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Gena Lee Reisner was born on February 24, 1943 in Kew Gardens, New York to Bernard and Edith Reisner. She graduated from Herricks High School in 1960. She attended Mount Holyoke from 1960-62, and then transferred to Barnard. In 1964 she entered the Peace Corps and went to Togo, Africa. There she taught English in a small village. She published many articles conscerning her experiences in Africa.
The Gena Reisner Papers consist of correspondence and writings. The material relates to her work as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, Africa from 1964-1966 and to her other experiences in that country. The collection contains typed excerpts of the frequent letters Reisner wrote to her family from the two towns where she was stationed: Waomé, a small town on the Ghanaian border from 1964-1965 and Lomé, the coastal capital city from 1965-1966. The letters pay significant attention to African politics during decolonization and the immediate post-colonial period. They also provide reflections on the circumstances and politics in Togo, from the variety of local cultures and traditions to the impact of the western world on developing countries. During her year in Waomé, she taught English to members of the Ewe ethnic group. She discusses funeral and wedding ceremonies in the village, along with the Ewe understanding of western culture and their pro-United States stance in the Cold War. The letters also provide insight into Togolese African nationalism on the local, national, and continental levels. During her year in Lomé, she taught English at the College Protestante and taught sewing and health and baby care in her spare time. She also frequently discusses the time she spent with her circle of friends, who were predominantly other Peace Corps Volunteers and French-speaking Togolese people. During her time off, she traveled with friends to Ghana, Nigeria, Dahomey (renamed Benin in 1975), Kenya, and Tanzania. She discusses the differences between West and East African cultures and landscapes. One letter in the collection is addressed to Elizabeth A. Green, a Mount Holyoke College English professor. The letter explains her reasons for transferring to Barnard and her regret over not being more academically oriented at Mount Holyoke College. After Reisner returned from the Peace Corps she wrote a number of newspaper articles about Togo, several of which are included in the collection. The articles address cultural diversity in Togo, "Nana Benzes," or powerful and wealthy Togolese businesswomen who are known for their chauffeured Mercedes Benzes, and tourism.
Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:
Gena L. Reisner Correspondence, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts
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