[Mary S. Sims of the YWCA, New York.] 146 Autograph Letters Signed and other correspondence to her English cousin H. Herbert C. Arthur, regarding her work travelling around America as YWCA 'Secretary for Cities', and other matters.

Mary S. Sims (1886-1976), Executive Secretary and Secretary for Cities, the National Board of The Young Women's Christian Associations, New York [Agatha Mary Harrison, Quaker; H. Herbert C. Arthur]
Publication details: 
Most from New York [National Board of Young Womens Christian Associations of the United States of America]; others from various parts of America and England. Written between 1917 and 1928.
SKU: 15983

146 Autograph Letters Signed and 4 Typed Letters Signed, 1 Autograph Note Signed, 1917-1928, with 3 Autograph Cards Signed and one Post Office Telegram. Totalling in excess of 500pp. The collection is in good condition, with light aging and wear. All letters in their envelopes. Sims addresses Arthur as 'Bert' (and on one occasion as 'Mon cher cousin'), and the envelopes are mostly addressed to him at his home, 59 Howard Road, New Malden, Surrey, or at his place of work with the Inland Revenue, York House B3, Kingsway, London. (Arthur was an active member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Kingston-on-Thames Circuit, and Hon. Collector of the Theological Institution Fund.) Three-quarters of the letters are sent from America, with all but around twenty from New York. Addresses include: Women's University Club, New York; National Board of the Young Womens [sic] Christian Associations; Central Young Women's Christian Association, Pittsburgh; The Blackstone, Chicago; The Eyrie, Seal Harbor, Maine; Hotel Statler, Buffalo; Clift Hotel, San Francisco; Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City; Hotel Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania; Hartford, Connecticut; Washington DC; Regent's Palace Hotel, Piccadilly Circus. Several of the letters are written on board ships, and two are sent from Paris and one from Rome. Sims played a prominent part in the YWCA in America, and is the author of 'The natural history of a social institution: the Young Women's Christian Association' (New York: Women's Press, 1936) and 'The YWCA and Social Awakening', in 'The YWCA-an unfolding purpose' (New York: Women's Press, 1950). She was the only child of Joseph Stephens Sims (1846-1915) of Simsbury, Connecticut (originally of Camborne, Cornwall), and his wife Elizabeth M. Cables Sims (1855-1941). (Twelve Autograph Letters Signed from the mother (as 'Cousin Lizzie') are also present in this collection, including one to Arthur's wife Hope and one jointly to husband and wife.) She was a close friend and colleague of Agatha Mary Harrison (1885-1954), prominent English campaigner for workers' rights (particularly in China), and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, and the letters contain several references to her. (For more information about Harrison, whose own letters to Arthur are offered separately, see her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.) An interesting and illuminating correspondence, in a distinctly modern voice, with Sims proving herself to be a forward-looking woman of great character, employed in a prominent position within a progressive organisation. (Since its 1910 Berlin Conference the World YWCA had switched its emphasis to the education of working women and the amelioration of social conditions.) Her staff in 1927 consists of fifteen: '13 are white & 2 are negros [sic] and we have been sitting together 2 hours in the morning & 2 in the afternoon every day discussing our plans'. Sims's work as 'Secretary for Cities' is unusual for a woman of the period, as it involves a large amount of travel across America. On 15 April 1917 she writes: 'I am just back from a short trip through the middle west, Chicago and Minneapolis and around there, I stopped in Canada, Toronto and Ottawa on my way back. I was working of course. My job takes me out of the city some of the time, but I am rather closely tied here through the winter months by committee meetings and such. [...] Just now I am reading up as part of my job on the economic and industrial changes in the lives of women because of the war'. And later in the same year (1 May 1917): 'I am enclosing a pamphlet that I got out to all of our city associations last week. [...] I have checked the paragraphs I wrote and of course I edited it all. It is rough work for it was done in a hurry.' On 12 January 1919: 'I have been in the sleeper every night but three in the last two weeks and expect to be on almost as much the next two weeks. We have such terrific distances here, it is 2 days and 2 nights from San Francisco to Seattle and 5 days and 4 nights across the continent. These are very busy days but I rather enjoy the traveling as I get a little time to read. Have you read the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? It is quite worth reading. Also Richard Baldrock by Marshall. I am reading now Mr Morgenthau's book on his experiences in Turkey as American Ambassador in the first years of the war.' A letter of 21 March 1926 provides a view of Sims's New York apartment: 'My dearest Bert/ I am typing this on my own little typewriter sitting in our living room at eleven thirty in the morning. Annie Kate is darning a heap of light coloured silk stockings. A girl called Olive Crabtreee is reading in one corner, her home is in Hull. Her father makes tinboxes. On the other side is a girl called Kate Wilson who is reading the Sunday paper. She comes from London but really lives in Buenos Aires only she is staying here now. I am the everlasting limit not to have gotten a letter off on the Olympic yesterday. Someway the days pass so rapidly I cant realize that the boat day has come. I really am ashamed. Now it is spring we go out so much that there doesn't seem to be any spare time. [...] We are rather mixed up because the Worlds Committee wants us, both Annie Kate and me, to do some work at an Institute in Surrey in June about June 19 or 21 to the 25 or so and then to be in London at the British biennial for a few days. [...] We, A. K. and I, have to go to our old Convention in Milwaukee in April.' ('Annie Kate' or 'A. K.' is the 'Associate Secretary, Cities' Annie Kate Gilbert. A letter from Gilbert is also present, postmarked 3 November 1926, in which she writes, following a visit with Sims to England: 'You can't imagine how much more fun Mary and I [have] from a common knowledge of places and people - & particularly because of the family. You all were terribly good to take me in as one of you. | Mary and I have just voted - without much intelligence - for we don't know all the men - but for those we do know there was a big cross. The out-of-doors sounds like election day - we intend to be in the thick of it after the theatre tonight - on Broadway - Agatha, Peg [Margaret E. Burton?], Mary & I, a completely feminine crowd.') Other topics include: his character and hers (On 24 August 1923: 'I am in no way an extraordinary person, some of the things in me that seem to impress you are essentially the result of the kind of life I lead. I am spurred on all the time, in training as it were, to a certain type of conversation and to a variety of interests [...] I have long known that the only real values were personal ones - everything else is not worth considering.'); his family; her trips to England in 1921, 1923 and 1926; his trip to Germany in 1922 ('I certainly would like to be with you. We hear such conflicting reports here. Did you read that article in the Atlantic last spring on the Mind of Germany. Do write me what you really think. There isn't any censor now.'); her 'agnostic point of view' and his 'paganish' nature; her academic ambitions ('Oxford is certainly a marvelous place. I think I shall end by studying there even though the work I really want is best got at the University of London'); politics (including the impeachment of Governor Jack C. Walton of Oklahoma in 1923); her extensive reading (on 27 January 1919, for example: 'Ambassador Morgenthau's story of his experiences in Constantinople, the Green Mirror by Hugh Walpole, the Money Maker by Gilbert Parker, the Old Franciscan Missions of California by James, the Small House at Allington by Trollope, the Program of the British Labour Party and about 40 magazines'); her travels (12 January 1919: 'I get awfully mixed up with the seasons when I do so much traveling, in the last 10 days I have been from snow and 10 below zero to flowers and sunshine and orange groves glowing with golden fruit, to say nothing of all the stages between'); the American landscape (On 7 November 1923: 'I wonder often what you would think if you were with me on some of these long journeys over our vast country. I have just been in El Paso. I wonder if you have a map that shows it, the extreme southwest of Texas, right at the Mexican border. A city made out of the desert, 3700 feet above sea level and surrounded by bare rocky mountains blue & purple & rose in the dazzling sun.'); his unhappy employment ('I wish you could pull out of your job [...] I hate having anyone with your brains condemned to that ghastly clerical work [...] don't think there is anything fine in settling down now and letting people kick you because there isn't [...] It's so long since I've seen you I hardly know how I dare to write this way'); his high opinion of her (on 23 July 1923, on her return to America from England, she writes: 'I'm awfully glad if I didn't disappoint you too much. I was rather worried after 8 years of your weaving fancies around me.'); her liking for opera and the theatre ('I forget whether you disapprove of these amusements'); the prohibition of alcohol in America; the difference between the American and English characters; parenting (her 'distinctly modern feeling that children belong to their fathers as much as their mothers even when they are a beastly nuisance'); the 'rotten' American educational system; her home routine; her full social life (in 1927: 'We seem to do so many things these days. I'm sure I don't see why we do - it isn't merely work that keeps me busy, its doing stupid social things that mostly aren't much fun anyway.'); travel arrangements; the First World War ('I am very glad though that we are in the war now, but I do not see how we could have come in before.'); President Woodrow Wilson ('a real statesman'); the signing of the armistice ('I am so conscious that we here in America have never realized the war, that we have had no privations and few sorrows');. Letter of 11 August 1925 accompanied by typescript (2pp., 8vo) , with pencil note by Sims, giving a 'Summary of Replies' at the 'Conference on Religious Institutes and Summer Schools Asbury Park, N. J., - May 6, 1925'.) The correspondence includes several references to Sims's close friend Harrison. A letter of 27 March 1924 contains the first reference to her: 'Agatha Harrison was with us for 10 days and sailed on Saturday last for England. I certainly wanted to go with her. She is returning here however early in May as there is much to do this end.' And 19 May 1924: 'I have had busy days with our convention and then right on top of it the week of World's Committee meetings in Washington. [...] Agatha Harrison has again been staying with me but she sails in Saturday. Will you do something for me, will you take her out to tea one day. I would like you to know her. She is one of my very best friends and knows me better than most people, as you do. You will have much in common for she lived several years in Camborne when she was a little girl. Her father was one of the Wesleyan's Ministers there. She has not had an easy life but she has done a lot with it and she is a dear. She will be in London first after Whitsuntide for a few days staying with her sister. [...] Take Agatha to Lyons or some such place just where you would take me and she likes cut cake and cigarettes as I do. Don't take her any place expensive. She wouldn't like it. She has been out of England for 3 years except for April 3 to 19 of this year when she was there for C.O.P.E.C.' On 26 June 1924 she compares her character with Harrison's: 'in spite of your thinking to the contrary I really have no passion for reforming the world, I merely like what I work at & seems worth doing. Of course Agatha is unusual, she can do more at reforming than most people can and she is a dear. I hope you will see more of her.' On 26 September 1924: 'I'm glad you saw Agatha. She wrote me the other day that you were a great help to her. I feel something the way you do about her going to China, except that as you have undoubtedly seen she is temperamental and an individualist. The China staff is small, very small, compared with us here and it takes a large staff to be able, in my experience, to use people like her well. The small groups have to be so general in their interests and everybody do [sic] everything. They can't afford specialization nor do they provide the necessary buffers.' On 11 August 1925: 'Agatha showed me her letter to you. I'm glad she is writing and I know you can do things, but you must put your health first, even China can wait'. On 11 February 1926: 'Agatha says you were the greatest comfort and the most understanding person in England to talk to. I am so glad you like each other.' On 27 July 1925: 'Agatha showed me your letter to her. I was proud of it, with its fine and sympathetic understanding of the China situation and also of how it is seeming to her. These weeks have been hard for her. You are a very intuitive person.' A letter of 1 September 1925 encloses a typed copy of a letter from Harrison to C. W. Shipway of Letchworth, with a copy of the letter to which she is angrily responding. In her letter Sims writes of Shipway: 'Agatha suggests he may be a Wesleyan brother and as such you might deal with him. I would suggest a punch in the eye.' There is an amusing account, on 14 October 1922, from the Skirvin Hotel, Oklahoma City: 'I thought you would enjoy this stationery. I assure you it isn't nearly as wild as the place itself. The whole place acts like the movies. There is a special session of the state legislature called. This is the capitol [sic] of the state and most of the legislators are staying in this hotel and are endeavouring to impeach the governor for all kinds of things, releasing 279 convicts in 6 months is one of the least. Most of them are young for it is a very young part of the country and they wear broad cowboy hats and some of them blue denim overalls and smoke horrid black cigars. I like your pipe much better.' (The letter is accompanied by a cutting of an editorial on the subject from the Daily Oklahoman, 14 October 1923.) On 6 May 1924 she writes that she is 'in the convention which closes today and then on Thursday I go to Washington to the World's Committee meeting. The Viscountess Gladstone spoke last night on the League of Nations. She was quite good.' On 26 September 1924: 'My secretary comes up every day with the letters and I dictate so you see I am not ill merely careful. I am going out to a meeting this afternoon however and expecting to be entirely fit by Monday.' On 7 November 1920: 'Did you know I have acquired a small freehold in Cornwall, isn't it a joke? I always did own the house or sort of own it in the messy way they do things and now I have bought for £50 the land it stands on. I think the rate of exchange was what really tempted me as I had to pay only $181.50 for the £50. Do you know American money well enough to realize how small that is - When you get absolutely poverty stricken through your consistency I will let you live in it for a modest consideration.') On 12 January 1927: 'I have had my staff in since the 4th. when we are all together it is 15 - 13 are white & 2 are negros [sic] and we have been sitting together 2 hours in the morning & 2 in the afternoon every day discussing our plans. It is most interesting but fatiguing. Tomorrow night mother, A. K., Agatha & I are planning to hear the English singers.' 9 May 1928: 'Agatha sails tonight on the Aquitania. She has heard that her mother is ill so is going now instead of later.' In letter postmarked 24 February 1928: 'We went to a most interesting play last night a negro folk play called Porgy from the book of the same name by Durose [sic] Heyward. I wish you could get it and read it. It shows a whole other side of America'. 20 May 1928: 'We thought we would come down on Sunday in the afternoon that is mother, A.K. & I. I don't know what Margaret Burton is doing - you are good to say we might bring her. Perhaps we will but I will tell you on Sat. She is nice - quiet - a little older than I.' There are a number of suprisingly-liberal references to religion. On 19 May 1922 she writes: 'The more I think of you as a "pagan" the more pleased I am, because you really are you know. Of course you have several layers of convention and "inertia" and journalism, but underneath it all you are really very paganish and very, very nice.' And on 12 November 1922: 'I think probably what you say is true, we agree more than we realize. Of course I don't know what I do think about a great many things, for one thing religion. I have never believed one thing and then been vastly upset by learning something different. I can't remember being in the least disturbed in my college days by so called higher criticism. In other words I am not much interested in theology except as an intellectual pasttime. [sic] I find it at times very diverting from that standpoint. The most interesting books I have read in a long time are the volumes called an Outline of Science by Sir Arthur Thompson of the University of Aberdeen I believe it is, one of the Scotch universities anyway. I think I am too apt to see all round a question to ever be strongly partizan on any matter.' In April 1925: 'Don't worry about my orthodoxy, it doesn't exist. Bishop Brown seemed to get into trouble with his church but it came to nothing. We have an extremely reactionary group in this country, chiefly in the Baptist & Presbyterian churches. Very little in the Episcopal and not in the Methodist.' Towards the end of the correspondence she writes (23 March 1928): 'Your letters are so very dear - we never have talked much have we of the things of the spirit - perhaps it is because we are both Cornish and some things like personal immortality are not so much beliefs as a quality of life.' The last letter (20 May 1928) sees her on the verge of travelling to Southampton from New York on the SS Mauretania with her mother, 'A. K.' and the missionary Margaret Ernestine Burton (1885-1969).