Manuscripts Division
William Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Mary Reynolds Papers, 1830-1835

Blandina Diedrich Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, 1995

Summary Information
Title: Mary Reynolds papers
Creator: Reynolds, Mary
Inclusive dates: 1830-1835
Extent: 6 items
The Mary Reynolds papers are comprised of six letters written home by a woman missionary and teacher in Turkey. Though few in number, the Reynolds letters offer an insight into one woman's view of the missionary endeavor.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William 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:

Donated by D. N. Diedrich. M-3091.1.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Mary Reynolds Papers, Blandina Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Mary Reynolds joined her husband in teaching at a missionary school in Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey, early in the 1830s. Living in the city under austere conditions, Mrs. Reynolds taught local girls drawn from a variety of religious backgrounds, including Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim, and, in the case of her own daughter, Henrietta, Protestant, operating her classroom on modified Lancasterian principles. Her intent, above all, seems to have been to save the girls from the "superstitions of their church," a daunting task, but one that she felt was attainable. Cheered with the thought that her efforts with the Turks had not been in vain, she wrote: "I do not say they are more ready to receive the Christian religion, but the barriers in the way of access to them are fast disappearing" (1830 September 28).

Despite her optimism, the Turkish state was repugnant to Reynolds, held together only by a hopelessly authoritarian and brutal government and by clerical dissembling. "The priests," she wrote, "Turkish, Catholic, Greek, Armenian, and Jewish hold the people in worse than Egyptian bondage" (1832 December 18-19), and throughout the nation "truth hides her head ashamed & falsehood stalks abroad at noon day" (1830 September 28). In their secular lives, she wrote, "the miserable inhabitants groan under a wretched despotism, and the farmer is never sure that the fruit of his toil can be called his own (1835 October 14).

In this context, Reynolds seems to have found it natural to interpret events in providential terms: the great fire in Constantinople was divine retribution for the immorality of foreign diplomats stationed there, and the arrival of plague and cholera signified that the end of the second Christian dispensation was drawing near, and that the millennium was close at hand. "We have therefore great need to 'watch unto prayer;'" she suggested to her brother, "and be active while life lasts" (1835 October 14).

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Mary Reynolds papers are comprised of six letters written home by a woman missionary teacher in Turkey, 1830-1835. Five of these letters were addressed to her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John Root of Greenwich, Mass., and the sixth was addressed to her sister, Martha Reynolds.

Though few in number, the Reynolds letters offer an insight into one woman's view of the missionary endeavor. As a devout Christian, her encounter with Islam is interesting as much for the manner in which she classifies Islam simply as one of a number of false religions used to delude the Turkish populace. Millennial expectations and a condescending, but genuine fascination with foreign culture pervade the correspondence.

Subject Terms

    • Biblical teaching.
    • Missionaries.
    • Islam.
    • Plague.
    • Punishment.
    • Religious life
    • Teachers.
    • Turkey--Politics and government--1829-1878.
    • Turkey--Social life and customs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   : Blandina Diedrich Collection  
    Mary Reynolds papers,  1830 August 14-1835 October 14 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Catholic Church--Turkey
    • 1835 October 14
    Children--Conduct of life
    • 1835 October 14
    • 1831 August 26
    • 1835 October 14
    Diplomats--Conduct of life
    • 1831 August 11-12
    • 1831 August 11-12
    Greek Orthodox Church
    • 1830 August 14-24
    • 1832 December 18-19
    • 1835 October 14
    Medical care--Turkey
    • 1831 August 11-12
    • 1835 October 14
    • passim
    • 1830 September 28
    • 1831 August 11-12
    • 1831 August 26
    Punishment--Biblical teaching
    • 1831 August 11-12
    • 1831 August 26
    Smyrna (Turkey)--Description
    • 1835 October 14
    • 1830 August 14-24
    • 1830 September 28
    Turkey--Description and travel
    • 1832 December 18-19
    Turkey--Politics and government--1829-1878
    • 1832 December 18-19
    • 1835 October 14
    Turkey--Religious life
    • 1832 December 18-19
    • 1835 October 14
    Turkey--Social life and customs
    • 1830 September 28
    • 1832 December 18-19
    • 1831 August 26
    Wolff, Joseph, -1862
    • 1830 August 14-24