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Lorraine W. Benner papers

Identifier: MS 0629

Scope and Contents

The Lorraine Wineow Benner papers are made up of correspondence, travel diaries, biographical material, and photographs. Her correspondence consists of several letters by Benner and numerous letters from former host family and students at Ochanomizu Women's University, Tokyo, Japan (1958-1960). Twelve diaries reflect her experiences as a teacher and traveler in Europe (1956), Japan (1958), Scandinavia (1961), India (1964-1967), Germany (1971), and Greece (1973). Biographical material includes a resume, articles and clippings, sketches, and documents relating to her memorial service. The collection concludes with two undated photographs.


  • Creation: 1956-1995

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Lorraine Wineow Benner was born July 30, 1906 in Schenectedy, New York, and served on the faculty of Mount Holyoke College from 1951-1972 in the Department of Psychology and Education. Benner received her diploma from the Illman Kindergarten-Primary Training School in Philadelphia, and taught kindergarten in Longmeadow, Massachusetts from 1929-1943. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education in 1941 from Boston University and her Master of Arts degree in Child Development in 1945 from Teachers College at Columbia University. During her leave of absence in 1940-1941 from her position as a kindergarten teacher in Longmeadow, Benner received the one fellowship awarded annually by the Association for Childhood Education International and worked as a staff member at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. She remained actively involved with the Association thereafter. Benner taught Education at Wheelock College and Smith College between 1943 and 1951. In 1951 she was hired to teach in the Psychology and Education Department and to direct the Gorse Child Study Center at Mount Holyoke College. Benner received a Fulbright grant in 1957 to be a visiting lecturer in Child Development and Family Relations at Ochanomizu Women's University in Tokyo, Japan. In 1964-1965, Benner taught at Women's Christian College in Madras, India, as one of five American professors selected to participate in the newly established US-India Women's College Exchange Program. On sabbatical from Mount Holyoke College in 1966 and 1967, she used a faculty grant to study children in the Himalayan Mountain Region. In addition to her responsibilities at Mount Holyoke, Benner was involved with many communities and organizations related to child development and early childhood education. She consulted with Head Start, an early education teacher training program, and lectured abroad and regionally. Following her retirement in 1972, she remained active in local and regional organizations relating to her academic field until her death on February 10, 1995 in South Hadley, Massachusetts.


0.83 Linear Feet (2 full Hollinger boxes)

Language of Materials



Benner, Lorraine Wineow, 1906-1995; psychologist and college teacher. Mount Holyoke College faculty member, 1951-1972. Educator with the India Women's College Exchange. Papers contain correspondence, travel diaries, biographical information, and photographs primarily focusing on her letters from her former host family in Japan and twelve diaries pertaining to her teaching and traveling experiences. Collection contains material in English and Japanese.

Travel Diaries

Included in the collection are these diaries:

  1. 1. American Express tour of Europe in the Summer of 1956.
  2. 2. Teaching appointment in Japan, February - August 1958.
  3. 3. Holiday in Scandinavia, Summer of 1961.
  4. 4. Exchange appointment in Madras, June 30, 1964 - May 10, 1965.
  5. 5. Visit (July 7 - August 12, 1967) to the Himalayan R6gion, studying children.
  6. 6. Trip to Germany which included professional conference in Bonn, August 1971.
  7. 7. Week in Rhodes, February 1973.

Summary of Correspondence and Travel Diaries

By: CR Ludwig

October 1997

Himalayans Summer, 1967.

On her way west, Lorraine stopped off at Japan to visit friends, especially Mrs. Kato and those at Ochanowizu Women's University. In addition to her brief diary, there are comments labeled Notes on Observations at Chowrasta, Darjeeling. She found a great mingling of people: dietary restrictions tended to separate children: those who could not eat pork, those who could not eat beef, etc. The children looked healthy and reflected the friendliness of their parents, but there seemed a lack of activity, and little with which to play. Ayahs tended to be over-protective of their charges.

The Japan and Madras diaries give a general idea of what it was like in 1958 and 1964 for an American Professor of Child Study to step into a completely different environment on the other side of the globe, and to teach there as well.

India Diary, 1964-65.

In July, on arrival at Madras Women's Christian College, Lorraine was greeted with a garland of roses. She lived in a "hostel" along with 29 students. The heat was terrible and lasted for weeks. She took her meals with the students but the loan of a small refrigerator in November, along with a hot plate, helped to provide some change from student food, and there were frequent opportunities to eat out. A Chinese dinner at the Queens Hotel was a favorite. She participated fully as a faculty member in the life of the College, taking her turn at table waiting, leading chapel services, holding prayer meetings in her room. She had a group of advisees, did her own recording of grades in the office (there was no registrar). She set up arrangements with a neighboring kindergarten so that her students could observe on a regular ,basis. There were lectures in the community as well, one on "the Seriousness of Children's Play" given at the Y.

On Republic Day, January 26, 1965, Hindi was proclaimed the national language. No Hindi, however, was spoken in the south of India and there were student protests. The Government finally ordered the schools to close on February 10. Madras students were fasting and cutting classes. On February 11, when 23 students had been killed in the state, an emergency was declared. The College was closed until March 8; most of the students went home, many staff members left as well.

Despite Lorraine's busy schedule, there was still time for shopping, entertaining, visits to the 8-mile long beach (but no swimming - sharks and undertow), elaborate weddings (2000 guests), College functions like Alumnae Day, daily tea - frequently at the Coonamara Hotel - a conference in Bombay, and longer trips to Ceylon, a houseboat in Srinagar, Benares, Katmandu, an elephant ride at a wildlife sanctuary.

Japan Diary, 1958.

It was bitterly cold in Lorraine's apartment in Japan. On February 26, it was 42 degrees in her living room at 8 a.m. and she quickly learned to appreciate her Japanese bath, which was usually scheduled for early evening since guests had first use before the Kato family. She had regular teaching assignments with the Department of Child Study as well as special lectures to kindergarten teachers and others interested in small children. She wrote on April 17 that it had been a "real working day" teaching a class of over 100 in the morning with an interpreter, and in the afternoon from one to three teaching without one. She wrote in May that she found students learn by listening and were appalled by reading and writing assignments. Some of her lectures were at conferences with audiences of over 1000 and others were to smaller community groups at cultural centers. She traveled all over the country, north and south, visiting kindergartens as well, seeing the sights along the way. After one conference she wrote, "after four hours, the floor gets to be hard." There were theatre trips one Kabuki performance started at 11 and continued until 4:15 and many shopping trips, especially hunting Amari china.


Lorraine Benner, Professor of Psychology, had three overseas appointments: one in 1958 to Japan on a Fulbright at Ochanomizu Woman's College, another on an exchange program in 1964-65 to Madras Women's Christian College under the auspices of the US Department of State, and a third in the Summer of 1967 when she returned to India with a Mount Holyoke Faculty Grant to study children in the Himalayan Mountain Region.

The collection includes a few letters related to her Japan experience: letters of welcome written before she left South Hadley from students who report they are practicing their English, though at the "pace of a tortoise" in preparation for Lorraine's lectures in English; and letters of thanks and appreciation after she left Japan, including one from a student (September 9, 1958) which said we "forgot you were a foreign person." There is also one letter addressed to Dorothy Cogswell in Australia (member of the Art Department) from Lorraine which tells of her Western style apartment in the home of the Kato family, an apartment with all the facilities of her home on Jewett Lane except for the bath tub. She takes the evening meal usually with the Kato family. She wrote that language was a problem since few knew English; most of her lectures were accompanied by an interpreter. She was surprised to find that some English words in common usage had no Japanese equivalent.

Benner Papers, 1956-1995.
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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