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Dorothy Firman Van Ess papers

Identifier: MS 0875

Scope and Contents

The Dorothy Firman Van Ess Papers consist of diaries, correspondence, writings and research material, memorabilia, biographical and genealogical material, books, and photographs. This collection is organized into eight series: Diaries (1903-1972), Correspondence (1902-1976), Writings and Research Material (1903-1962), Memorabilia (circa 1906-1960), Cookbooks (1912-1941), Firman and Van Ess Family Papers (1893-1963), Biographical Material (1963-1975), and Photographs (1862-1970).


  • Creation: 1862 - 1976
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1902 - 1976

Biographical Note

Dorothy Firman Van Ess, a student, teacher, author, and missionary was born July 30, 1885 in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Her parents, Alice Freeman Firman and Butler Winfield Firman, were active in the Congregational Church and interested in missionary work. Her father was a partner in the firm of Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago, Illinois. Firman attended high school in Oak Park, Illinois. She attended Mount Holyoke College from 1902-1906, earning a B.A., and Wellesley College from 1906-1908, earning an M.A. in English Literature. She taught English at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota for a year before becoming a missionary in 1909. She met John Van Ess in Bahrain in 1910, and they married in 1911 and had two children, John, Jr. and Alice. She was a missionary to the Middle East for the Arabian Reformed Church in America from 1909-1955, and founded school for Arab girls in Basrah (now Basra), Iraq, in 1912. She returned to the United States in 1949 after the death of her husband. She traveled extensively in Kuwait, India, Persia, Lebanon, and Cyprus from 1955-1957. Her publications include “Meet the Arab,” 1943, and her books include Fatima and Her Sisters, 1960, and Pioneers in the Arab World, 1974. She died September 1, 1975 in Somers, New York at the age of ninety.


4.18 Linear Feet (11 boxes)

Language of Materials



Van Ess, Dorothy Firman, 1855-1975; student, teacher, author, missionary. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1906. Diaries, correspondence, writings, memorabilia, books, family papers, biographical material, and photographs primarily concerning her experiences as a student at Mount Holyoke College; her work as an educator and missionary in Basrah, Iraq; travels in Kuwait, India, Iran, Lebanon, and Cyprus; and family life.

Related Archival Materials

Additional papers of Dorothy Firman Van Ess are available at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute:

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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