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Merrill papers

Identifier: MS 0571

Scope and Contents

The Katharine Merrill Ahlbers Skog Papers consist of correspondence, writings, memorabilia, biographical information, and photographs. Of particular interest is Merrill's correspondence, 1924-1983, which chiefly consists of forty-three letters written from the Matsuyama Girls' School in Matsuyama, Japan, between 1924-1940. Most of these documents appear to be copies of letters that Merrill wrote for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and sent to friends, mainly at Mount Holyoke College. The letters describe Merrill's life as a missionary teacher in great detail. She discusses the school and its summer camp; the surrounding city; Japanese customs; the daily and personal lives of her students and co-workers; visits to cities, temples, palaces and shrines; and a trip to China in 1925. She also discusses political and economic events such as the Sino-Japanese conflict, World War II, and the worldwide economic depression in the 1930s. She frequently mentions Olive S. Hoyt, Principal of the Matsuyama Girls' School and an 1897 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, and two of the letters in the collection are written by both Hoyt and Merrill. Later letters mention travels in Japan in 1966 and 1971 and in France, Germany, and Switzerland in 1966 and 1978; she also describes her life and travels while living in Sweden from 1964-1983. The collection includes a few personal letters that Merrill wrote to Bertha E. Blakely, Mount Holyoke College Librarian, Dorothy ("Deed") Camp Nourse, a Mount Holyoke classmate, and Mount Holyoke's president, David Bicknell Truman, as well as a 1944 note from Mary Emma Woolley, former president of the College. Writings include published and unpublished articles by Merrill, 1926-1937, concerning her work in Japan and her 1978 translation of an unpublished paper by Anne Sano-Gerber entitled "Getting to Know the Japanese." Memorabilia consists of programs, postcards, and documents, chiefly in Japanese, from the Matsuyama Girls' School, ca. 1924-1941. Rounding out the collection are articles and other biographical information relating to Merrill, ca. 1924-1968, and photographs, ca. 1913-1968, chiefly of her in Japan and with her husbands.


  • ca. 1913-1983

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Katharine Merrill was born on August 3, 1895, in Quincy, Massachusetts. Her father, John Flint Merrill was in the real estate business. She attended Woodward Institute in Quincy, from 1909-1913 then went to Mount Holyoke College from 1913-1917. She majored in German, zoology, and physiology and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1917. She graduated from Harvard University Summer School of Physical Education in 1922 and received her Masters in Education from Harvard Graduate School in 1928. She worked as a high school teacher of German, biology, physical education, geography, typewriting and girls' basketball in New York and Massachusetts from 1917-1924; she also was an actuarial clerk for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company from 1919-1921. Merrill was a missionary teacher at the Matsuyama Girls' School in Japan from 1924-1941. She taught physical education, English and folk dancing and earned a certificate from the Tokyo School of Japanese Language and Culture in 1933. In 1927-1928 Merrill returned to the United States and worked as a clerk at the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston while finishing her Master of Education degree from Harvard University. From 1942 until about 1954 she worked in Washington D.C. as a research analyst and Japanese translator for the Military Intelligence Service, a high school German teacher, and a translator for the Index Catalogue Division of the Armed Forces Medical Library. She married Knut Ahlbers in 1954 and in 1964 moved to his homeland, Sweden, where Ahlbers died. In 1968 she married Karl August Skog in Vasteras, Sweden. She died in Vasteras on November 27, 1983, at the age of eighty-eight.


1 boxes (1917)

Language of Materials



Skog, Katharine Merrill Ahlbers, 1895-1983; Teacher, translator, and missionary. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1917. Papers contain correspondence, articles and photographs; primarily consisting of correspondence commenting on her teaching and travels in Japan.


Arranged in 5 series: Series 1. Correspondence. Series 2. Writings. Series 3. Memorabilia. Series 4. Biographical Information. Series 5. Photographs.

Merrill papers, ca. 1913-1983.
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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