Main content

Michi Kawai Christian Fellowship papers


Held at: Bryn Mawr College [Contact Us]Bryn Mawr College Library, 101 N. Merion Avenue, Bryn Mawr 19010

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Bryn Mawr College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Michi Kawai was born July 29th, 1877, the daughter of a Shinto priest and the grand-daughter of the village master of Makkido. As a child, her family moved to the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido. There, her family became acquainted with a Christian relative and later converted to Christianity. Kawai attended a mission school in Sapporo as a child, later teaching in Otaru. She then studied in Tokyo with Umeko Tsuda, founder of Tsuda College and first Japanese alum of Bryn Mawr, who suggested she study in the United States. Kawai became a recipient of the Philadelphia Japanese Scholarship, graduating magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College in 1904.

After graduation, Kawai returned to Japan, where she taught English and History at Umeko Tsuda's college. She went on to help found the Japanese branch of the YWCA. In 1910, she became their General Secretary. Women's education was a defining passion of her life; in 1925, she began her own school, Keisen Jogaku-En. The school's name translates literally as "Fountain of Blessing Girls' Learning Garden," referring to the idea that the school, like a natural fountain, was a gift from God.

From its early years, Keisen had a horticultural program, complete with a practice garden. In 1943, Kawai asked the Education Minister for permission to open a horticultural college. Although expansion of education was not popular at this time, in 1945, examiners came to visit Keisen and were impressed. They objected to statement of purpose for the new college, which was to be run "according to the faith of Christianity." However, after some changes to the wording, the very first Agro-Horticultural College for girls was opened in Japan. Kawai's tenacity for coaxing life and sustenance from a farm limited in resources led the American General in the Allied Army of Occupation to describe her as "one of the greatest women of the world at this present time."

Kawai lived during a time of shifting relationships between Japan and the United States, but through, she remained a strong advocate of Christian education for women and an avid supporter of international relationships. More information about her life can be found in her two autobiographical books, My Lantern and Sliding Doors. She also wrote Japanese Women Speak, a message from Christian Japanese women to Christian American women. She passed away on February 11, 1953.

The Michi Kawai Christian Fellowship was an association established in teh early 1950s by Esther Sinn Neuendorffer, a former classmate and friend of Michi Kawai, to raise funds for the Keisen School.

Biographical information: Folder 2, Michi Kawai collection

The Michi Kawai collection consists of materials related to the Michi Kawai Christian Fellowship, an association to raise funds for the Keisen School. The bulk of the material is from the 1950s, but there may be some earlier or later material, since not all of it is dated. The collection consists largely of incoming correspondence to Esther Neuendorffer and materials concerning the Keisen School.

The collection is housed in one carton containing 25 folders and a book on flower arranging.

The first folder contains provenance information. Folders 2-3 contain information about Kawai. Folder 4 houses a form letter from Keisen School signed by Kawai. Folders 4-5 contain correspondence and tax exemption documents for the Michi Kawai Fellowship, founded by Neuendorffer after Kawai's death to raise money for Keisen School. Folders 7-10 contain Keisen School materials. Folder 11 holds an original photo and prints of Kawai. Folders 12-20 all contain Neuendorffer's incoming correspondence. Folder 21 contains Neuendorffer's copies of other correspondence. Folder 22 contains legal opinions of Paddock bequest to Kawai. Folders 23-24 contain more correspondence. There is also a bilingual book on flower arranging translated by a Keisen faculty member. Folder 25 was added after the rest of the collection and houses a single letter dated 1952 from Kawai to Elizabeth Musgrave, as well as some additional provenance information.

Michi Kawai studied in Tokyo with Bryn Mawr alum and one of the college's first international students, Ume Tsuda, who helped her obtain a scholarship to study in the US. After her graduation from Bryn Mawr, Kawai continued to work in women's education, founding Keisen School. This collection would be a useful resource for those interested in the post-graduation activities of the first international students; Keisen School; and the YWCA in Japan.

These documents come from the papers of Ruth Neuendorffer, daughter of Esther Sinn Neuendorffer; courtesy of Esther Neuendorffer Collet, esther Sinn's granddaughter.

Bryn Mawr College
Finding Aid Author
?, Cassidy Gruber Baruth
Finding Aid Date
February 26, 2018
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17)

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest