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Azalia Emma Peet papers, 1902 - 1974
5 boxes (2 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 120

Missionary and teacher. The Azalia Peet papers consist of photographs, correspondence, memorabilia, and speeches. Of particular interest in the collection diaries and letters written by Peet from Japan, and from the Japanese American internment camps in the United States during World War II. Her early diaries reflect her home life and her personal struggle to come to terms with her vocation.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

This material is open according to the rules of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to material authored by Azalia Peet and permission is required beyond "fair use". All literary rights to material authored by others are retained by the individuals and their heirs.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Azalia Emma Peet was born in Rochester, New York, September 3, 1887, daughter of Marion K. Green and James C. Peet. She graduated from Smith College in 1910 and returned home to New York. After much spiritual and personal self-examination and following her mother's death in 1913 and her father's remarriage in 1916, Peet decided to become a Christian missionary.

She left in September 1916 for Tokyo, Japan, under the auspices of the United Methodist Church. Between September 1917 and May 1921 she did evangelistic work with high school students, supervised kindergarten work, and organized clubs for nurses and working women. In June 1921 she returned to the United States on her first furlough, speaking in churches and doing graduate work at Boston University. She received a master's degree in 1923 and returned to Japan the same year. Peet worked with women and girls in Fukuoka, living in a hostel for working women and teaching women at the government high school and college. In 1927 she moved to Hakodate, supervising two kindergartens. She became ill in January 1928 and was sent back to the United States on her second furlough which was spent in Portland, Oregon and Rochester, New York. Returning to Japan in September 1929, she supervised kindergartens and did missionary work with students until June 1935. During her third furlough (June 1935 to August 1936), Peet did graduate work at Cornell University and at Merrill Palmer Training School in Detroit. She returned to Japan in September 1936 and was evacuated in March 1941. During that period Peet did social welfare, childcare, and kindergarten work in Kushikino and taught high school in Nagasaki.

By 1942, Peet was living in Gresham, Oregon, then a farming community, where there was a large population of Japanese immigrants--many of which were from Fukuoka, Japan--and Japanese Americans. On February 26, 1942, Peet testified in front of the House Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration (also known as the Tolan Committee), which was coducting hearings about the need to evacuate Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Peet questioned the need to evacuate these people and was a strong opponent of evacuation. Peet followed and lived with the Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans in internment camps in Nyssa, Oregon and Minidoka, Idaho, where she continued working with those from Gresham, Oregon and Yakima, Washington, specifically helping the young people continue their college education or to get into college. Peet was among the first women to be asked to return to Japan after the war. Between December 1946 and December 1953 she did rural reconstruction work. Peet was awarded the "Fifth Order of the Sacred Treasure" by the Japanese government in 1953.

Returning to the United States in January 1954, she cared for her sister-in-law in Webster, New York, and occupied herself doing fulltime parish visiting and religious education for the Monroe Ave. United Methodist Church in Rochester, New York. Peet entered Brooks-Howell Home in Asheville, North Carolina, in September 1961. She died September 21, 1973.

Scope and contents of the collection

The Azalia Peet Papers consist of two linear feet of photographs, correspondence, printed material, memorabilia, diaries, articles, and speeches. They provide a detailed and personal view of missionary life in Japan before and after World War II and Japanese-Americans in internment camps in the United States during the war.

Organization of the collection

This collection is organized into three series:

  • I. Biographical Material
  • II. Correspondence
  • III. Writings and Speeches

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

This material is open according to the rules of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to material authored by Azalia Peet and permission is required beyond "fair use". All literary rights to material authored by others are retained by the individuals and their heirs.

Preferred Citation

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

Azalia Emma Peet Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

Additional Formats

Early diaries (1902-1928) available on the History of Women microfilm series (New Haven: Research Publications) available in Neilson Library, Smith College and through interlibrary loan.

History of the Collection

Azalia Emma Peet donated her papers in May 1970.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Susan Boone, 2001.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
15 linear inches

This series includes biographical clippings, twenty diaries, memorabilia, and photographs. With the exception of Peet's early diaries, 1902-17, most are short entry. The volumes overlap in years. Her early diaries (1902-1917) are introspective and reflect her home life and her personal and spiritual struggle to come to terms with her vocation. The later ones, 1917-60 not only describe her life in Japan but also her experiences working with the Japanese in internment camps in the United States and her retirement years. Memorabilia consists of miscellaneous items, including her Fifth Order of the Sacred Treasure which she received from the Japanese government in 1953; articles and clippings about Japan and the Japanese (1920-47); newsletters from Japan missionaries Evelyn and Robert Spenser (1939-35); and The History of the Japanese in the Yakima Valley (in Japanese), published in Yakima, Washington in 1935 by the Yakima Japanese Association. There is a folder of photographs (1916-68) and an album (circa 1937-46) which Peet assembled for her Aunt Lola.

7.5 linear inches

Correspondence is divided into outgoing and incoming letters. They are arranged by date. The outgoing letters contain letters home to family and friends, primarily from Smith College (1908-10), Japan (1917-53), Japanese-American internment camps in Oregon and Washington (1941-45), Rochester, New York (1954-61), and her retirement home in North Carolina (1961-72). Incoming correspondence includes letters to Peet from family and friends (1906-69.) There is also a folder of letters between miscellaneous Peet family members. The letters, mostly round robin, provide a detailed description of her life.

2.5 linear inches

This series consists of typed undated essays, studies and reports, handwritten notes and speeches (1959, n.d.), and a copy of Peet's masters' thesis (1923).

Contents List

Clippings and articles,

Box 1: folder 1

1902, 1912-17

Box 1: folder 2
1917, 1923-28

Box 1: folder 3
1928-33, 1929, 1929-31

Box 1: folder 4
1932-33, 1935-41

Box 1: folder 5
1936-55, 1936-38, 1940, 1941

Box 1: folder 6
1945-46, 1946-50, 1947-48

Box 2: folder 1
1948-68, 1951-55

Box 2: folder 2
1954-55, 1956-60

Box 2: folder 3




Box 3: folder 1
Articles and clippings about Japan,
1920-47, undated

Box 3: folder 2
Fukuoka Newsletter,

Box 3: folder 3
The History of the Japanese In the Yakima Valley (Yakima, WA, Yakima Japanese Association, 1935) (Book is in Japanese)

Box 3: folder 4
Medal received from the Japanese government honoring forty years of service with the Japanese

Box 3: folder 5


Box 3: folder 6
circa 1937-46

Box 3: folder 7
Album: "A picture story of the Kushikino adventure in Rural Reconstruction"
Jan 1938

Box 3: folder 8
Japanese Bible

Box 3a



Box 4: folder 1-6

Box 5: folder 1-7

Box 5: folder 8

Box 5: folder 9

Miscellaneous essays, studies, and reports,

Box 5: folder 10
Speeches and notes,
1939, undated

Box 5: folder 11
"Application of Certain American Labor Legislation to the Industrial Life of Japanese Women and Children," Master's thesis, Boston University,

Box 5: folder 12

Certificate: "Fifth Order of the Sacred Treasure,"

Flat File

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.

  • Japan--Description and travel--Sources
  • Japan--History--20th century--Sources
  • Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945--Sources
  • Missionaries--Japan--History--Sources
  • Peet, Azalia Emma, 1889-1973
  • Smith College--Students--History--Sources
  • Women--Education--Japan--History--Sources
  • World War, 1939-1945--Japan--Personal narratives, American
  • World War, 1939-1945--Women--Personal narratives, American

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