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Ginling College records

Identifier: CA-MS-00016

Scope and Contents

The Ginling College Records cover a period from 1915 to 1993. However, the majority of the materials span the time when interaction between Smith and Ginling was at its peak, from 1920 to 1950. A large quantity of the material is composed of letters, reports, photographs, and publications. Other types of material represented in the collection include articles, published works, scrolls, banners, diploma, and other memorabilia.

The collection includes many letters from alumnae committees regarding the development of Ginling College, as well as minutes from meetings. Insight into the political turmoil rampant in China during the period can be gained from the reports of Ginling administrators and faculty. The Ginling College budgets are also included, with the breakdown of spending on various areas.

There are also a few papers on the history of Ginling College, most notably a book by Mrs. Lawrence Thurston, the first president of the College. Faculty files, such as that of Dr. Wu Yi-fang, detail what it was like to live and teach at Ginling at that particular period. Letters, notes, and bulletins of various organizations associated with Ginling also give one a sense of the early history of the college. There are records from the Association of Christian Colleges in China, the Board of Directors, the Board of Founders, and the United Board of Christian Colleges in China.

Photographs of buildings, students, and faculty in various time periods, accompanied by descriptions, also give one a feel for campus life. There are many newsletters on events and developments at Ginling, as well as brochures and course bulletins. Publications of student organizations and the President's reports also prove a good source of information on life at Ginling.

Dates of Materials

  • 1915-1993


Conditions Governing Access

Materials in the Smith College Archives are open for use, with the following exceptions: "Office Files," files of records created for the use of the administrative unit that created them, are closed to research for a period of 10 years following their creation.

Faculty tenure and promotion files, as well as inactive faculty files are closed permanently. Board of Trustees' records are closed permanently. Minutes of the Faculty Council are closed to all except current Smith College Faculty for a period of 75 years following their creation. Student academic records, student disciplinary records, and all records containing FERPA-covered student information are closed during the lifetime of the student. Student records created 100 years or more ago are assumed to be about deceased students. In all cases, the College Archives will continue to provide public access to materials that were intended to be public at the time of their creation (press releases, publications, etc.)

Box #1 is CLOSED until conservation is completed.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use..

Biographical / Historical

Ginling College opened in 1915 with six faculty and eleven students, the product of the imagination of a group of American women educators stranded in Shanghai in 1911, all refugees from the revolutionary turmoil in central China. One was Matilda Thurston, who became the first president of the College. She graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1896, and went to China in 1913 to find a location for Ginling, hire faculty, and recruit students. It was only in 1907 that the Chinese emperor issued an edict favoring education for women in China. The Revolution of 1911 marked a new beginning, and Ginling College was ultimately founded by five mission boards -- Northern Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Northern and Southern Methodists, and Northern Presbyterians. Each board pledged US$10,000 for buildings and equipment, the support of a representative on the teaching staff, and a contribution of US$600 toward current expenses.

Ginling graduated its first class in 1919; thus Wu Yi-fang, who would later become president of the College in 1928, and four other women became the first women in China to receive fully accredited Bachelor of Arts degrees. All subjects were taught in English except for the Chinese classics.

Smith's relationship with Ginling began in 1916. Through the enthusiasm of Delia Leavens '01 and Frederica Mead '11, both of whom had spent considerable time in China, the Smith College Association for Christian Work adopted Ginling as its foreign project. Their first campus contribution in 1916 amounted to $1,000 and was made annually until 1921, when it was raised to $2,500, due to increasing interest in Ginling. It was also in 1921 that Smith officially recognized Ginling as its "Little Sister in the Orient." During the difficult period of war, the contribution reached $4,000 a year. The Smith Alumnae Committee for Ginling was started in 1923, and Smith alumnae donated $50,000 for the construction of a recreation building in Ginling. Also, annual contributions to the current expenses of the College gradually increased until it reached a maximum of $5,500 a year.

Throughout the increasing turmoil in China, the relationship between Smith and Ginling flourished. The Sino-Japanese War began in 1937, and in 1938 Ginling College decided to go into exile in West China Union University in Chengtu. Smith raised almost $2,500 as a gift to Ginling to celebrate its twenty-fifth birthday in 1940, and this money was used for repairs after the war. The Smith College Alumnae Committee for Ginling was expanded in 1941 to include students and faculty. By 1942, fifteen Smith alumnae had taught at Ginling.

In 1943, Dr. Wu Yi-fang visited Smith to receive an honorary LLD. She brought the gift of a satin scarf bearing the signatures of all the Ginling seniors and an accompanying letter from them to Smith's 1943 graduating class, expressing their gratitude for their concern and help. After the new People's government was established on October 1, 1949, Dr. Wu was recognized as a leader in China and was asked to serve on various committees for education, women's rights, and community service. She began working to change the curriculum and the administration of Ginling so it would be acceptable to the new government.

The new government pushed for self-support and Chinese leadership in all its institutions, especially those connected with overseas schools and religious groups. In 1950, the U.S. and China cut off all financial transactions with each other. In 1951, Ginling was combined with the University of Nanking to become National Ginling University under government control. Smith was greatly troubled by these changes, and many Smith students and faculty wanted to transfer the Ginling support to Tunghai University in Taiwan, to which a number of Ginling College supporters had gone. Smith was frustrated by the confusion of the situation, so alumnae groups were notified not to collect funds for Ginling and by March 1954 most local Ginling committees had disbanded.

Ginling College re-opened in 1987 with sixteen students in a two-year course in Applied English in Nanking Normal University. In order for the government to permit it to re-open, Ginling had to provide courses that were unique, different from the others offered in Nanjing Normal University. In 1995, Ginling had 300 students in three programs -- Applied English, Nutrition and Food Sciences, and International Accounting. Ginling is also developing a year-long training program for around 100 women teaching in rural middle schools. The College is funded mainly by the government, although it does receive some private donations from Ginling alumnae and the Wu Yi-fang Memorial Foundation.


11.604 linear feet (14 containers)

Language of Materials



Foreign Sister College to Smith College. Contains notes, letters, reports, photographs, articles, and bulletins from Alumnae Committee members, Ginling College students and faculty, and others involved with Ginling.


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. I. Alumnae Committee for Ginling College
  2. II. Ginling College: General
  3. III. Organizations
  4. IV. Photographs
  5. V. Publications

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown

Processing Information

The Ginling College Records were processed by Alissa Chadburn 1998 and Katrina Cokeng 2002, Friends of the Smith College Libraries archival interns.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to Ginling College (Nanjing, Jiangsu Sheng, China) records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Alissa Chadburn and Katrina Cokeng; Ellice Amanna
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca16 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 11/15/18: Updated finding aid: new container numbers, barcodes, locations
  • 2019-11-22: Added boxes 1-5, updated dates and extents

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063