly friends." Her letters continued to those at the Seminary for the next 14 years, through July 15, 1851. These letters as well as others written after her return to Massachusetts (November 14, 1859 to June 17, 1864) are included in the collection.The voyage was unusually short, only 21 days on the Atlantic. The accommodations were "very comfortable" although the dreaded foe - sea sickness - descended soon after departure. After several weeks in Constantinople visiting missionary families, they went on by boat to Trebizond (along with hundreds of deck passengers) where the land journey began. Donkeys and men were the means of transport; 150 pounds was an ordinary load for a porter. It was 200 miles to Erzeroom (she "rather enjoyed" the ride) and another 17 days to Oroomiah.Fidelia had a room at the Stockings, a missionary family in Oroomiah When the school opened in October of 1843 there were 15 girls, but by Christmas there were 30. Gradually more and more pupils became boarders. Sickness, especially cholera, death, government. harassment, struggles between Kurd and Mountain Nestorians, "Mussulman" resistance - all threatened the work and the life of the missionary. In 1847 Mary Susan Rice came out from the Seminary to be Fidelia's assistant. Her missionary work extended to the women, as she traveled among the villages. 111 health led to her return to the United States in 1858. She continued close ties with the Seminary until her death in 1864.

Of special note:
1843 Sep 14 Visited home of pupil, dined on floor, ate with hands; ate with relish as good as any time in America. Women ate with them. Walk in Persian vineyard - alas much drunkenness.
1843 Sep 18 People more interested in being delivered from Mussulman oppression rather than oppression of sin Nestorians consent to early marriage for girls else they may marry Mussulman. Boy thought Paul an Englishman because his words sounded just like the missionary language. Attended Nestorian Church service - 80 seated on ground; first lady of Mission to do so.Took tent and spent night beside lake; enjoy bathing. Bishop says Mount Holyoke is best of all schools because fear of God there.
1843 Oct 2 Read to girls in Syrian. Received first mall, Emissaries of Rome here again
1843 Dec 25 Problem of girls living at hose - under influence of parents. Many heard word but few conversions.
1844 Feb 24 People are Christian "in name only." Like moot missionary stations, prejudice against doing anything for the fallen woman. Now they come to our room when service for men is held. Fidelia "wandered in highways" entreating them to come. Now 8 boarders, incl. one aged 4.Much more difficult here to judge from appearances than at home; how sincere is their faith? School - 2 rooms with straw mats; oiled paper windows. Stove, benches. Need to raise quality of missionaries. Never felt better but poor eyes. End of Letter Book.
1843 May 3 Constantinople Stayed with Dwights. Fear services - is German, English, Armenian, Turkish. Four miss, families in city work mostly with Armenians who have corrupted form of Christianity. School for boys (20-30) - Mrs. Hamlin takes whole charge of their board. House open morn till night.She is glad to do anything for good of this people "though the labor of the kitchen." Boys cannot believe F has no husband; "can you cipher'!"
1843 Jul 10 In Erzeroom Armenian bishop violent in his persecution of little mission clock. Simple repast seated on matted floor - cakes of finest wheat, milk from flock, butter and honey.
1847 Sep 18 Attack of ophthaling. Cholera - Lord's judgment abroad In land. 'tornado.Disease - c. 114 population. 4000 shrouds in 2 weeks (25000 in city). Deaths among mission flock.
1847 0ct 21 Health very miserable. Cholera again - more than 5000 died in less than a month
1848 Jul 25 Threat by Mar Shimon nut to permit Christian burial for sick child of mission priest. French miss. here again - seem to be enlisting the Mussulmen against us.
1848 Jul 29 Death of child - joiner risked all to make coffin.
1848 Jul 31 Rabble causing disruption o: services. French forged letter with Yope's signature.
1848 Aug 6 Coffin-maker beaten.
1848 Jul 25 Student tricked into thinking brother ill so that she must leave school.
1848 Sep 2 Mar Shimon making common cause with Musselmen and Papists.
1848 Oct 30 Plunder, bloodshed. Koords desolated villages. Mission messenger striped and beaten.
1848 Dec 18 Persia land of my adoption - here expect to live and die. Mrs. Stoddard's death.
1848 Dec 19 Political changes among Mountain Nestorians. $19 raised by Nestorians for spreading Gospel. Koordish chiefs now prisoners.
1848 Mar 27 Many visitations of Blessed Spirit. Lambs praying without ceasing. In villages 70 women met with F.
1848 Apr 16 Most of pupils over 12 deeply affected; some spend 2 hours in supplication. Older girls to villages to labor to save souls, placed tinder guidance of some prudent native brother.
1848 Oct 29 Some may feel Holyoke no longer Holyoke now that Miss Lyon has gone but I cannot feel so.
1848 Nov 16 Assembling of school delayed a/c dampness in new opts.
1855 Apr 23 Several pupils who have finished their studies are teaching little girls in villages - nurseries of piety. Some teaching women to read Bible. King of Persia issued firman against Americans - stopped printing presses. Disapproves schools for girls.
1856 Jun 20 Our mud tenement in danger of falling down. Miss Rice away so she has care of dozen men "all alone" - every morning they meet in schoolroom and F reads Bible and cue pious workman leads in prayer. No miss. brother with us.City surrounded by fruit gardens - trees loaded with cherries.Prayer meeting on roof - 70-80 there; slept but little sleep a/c heat and sandflies.Friday morning meetings with mothers - P reads to them from Mothers' Mag. (bound volumes sent to her).
1856 Jul 3 At meeting of 16 mothers found 43 living children, 66 had died. 16 children have died in mission since beginning.
1857 Jul 15 F had 2 angel sisters who died before she was born. Spent 3 weeks in the mts. of Koordistan. Trying journey "over such roads I never imagined". Mr. Stoddard's death in Jan., then his daughter in March.
1863 Apr 23 Had hoped to leave for Persia early August with Dr. Wright but his printing of N.T. in Syriac not ready. Cannot cross mts. of Armenia later than Oct. Very disappointed. Now busy with history of revivals.
1863 Oct 28 At MR 340 pupils; more than 200 were refused admission. Growing improvement in religious character of school.
1864 Mar 3 Not well - unable to go out for 5I6 weeks. Day of prayer for literary institutions - 325 in prayer all day. Dr. Hitchcock's death.
1864 Mar 31 Very few lady teachers are laying by in store for old age.
1864 Jun 17 Strength less than 6 weeks ago. Physician feels sea voyage home of 80 days gave her 5 years of comfortable health. Not in habit of writing so fully about herself.

By: CR Ludwig

February 1998


Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

Email Reference Form: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/forms/areq.htm
URL: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/
Language
English.
Sponsor
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Contents List
Correspondence,
1843-1864
6 folders

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Restrictions on access:

Unrestricted

Scope and content:

This series includes Fiske's correspondence from her departure for Persia in 1843 until her death in the United States in 1864. A letter book and other letters describe her missionary work, especially with regard to the progress of her school and its pupils, her work with village women and Persia's volatile political environment. Also included are descriptions of setbacks caused by cholera epidemics and natural disasters. Correspondence written after her return to the United States focuses on her ties to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, her desire to return to Persia and her failing health.

Correspondence,
1843-1844

Box 1: folder 1
Correspondence,
1846-1847

Box 1: folder 2
Correspondence,
1848

Box 1: folder 3
Correspondence,
1849-1850

Box 1: folder 4
Correspondence,
1855-1857, 1859-1860

Box 1: folder 5
Correspondence,
1863-1864

Box 1: folder 6
Writings,
1841-1866
2 folders.

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Restrictions on access:

Unrestricted

Scope and content:

This series includes essays and other writings by Fiske from 1841-1866. Written in 1841,"My Sisters Dying Bed," describes the death of Fiske's sister. The series also includes Fiske's Bible selections and a journal of prayer requests by students. Of particular note is Fiske's biography of Mary Lyon, "Recollections of Mary Lyon," which was published in 1866, two years after Fiske's death.

Writings: "My Sister's Dying Bed;" notes; requests,
1841; circa 1859-1864; 1863-1864

Box 1: folder 7
Writings: "Recollections of Mary Lyon,"
1866

Box 1: folder 8
Biographical Information,
1864
5 folders

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Restrictions on access:

Unrestricted

Scope and content:

This series contains an obituary from July, 1864 from an unidentified newspaper. This item is supplemented by books, articles, and notes concerning Fiske. Of particular significance are two biographies: "Faith Working by Love" by D.T. Fiske in 1868 and "Woman and Her Saviour in Persia," by Thomas Laurie (1863), and "Faith Working by Love" (also issued as "The Cross and the Crown; or Faith Working by Love") written in 1868 by D.T. Fiske.

Biographical Information: Obituary,
1864

Box 2: folder 1
Biographical Notes, Articles, and Sketches,
1864-[ongoing]

Box 2: folder 2
Thomas Laurie, "Woman and her Saviour,"
1863

Box 2: folder 3
D.T.Fiske, "The Cross and the Crown; or "Faith Working by Love: The Life of Fidelia Fiske,"
1868

Box 2: folder 4
D.T. Fiske "Faith Working by Love: The Life of Fidelia Fiske,"
1868

Box 2: folder 5
Memorabilia,
1842-1864
2 folders

Arrangement:

Arranged by type of material.

Restrictions on access:

Unrestricted

Scope and content:

This series contains a lock of Fiske's hair, a New Testament Bible in Syriac that she used, which was published in 1854, and scraps of fabric bookmarks that were found in the Bible.

Lock of Hair,
circa 1842-1864

Box 3: folder 1
New Testament Bible in Syriac, with envelope containing items found in Bible,
1854

Box 3: folder 2
Photographs,
circa 1842-1864
2 folders

Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically.

Restrictions on access:

Unrestricted

Scope and content:

This series includes a formal portraits of Fiske and a drawing of the Fiske Female Seminary. These items are supplemented by a photograph of Jewish students at the school dating from about 1912.

Photographs of Fiske and the Fiske Female Seminary,
circa 1842-1864

Box 3: folder 3
33Photographs of Fiske and the Fiske Female Seminary, circa 1842-1864
Photograph of Jewish Students at the School,
circa 1912

Box 3: folder 4
34Photograph of Jewish Students at the School, circa 1912

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Fiske, Fidelia, 1816-1864.
  • Lyon, Mary, 1797-1849.
  • Fiske Seminary (Orumiyeh, Iran) - History - Sources.
  • Iran - Social conditions.
  • Missionaries - Iran - Correspondence.
  • Missionaries - United States - Correspondence.
  • Mount Holyoke College - Religious life - 1863-1864.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary - Faculty - History - Sources.
  • Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.
  • Persia.
  • Teachers - Massachusetts - Correspondence.
  • Transportation and travel.
  • Women - Iran - Education - History - Sources.
  • Women missionaries - Iran - Correspondence.

Contributors
  • Lyon, Mary, 1797-1849.

Genre terms
  • Letters- Collections.


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