Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Mary Alice Foley Papers, 1937-1995

Finding aid created by
K. E. M., July 1998

Summary Information
Title: Mary Alice Foley papers
Creator: Foley, Mary Alice, 1925-1996
Inclusive dates: 1937-1995
Bulk dates: 1937-1945
Extent: 254 items (1 volume, 18 letters, 213 photographs, 22 miscellaneous items)
Mary Alice Foley and her parents, American residents of Manila, were interned by the Japanese during World War II in a camp at the University of Santo Tomas. This collection contains her mother's journal, 213 photographs of Mary Alice, her family, and her friends, school girl letters, manuscripts and publications created and received while in the camp, and materials created for internee reunions.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Gift of John and Paul Ison, 1998. M-3391.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Mary Alice Foley Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Mary Alice Foley, born in 1925, was the only child of Frank Gerald Foley and Ella Delores McTeague. Frank and Ella married in 1923. Frank worked for a firm in America that sent him to the Philippines on business in mid-1937. Mary Alice and her mother stayed in New York, where the family lived, until October 1937, when they embarked on a sea voyage to join Frank in Manila. They left Brooklyn on October 14, 1937, passed through the Panama Canal, and arrived in Manila on November 25. They lived in an apartment hotel in Manila. Mary Alice began school in 1938 at Maryknoll Normal School, a Catholic school. Her mother entertained herself with cocktails, shopping, and watching movies, while her father continued to work for the American firm, but considered switching jobs to a company based in the Philippines. On May 23, 1938, the family left Manila to sail back to New York, stopping in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Japan on the way.

Frank apparently lost his job after the family returned to America, because the firm went bankrupt. He decided to take the job in Manila, dealing in sugar and coconut oil, and the family returned to the Philippines before 1940. Mary Alice went to school at the American School in Manila. She was a freshman during the 1939-40 school year. When war in the Pacific broke out, the United States told civilian families they would be safe in Manila, so Mary Alice and her family remained there. On December 9, 1942, the Japanese attacked the Philippines, and by January 2, 1943, the Japanese occupied Manila. On that day, they sent the civilians of enemy countries into an internment camp at the University of Santo Tomas. Mary Alice and her family remained there until they were liberated by allied forces on February 3, 1945.

Internees in the camp lost their freedom and privacy, but food and other provisions were adequate for most of the camp's existence: not until mid-1944 did the food supply grow scarce, causing some people to die of malnutrition. The internees slept in large, sex-segregated dormitories, with 40 to 50 people in a room. They were given some autonomy in the camp, created classes for school children and college students, published an internment newspaper, and occasionally put on plays or talent shows. Mary Alice continued her high school studies while interned, and graduated from high school on April 30, 1943. She began college classes after graduation.

The family was on their way home by April 3, 1945, and resumed life in New York, staying with Ella's sister, Irene McTeague. Mary Alice later moved to Long Island, and, near the end of her life, Scarborough, New York. Mary Alice never forgot the time spent in the internment camp, and she attended the fortieth and fiftieth reunions of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. At the fiftieth reunion, she gave a speech. Mary Alice died in 1996, at the age of 71.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection contains a wide variety of items from before, during, and after the Foley family's internment. Ella Foley's journal, 213 photographs of Mary Alice, family, and her friends, school girl letters, manuscripts and publications created and received while in the camp, and materials created for internee reunions are all present. A number of loving cups from the Polo Club in Manila and several publications have been transferred to the Graphics and Book Divisions, respectively.

Chronologically, the first item is a diary Ella Foley kept from October 13, 1937 to July 8, 1938, covering the family's first stay in Manila. She began the diary the day before she and Mary Alice left New York to join Frank in Manila, so the first two months give an detailed description of the sea voyage, including an interesting description of the Panama Canal (1937 October 22). Many of the photographs with the collection are pictures from the various places the Foleys visited while traveling to and from Manila, including the Panama Canal, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Japan.

The diary describes what life was like for Ella during her husband's first journey to Manila. Ella was not happy in the Philippines and hoped that her husband would not accept a permanent job there. "Manila would be a terrible future home," she wrote in her diary on 1838 January 6. Ella did not have much to do, especially since the hotel staff took care of their apartment. She made friends with some other American couples living in the Philippines, such as Mae and Jerry Sheehan, possibly related to John Sheehan, a priest who was interned with the Foleys during the war. Ella interacted very little with native Filipinos. She kept herself busy by seeing a movie nearly everyday, shopping, going to the polo club, drinking cocktails (she was especially fond of "White Ladies"), and even gambling.

Ella was a devout Catholic, despite her gambling, and went to church every Sunday, and celebrated all the holidays. On Good Friday, she went to go see the "Flagellantes," although she was somewhat skeptical: "It looked like blood on his back but it might have been red paint" (1938 April 15). Ella hardly mentioned anything about Japanese aggression, only noting that Japan had bombed the American gunboat "Panay" (1937 December 13). On her way back from Manila in 1938, she even stopped in Japan, as well as Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Of the letters in the collection, ten of them were sent to Mary Alice by various schoolmates during the Foleys' second stay in Manila. During 1940-41, Mary Alice was pleased with her school and had an active social life, spending time with her friends at the Polo Club. Many of the pictures in her scrapbook and additional pictures were taken by her and her friends at the Polo club. Mary Alice and her pals were particularly interested in boys, and spent paragraphs discussing the behavior of boys in their class and parties they attended.

Mary Alice's sheltered teenage world was dramatically changed with internment. Items from the internment camp include: school work and a report card, showing Mary Alice's graduation from high school; 3 birthday and Christmas cards; a small diary kept by Mary Alice from April 22 to May 26, 1944; "Our Time," a satirical play of internment life, broadcast over the PA system in 1942; the September 1942 issue of "The Internitis," a newspaper published by internees; worksheets for Spanish verbs; an internment baseball program; a listing of camp rules from 1942; and a transcription of a speech made for her high school graduation.

Also from that time period are seven letters from the War Department to her mother's sister Irene McTeague and father's brother Joseph H. Foley; three camp form-letter postcards that Mary Alice and her mother sent to people in the United States; and an article about the camp from Life, September 7, 1942. Mary Alice later compiled the letters, the postcards, some photographs, the camp rules of 1942, and a brochure showing pictures of Santo Tomas into a scrapbook.

The play, "Our Time," (of which Mary Alice contributed the lyrics to one song) and "The Internitis" reveal the internees' life and their methods of coping with their loss of freedom and uncertainty in the future. The Japanese did not seem to censor the publications too strictly, so "Our Time" satirized life in camp through comments like, "Why clean any [more rooms]? We'll only be here for 3 days," and "that Venetian blind is a lot softer than this concrete to sleep on" ("Our Time," page 1). "The Internitis" has stories and articles relating to camp life, and reveals the wearing nature of being interned as well as the internees' efforts to create a normal life by building shanties for privacy and exchanging recipes.

The Christmas and birthday cards to Mary Alice and her mother try to be full of optimism and hope, with sentiments such as, "May this xmas be a nice one / Even though you are in here" (Betsy McRea, n.d.). Mary Alice, as recorded in her diary, kept herself busy by working at internment camp jobs, playing baseball, and taking college courses in "Economics, English Lit. & Psychology" (1944 May 25). She also recorded her weight in 1944, and noted how it had dwindled from 164 pounds on May 1, 1944 to 124 pounds on January 1, 1945.

The post-internment materials in the collection include a letter to Mary Alice from Rev. John Sheehan, who was also interned in Santo Tomas and in 1945 was touring the country speaking about his experiences. Finally, the collection contains photographs from the fortieth and fiftieth reunions of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp and a transcription of the speech given by Mary Alice at the fiftieth reunion. The speech gives some additional details of life in the camp.

Subject Terms

    • Concentration Camps--Philippines--Manila.
    • Philippines--History--Japanese Occupation 1942 1945--Personal Narratives.
    • Santo Tomas (Concentration camps)
    • Women--Diaries.
    • World War, 1939-1945--Prisoners and prisons, Japanese.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Photographs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Mary Alice Foley papers,  1937 October 13-1995 February 3 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Name Index

    • Blake, Gilsch G.
    • Bresse, Colonel Howard F.
    • Foley, Ella Delores
    • Foley, Frank Gerald
    • Foley, Joseph H.
    • Foley, Mary Alice, 1925-1996
    • Lennox, S.D.
    • McRea, Betsy
    • McTeague, Irene L.
    • Sheehan, Rev. John J.
    • Skeoch, Robert P.
    • Bunny
    • Margie
    Separated Material

    Nine loving cups from the Manila Polo Club, 1940-1941, were transferred to the Graphics Division.

    The following materials have been transferred to the Book Division:

    American School... Year-Book, 1940 and 1941, Manila, Santo Thomas Internment Camp 20th Anniversary Celebration

    1957 Roll Call of Santo Thomas Internment Camp.

    Santo Tomas Internment Camp anniversary booklet, 1945-1965 : "The Twentieth Reunion" of the "Class of 1945" from Santo Tomas University School of Experience, graduate and undergraduate "Degrees in Survival [China Lake, Calif. : s.n.], 1965.

    Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Manila, Philippines : 40th anniversary reunion STIC-LBIC, Feb. 7-11th, 1985, Las Vegas, Nevada. [Las Vegas : s.n., 1985]

    Dang, Donald M. Survival in Santo Tomas : a portfolio of sketches & commentaries. Kailua, Hi. : The Author, c. 1991.

    Partial Subject Index
    • passim
    • passim
    Catholic Church--Customs and practices
    • passim
    Christmas Cards
    • passim
    • passim
    Concentration Camps--Philippines--Manila
    • passim
    • (Diary of Ella Foley, 1937 December 29)
    • (Diary of Ella Foley, 1938 April 15)
    • passim
    • passim
    • passim
    High School Students--Philippines--Manila
    • passim
    Hong Kong (China)--Descriptions and travel
    • (Diary of Ella Foley, 1938 May 25-26)
    Internment camps
    • passim
    Japan--Description and travel
    • (Diary of Ella Foley, 1938 June 5-8)
    Los Angeles (Calif.)--Descriptions and travel
    • (Diary of Ella Foley 1937 October 31-November 1)
    • passim
    Ocean liners
    • passim
    Panama--Description and travel
    • (Diary of Ella Foley, 1937 October 22)
    Philippines--Description and travel
    • passim
    Philippines--History--Japanese Occupation 1942 1945--Personal Narratives
    • passim
    • passim
    Santo Tomas (Concentration camps)
    • passim
    Shanghai (China)--Descriptions and travel
    • (Diary of Ella Foley, 1938 May 30)
    Spanish Language--Verb--Tables
    • passim
    • passim
    • passim
    World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Philippines
    • passim
    World War, 1939-1945--Humor, caricatures, etc.
    • passim
    World War, 1939-1945--Prisoners and prisons, Japanese
    • passim