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Fidelia Fiske papers

Identifier: MS 0536

Scope and Contents

The papers of Fidelia Fiske consist of papers chiefly relating to her work as a missionary in Persia from 1843-1858, and to her later work at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Of particular importance are letters written by Fiske between 1843-1864. These documents describe her voyage to and overland travel in Persia, her work wth her school and the villager's reactions and political resistance to her work. These sources are complemented by other writings, including her book, "Recollections of Mary Lyon (1866)." Biographical material includes an obituary published in July, 1864 in an unidentified newspaper. The biographical information is supplemented by books, articles and notes written after her death. The collection also contains a small amount of memorabilia, including a New Testament Bible in Syriac, as well as a series of photographs which includes a portrait of Fiske and photos of The Fiske Female Seminary in Persia.


  • Creation: 1841-1866

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Fidelia Fiske was born on May 1, 1816 in Shelburne, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Rufus Fiske and Hannah Woodward Fiske. Fiske was educated in Shelburne district schools and spent one term at Franklin Academy. She taught in Shelburne's district schools before entering Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1839. Her education was interrupted in 1840-1841 while she recovered from typhoid fever. She returned in the fall of 1841 and graduated in 1842. After teaching for a year at the Seminary, she convinced her family that despite her poor health she was going to accompany Dr. Justin Perkins to Persia. She sailed from Boston on March 1, 1843. In Orumiyeh, Fiske was in charge of founding a girls' boarding school. The school continued to grow under Fiske's supervision from its opening in October of 1843 until her failing health forced her to return to United States in 1858. In the United States she was a teacher at Mount Holyoke between 1859-1864, until her death of "general inflamation of the lymphatic vessels" on July 26, 1864, in Shelburne, Massachusetts; she was forty-eight years old.


3 boxes (Faculty/Staff)

Language of Materials



Fiske, Fidelia, 1850-1895; Teacher and missionary. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduate, 1842. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary teacher, 1858-1864. Papers contain letters and her book entitled, "Recollections of Mary Lyon." Primarily consisting of letters regarding her journey to Persia and her founding of a girls' school while a missionary there.


Arranged in 5 series.

  1. 1. Correspondence
  2. 2. Writings
  3. 3. Biographical Information
  4. 4. Memorabilia
  5. 5. Photographs

Summary of Correspondence, 1841-1875

Fidelia Fiske was teaching at Mount Holyoke Seminary in 1843 when Dr. Perkins, missionary to the Nestorian Christians in Persia, called for someone to accompany him and his wife on their return to Persia in order to found a school for girls at Oroomiah. Fidelia was chosen and on March 1st then sailed from Boston. Fidelia's first letter addressed to Miss Whitman was written on March 13th aboard their "frail bark"; she felt that she would "meet no more my dearest earthly friends." Her letters continued to those at the Seminary for the next 14 years, through July 15, 1851. These letters as well as others written after her return to Massachusetts (November 14, 1859 to June 17, 1864) are included in the collection. The voyage was unusually short, only 21 days on the Atlantic. The accommodations were "very comfortable" although the dreaded foe-sea sickness - descended soon after departure. After several weeks in Constantinople visiting missionary families, they went on by boat to Trebizond (along with hundreds of deck passengers) where the land journey began. Donkeys and men were the means of transport; 150 pounds was an ordinary load for a porter. It was 200 miles to Erzeroom (she "rather enjoyed" the ride) and another 17 days to Oroomiah. Fidelia had a room at the Stockings, a missionary family in Oroomiah When the school opened in October of 1843 there were 15 girls, but by Christmas there were 30. Gradually more and more pupils became boarders. Sickness, especially cholera, death, government. harrassment, struggles between Kuords and Mountain Nestorians, "Mussulman" resistance - all threatened the work and the life of the missionary. 1n 1847 Mary Susan Rice came out from the Seminary to be Fidelia's assistant. Her missionary work extended to the women, as she traveled among the villages. Ill health led to her return to the United States in 1858. She continued close ties with the Seminary until her death in 1864.

Fiske papers, 1841-1866.
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Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA