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Inventory of the Elsie Thomas Culver Collection, 1945 - 1979 (bulk, 1945-55)
GTU 92-9-01  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Access Points
  • Biographical/Historical Description
  • Scope and Content
  • Background reading

  • Descriptive Summary

    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
    Creator: Culver, Elsie Thomas
    Collection Size: 2.5 linear feet (8-5" record boxes) 50+ images and documents
    Repository: The Graduate Theological Union.
    Berkeley, California
    Language: English.
    Online exhibit: Elsie Thomas Culver: A Journey Through Post-World War II Europe.

    Administrative Information

    Source and Date

    Helen Peterson, 1992


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Elsie Thomas Culver Collection, GTU 92-9-01, The Graduate Theological Union Archives, Berkeley, CA.

    Access Points

    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

    Biographical/Historical Description

    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 the 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 apparently was donated by Elsie Thomas Culver to the Center for Women and Religion (CWR) at the GTU around 1979. In 1992, the collection was transferred from CWR to the GTU Archives, still in its original boxes and containers. 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 provided captions or other identification on the majority of the photographs.

    Background reading

    (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).