Skip to main content

Helen Foster Snow papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 2219
Contains materials pertaining to the life and career of Helen Foster Snow. Includes professional interviews, correspondence, articles, essays, reviews, drafts, and photographs concerning the political climate in China during Japanese invasion, the lives of communist leaders and followers, and the Chinese Cooperative movements. All materials were created during the course of Helen Foster Snow's time as a foreign correspondent in China. Also included are Snow’s personal materials including photographs, family history records, and correspondence. Dated 1726 to 2000, with the bulk of materials dates 1930 to 1980.

Dates

  • 1726-2000
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1980

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials in English, with some documents in Chinese and some photographs displaying Spanish and Filipino content.

Conditions Governing Access

Restricted. Permission to use materials must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Helen Foster Snow papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Extent

190 boxes (95 linear ft.)

8 cartons (8 linear ft.)

13 oversize boxes (6.5 linear ft.)

1 oversize folder (0.1 linear ft.)

Biographical History

Helen Foster Snow (1907-1997) was an American journalist, photographer, and activist in China.

Helen Foster Snow was born on September 21, 1907 in Cedar City, Utah. She attended West High School and, after graduating, attended the University of Utah. She took the civil service exam, gained a position in China, and moved to Shanghai in August of 1931. After arriving in China, Helen met Edgar Snow, a reporter also from the U.S. The two were married on December 25, 1933 in Tokyo, Japan. After moving to Peking where Helen Foster Snow attended and Edgar taught at Yanjing University, they began publishing information regarding the Manchurian incident. Helen Foster and Edgar Snow sympathized with the students who protested the government and its complacency toward Japanese invasion. They helped plan the December movements, and covered events censored in Chinese papers.

Helen published an interview with Zhang Xueliang, a general, who expressed support for communists, contradicting Chiang Kai Shek. In 1937, Edgar and Helen published the magazine Democracy. She worked on the editorial board of the magazine and later as the editor while Edgar wrote Red Star over China.

Snow entered the Communist camp in April of 1937, where she interviewed leaders, women, and children of the camp. She would publish her findings in her book Inside Red China in 1938. Helen later toured the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives and wrote to raise support of the initiatives. She later returned to the United States, living in Madison, Connecticut, and travelling the world. Helen died on January 11, 1997.
Biographical History Edgar Snow (1905-1972) was a journalist and foreign correspondent in China.

Edgar Snow was born on July 10, 1905 in Kansas City, Missouri. Snow moved to China as a correspondent for the Consolidated Press Association. Edgar met Helen Foster Snow when she came to China. The two were married on December 25, 1933 in Tokyo, Japan. They moved to Peking, where Edgar taught at Yanjing University. At the University, Edgar and Helen sympathized with the students protesting the government’s allowance of Japanese invasion. The two helped organize movements like the December 9th movement of 1935, and provided press coverage of events censored by Chinese papers.

In June of 1936 Edgar left Peking for Xian, and into the communist camp as the first foreign journalist in that territory. He composed the first biographical account of Mao during this time. Mao asked Ed to set peace terms between the Nationalists and the Chinese Government. An interview with Mao published in Life magazine in 1936 gained a great amount of attention. Edgar Snow became the editor to his new magazine Democracy. Red Star Over China, Edgar’s book on his time with the communists was published in 1938. Edgar Snow died on February 15, 1972 in Eysins Switzerland.

Arrangement

Arranged in nine series: 1. Helen Foster Snow family papers, 1833-1999. 2. Helen Foster Snow Asia Years papers, 1927-1997. 3. Helen Foster Snow published and unpublished manuscripts, 1919-1995. 4. Helen Foster Snow correspondence, 1940s-1990s. 5. Helen Foster Snow photographs, 1907-1997. 6. Helen Foster Snow audio-visual materials, 1937-1999. 7. Helen Foster Snow artifacts, approximately 1850, 1925-1991. 8. Helen Foster Snow miscellaneous materials, 1726-1997. 9. Helen Foster Snow collection addendum, 1925-2000.

Other Finding Aids

Item- and file-level inventory available online.http://files.lib.byu.edu/ead/XML/MSS2219.xml

Custodial History

The Helen Foster Snow Collection began as Helen accumulated material during her time in China. Her China years began in 1931. Snow collected and maintained both her own material and much of the work of her husband, Edgar Snow. Edgar Snow removed some of his materials in 1949, and these are housed at University of Missouri at Kansas City--primarily the journals of Edgar Snow and some of his correspondence.

Helen returned to the United States in 1940 and purchased a farm in 1941 in Madison, Connecticut where she accumulated and housed materials until her death in May of 1997. She entrusted her niece, Sheril Bischoff, to be the executors of her estate, which included the task of finding an archive for her collection. The storage conditions made it difficult for the Bischoffs to establish an original order.

As alumni of Utah State University, the Bischoffs made an offer to place the papers there. The Bischoffs retrieved the collection and placed it elsewhere. The Bischoffs, contacted Harvard Heath to explore the possibility of donating the Helen Foster Collection to Brigham Young University. The library and administrative officers at Brigham Young University endorsed the proposal and the donation was accepted. The instruments of gift for the collection was executed in two installments: one in September 1997 and the other in July 1998.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; The Helen Foster Snow Literary Trust, Sheril and Garth Bischoff, and trustees and donors; 1997-1998.

Appraisal

Utah and American West and LDS cultural, social, and religious history (20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.VII, 2007).

Separated Materials

Accompanying the some 450 cartons of manuscript and photograph material was Snow's library of some 200 books. The majority of the books were either placed in the general stacks, Special Collections, or removed from the collection. An inventory of the original books received is available in the case file.register

Processing Information

Processed; Harvard Heath (Curator 20th Century Collections) and Lisa Lyons Van Tassell (Student Assistant); edited and Completed by Taylor M. Dix (Student Assistant); March 2004.
Processing Information Processed; John Murphy, Serena Martinez, Miranda Greer, and Marisa Ireland; 2014-2016.
Processing Information Processed; Amy Jacobs and Ruth Favela, and Devan Hunsaker; 2016-2019.

Creator

Title
Register of Helen Foster Snow papers
Status
completed
Author
Harvard Heath, Lisa Lyons Van Tassell, and Taylor M. Dix
Date
2004 March
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Revision Statements

  • 2010 December 15: Updated to DACS and CCLA compliance by Jonathan. Edited for compliance with DACS and CCLA standards.
  • 2016-2019: Added item level description in series 5; Amy Jacobs, Ruth Favela, and Devan Hunsaker.
  • 2020 April-October: Reviewed and edited series 5, added item level description for slides, added artifacts series, consolidated collection physically and added separated containers, other edits throughout, Ashley Chase, Andy VanDomelon, Karen Glenn

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

Contact:
1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States