Scope and Content
Title: Elsie Thomas Culver Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1945 - 1979
Date (bulk): (bulk, 1945-55)
Accession number: GTU 92-9-01
Shelf location: 2/I/2 - 2/I/3
Culver, Elsie Thomas
Size: 8 boxes, 2 ½ ft.
Type of material: Subject files, photographs, slides, negatives
The Graduate Theological Union.
Source and Date
Helen Peterson, 1992
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Graduate Theological Union. All requests for
permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing
to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of The Graduate Theological Union as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be
obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Elsie Thomas Culver Collection, GTU 92-9-01, The Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley,
World War, 1939-1945 - Civilian relief, Church Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction
World War, 1939-1945 - Religious aspects
World War, 1939-1945 - Children
World War, 1939-1945 - Women
World War, 1939-1945 - Medical care
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Religious aspects
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Holland
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - France
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Czechoslovakia
Reconstruction (1939-1951) - Germany
Church work with refugees - Pakistan
Church work with refugees - India
Church work with refugees - China
Missions - History - Sources
Africa - Missions - Pictorial works
India - Missions - Pictorial works
Pakistan - Missions - Pictorial works
Egypt - Missions - Pictorial works
Burma - Missions - Pictorial works
Thailand - Missions - Pictorial works
Iraq - Missions - Pictorial works
Philippines - Missions - Pictorial works
Japan - Missions - Pictorial works
World Council of Churches - History - Sources
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States. Church World Service -- History
Elsie Thomas Culver (January 3, 1898 - August 21, 1988) was born in Connecticut to Dudley and Orie (Streeter) Thomas, and
raised in Oakland, CA. She received an A.B. in political science (with honors) from the University of California, Berkeley.
She married and had a daughter, Helen. While raising her family, she did part-time commercial journalistic and promotional
work to 1935. She then began studies at the Pacific School of Religion (M.A. 1941, B.D. 1942). During her time at PSR, she
continued to work: on the school's publicity, publicity for the 1939 World's Fair, and assignments for various religious papers.
She was widowed sometime in the 1930's.
During World War II, in 1941, Culver was called to New York to handle promotion for the Committee on Foreign Relief Appeals
in the Churches. This was an organization established in the United States by churches and other participating organizations
which included the Foreign Missions Conference, the YMCA, and the YWCA to coordinate war relief efforts. This committee was
changed, and its charge expanded in 1942, to become the Church Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction. (This Committee
later became Church World Service in 1946 under the National Council of Churches.) She was in charge of planning and creating
material for fund raising campaigns.
Culver was ordained a Congregational minister in New York, 1943, to a writing and ecumenical ministry.
In the fall of 1945, Culver went to Europe under CCORR auspices to consult "with church leaders, United Nations Relief and
Rehabilitation Administration officials, and others... . Articles and stories I wrote and pictures I took appeared in leading
secular magazines and in church publications of practically all denominations." She continued to serve Church World Service
as publicity director until 1948. She then resigned "to undertake an around-the-world trip [1948-49], speaking, writing and
taking photographs for a number of interested agencies and editors. ... Primarily, I was looking for evidence that essentially,
around the world, people are friends."
Culver accepted the position of Director of Public Relations for the World Council of Churches in 1950, working in the New
York office and traveling extensively. Her many responsibilities included writing articles for church and secular press, editing
Ecumenical Courier, and preparing film strips, radio scripts, press folders, posters, etc. She retired in 1957 to return to Berkeley, CA.
She continued to be active in issues of aging and the churches' responsibility to older persons, serving on various committees
and commissions. She was also founder, director, and newsletter editor
(The Cornerstone) of Senior Peacebuilders, an incorporated non-profit educational organization. She continued to write articles, including some
work for the GTU, for various organizations and publications, and published a book,
Women in the World of Religion (Doubleday: 1967).
After a ten-year battle with Alzheimer's disease, she died in Santa Rosa, CA, August 1988. (For further information, see:
Box 1, ff 1, Biographical material.)
Scope and Content
The collection seems to have come from Elsie Thomas Culver to the Center for Women and Religion at the GTU ca. 1979. In 1992,
the collection was transferred from CWR to the GTU Archives still in its original boxes and containers. It had not been touched
in the intervening years. Since there was no conclusive documentation on the collection, Culver's daughter was located. She
formally donated the collection to the GTU Archives. The collection consists mainly of photographs taken on Culver's two major
trips in 1945 to Europe and in 1948-49 around the world. Culver numbered and put captions or other identification on the majority
of the photographs. Her order has been maintained.
(including GTU Library call numbers)
Elsie Thomas Culver,
Women in the World of Religion (Doubleday, NYC: 1967). HQ1394 C8
Ronald E. Stenning,
Church World Service: Fifty Years of Help and Hope (Friendship Press, NYC: 1996). BX6 N2 S74 1996
Foreign Missions Conference of North America, "Reports of the Meetings". BV2390 F7 vols. 50-53 (for information on the Church
Committee on Overseas Relief and Reconstruction)
David P. Gaines,
The World Council of Churches, a Study of Its Background and History (R.R. Smith, Peterborough, NH: 1966).