Khalil A. Totah and Eva Marshall Totah papers
Held at: Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections [Contact Us]370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections. 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
Ermina Jones Totah (1892-1928) married Khalil A. Totah in South China, Kennebec County, Maine in 1916. She went with him to Ramallah, Palestine, and was a teacher at the Friends Boys School. In the summer of 1923, she left Ramallah and came back to her family home in South China. In 1928, in an attempt to alleviate her depression, she went to Italy with Alice Jones [her mother], returning to Ramallah after two months and taking up teaching again. But, still in despair, she took her own life.
Eva Marshall Totah (c. 1896-1990) was born in South Dakota. She studied at William Penn College (now University, in Oskaloosa, Iowa) and received her B.A., then went onto her M.A. at Haverford College in 1919. (A copy of her thesis, "Settlement Music Schools: a Study and Interpretation," is in the college's archives). In 1927, she held a position as a drama and expression instructor in the department of speech at William Penn College. Later in 1927, she went to Ramallah to teach at the Friends School. She married Khalil A. Totah in 1929 and remained in Palestine. They had three children: Nabil Marshall Totah, Sibyl Belmont and Joy Totah Hilden. In 1937, on a sabbatical, the family came to the United States (including Haverford, PA). They returned and lived in Ramallah, Palestine until 1944, when they emigrated to the United States. Totah taught English, drama, dance, speech, religion and other subjects at Friends schools and elsewhere. Her own interests included a half-way house for women in California and the Crenshaw House for men. At the time of her death, Totah was a member of Whittier First Friends Meeting in California. (Information from Friends Journal 36 (Nov. 1990): 43-4 & Quaker Life 31 (Nov. 1990): 38 & internal evidence)
Khalil Totah (1886-1955), son of Abdullah and Azizeh [Mughannam] Totah, was born in Ramallah, Palestine He studied at the Church Mission Society School and Friends Hope Day School in Ramallah (1890-1900), and then New Boys Training School in Ramallah (1901-03), Brummana Friends School in Brummana, Lebanon (1903-04), and Church Mission Society English School, Jerusalem (1904-05). He then taught English at Friends Boys Training School in Ramallah (1905-06). He studied at Friends Oak Grove Seminary in Vassalboro, ME (1906-8) and Clark College in Worcester, MA, where he received his B.A. (1908-1911). He was principal of Friends Boys School, Ramallah, Palestine, in 1912-14 and again from 1927-1944. Totah was in compulsory Turkish Military Training Service for 3 months in 1914. In 1916 he married Ermina Jones in South China, Maine. He became a minister in the Society of Friends in Massachusetts (1914-16) and taught elementary school there (1916-18). He received his M.A. (thesis: "Friends Secondary Schools in America") and Ph.D. (in education; thesis: "Contributions of the Arabs to Education") from Columbia University in 1917 and 1926 respectively. He served as Y.M.C.A. Director with the 79th Division of the U.S. Army in France (1918-1919). From 1919-25, he was Principal of Governor's Teacher Training College in Jerusalem. After Ermina's death in 1928, he married Eva Marshall in 1929, and the couple had 3 children. Also in 1929 he visited Haverford College to raise money for the Friends School. (Haverford professor Elihu Grant was one of the founders of the school, and a mentor to Khalil Totah).In 1937, he was a delegate to the Friends World Conference. He was interim pastor at the Congregational Community Church in Mississippi, 1944-1945. From 1945-50, he was the Executive Director of the Institute of Arab American Affairs, New York. Totah became an American citizen in 1946. He lived in Whittier, California, from 1950-55 where he was a lecturer and writer. Khalil Totah died in Whittier, California, in 1955. (Information from Eva M. Totah)
The papers provide a picture of Quakers in Palestine in the 20th century. They primarily revolve around three people: Khalil A. Totah, his second wife, Eva Marshall Totah and his first wife, Ermina Jones Totah.
The papers are divided into three series. The first, for Khalil Totah, includes correspondence, diaries, notes, manuscripts, publications, official documents, and photographs produced by or concerning Khalil Totah. The correspondence includes material relating to Totah's resignation as principal of the Friends School in Ramallah in the early 1940s. The diaries, notes, manuscripts, and publication include detail about Totah's experience and understanding of the situation in Palestine in the 1930s. The photographs cover his time at Oak Grove Seminary, Clark College, the Institute of Arab American Affairs, and the Friends School in Ramallah.
The second series is for Ermina Jones Totah. The material includes correspondence from her time as a teacher at the Friends School in Ramallah, as well as a diary from the same time. There are also photographs, mostly of the Jones family.
The third series is for Eva Marshall Totah. The bulk of the series is correspondence, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s, detailing life and work at the Friends School in Ramallah. Diaries and a small number of manuscripts cover similar material. There are also photographs of the Marshall family and the Totah family, including photographs of Khalil and Eva's three children, Nabil Marshall Totah, Sibyl Belmont and Joy Totah Hilden.
The majority of the material is in English, though some is in Arabic. Most photographs are captioned in Arabic, but have been given an English caption as well by Eva Marshall Totah.
- Subseries I
- Subseries II
- Subseries III
- Notes, Manuscripts, and Publications
- Subseries IV
- Official Documents
- Subseries V
- Subseries I
- Subseries II
- Subseries III
- Subseries I
- Subseries II
- Subseries III
- Subseries IV
The Khalil A. Totah and Eva Marshall Totah papers were donated to Special Collections, Haverford College, in 2008 and 2014 by Joy Totah Hilden.
Processed by Elizabeth Peters; completed March 2015.
1. Khalil A. Totah, The Contribution of the Arabs to Education. Columbia University, 1926. (Dissertation, signed by Ermina Jones Totah)
2. Khalil A. Totah, Dynamite in the Middle East. New York: Philosophical Library, 1955.
- Oliver, Daniel, 1870-1952
- Jones, Rufus M. (Rufus Matthew), 1863-1948
- Ly , Juwan Usang
- Hilden, Joy Totah
- Totah, Eva Rae Marshall, ca. 1896-1990
- Totah, Khalil, 1886-1955
- Totah, Ermina Jones, 1892-1928
- Society of Friends -- Education -- West Bank -- Rām Allāh
- Society of Friends -- Missions -- Palestine
- Quakers -- Middle East
- Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- Elizabeth Peters
- Use Restrictions
Standard Federal Copyright Law Applies (U.S. Title 17)
The following describes some of the highlights of these letters, dictated by content.
Is 3 months into required stint as a soldier. Goes to Ramallah every Sunday. Wants Ermina [Jones] to finish college before they marry.
No longer has the enthusiasm for studying he had when at Brumanna and Oak Grove. States belief that the main solution to educational problems is economic -- giving boys with education work to keep them in their homelands -just teaching them the English language is not enough.
Reports of confusion in Constantinople not only due to war, but also internal difficulties. Albanians are accused of "making trouble," an allegation that the last election was manipulated by Young Turks [a political reform movement opposed to Ottoman monarchy], Parliament may be dissolved.
Would like to visit them [the Marshall family] and reassure them that he will take care of their daughter, Eva [Marshall], and has much in common with her, including music, poetry, art, and books. Has a busy life speaking to schools and interviewing people. In the past week, preached at President Elect Hoover's (Quaker) Meeting in Washington. States Eva appears happy in Ramallah.
States appreciation that Totah is sending her daughter (Ermina Jones) to visit them; mentions his trip, including to Switzerland and that travel is an educational experience.
The following describes some of the highlights of these letters, dictated by content.
Totah believes: The fence set up by Britain between Palestine and Syria should be taken down. The creation of an Arab Union would aid settlement of the Middle East. Many returning from Iraq found pro-Nazi sentiment was said to be due to Zionism. When asked about a German ascendancy, some said better that which they do not know than that which they have known for 20 years. Arab public is said to prefer the British to the French in Syria. Informed the British must show their good faith to the Arab world and this would aid peace in Palestine and consequently the Arab World. (draft letter)
Hopes for lasting peace and brotherhood in the Holy Land. Feels he can count on support of the Quakers in achieving this.
Claims Palestinian economy has been suppressed due to a three week labor strike, though initial bloodshed has ceased. Arab transportation has stopped, though Jewish buses do appear to be running with police escort, and school life is disturbed; even at Ramallah they were forced to send pupils home due to food shortage. Arab "demands" are blamed for stopping Jewish immigration, sale of land, and the formation of a legislative council, which the Jewish peoples are said to oppose. Arabs express resentment over the British policy of filling Palestine with Jewish immigrants. Palestinians see negotiations occurring with British in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, so why not Palestine. The High Commissioner Arthur Wauchope is committed to establishment of a legislative council. Feels Friends -- Watching Committee -- could help and should approach Jewish leaders in London.
Asks Totah if it is entirely fair to characterize British policy as "filling Palestine with Jewish people", since Arab population is increasing even more than Jewish. Agrees that opposition to legislative council is a mistake. Speaking for other members of the [Palestine] Committee, feels it would be most helpful if Totah worked for peace and better understanding while in Palestine.
In the present turmoil, some have said that the Arabs heavily advocate for military force, but the "satisfactory" colonization of Iraq "disproves" that. Gives a variety of supposed reasons for present unrest. States he feels badly for the Jewish People and sympathizes with their desire to have a homeland, but they have not been happy in Palestine for 16 years, and require British military support.
About the state of war in Palestine. There are over 10,000 British troops and over 2,000 police. Much description of current situation. Reports school has been closed and they have not the funds to pay teachers and other workers.
Reports on the extrajudicial murders of 8 unarmed people by soldiers and other political issues. Includes a list of incidents.
Together with Daniel Oliver, trusts that the Higher Arab Committee and the Grand Mufti will help to bring the present strike to an end.
The 1908 and 1914 diaries are small separate books; the 1930 diary is contained on some loose pages; a larger red book with the date "1935" on the cover is actually for the dates 1938 and 1941, with a few entries for 1942; the larger brown book with the date "1939" on the cover is for the dates 1939-40 and 1942-43.
In 1908, Khalil Totah kept a diary while studying at Oak Grove Seminary in Vassalboro, ME. The 1914 diary begins: "First diary I ever kept in Palestine." The 1930s pages are titled "Biographical, Friends Boys School," and reports on his work and life at the school in Ramallah. The "1935" diary with its entries from 1938 and 1941 deals with Palestine, including Ramallah, and political issues. The "1939" diary with entries from 1939-40 and 1942-43 is primarily political, but also some on Friends Boys School at Ramallah.
"Journal of Khalil Abdallah Tota[h] aiming to put on record a descrip[tion] of the different phases of life in Palestine - social, religious, educational, economical, and political."
Includes notes on history, the Bible, politics, etc.
Official history: The Story of the Ram Allah Mission, by Rosa E. Lee, 1912.
Photo brochure, with photos of Eva Marshall Totah.
Essays on state of Friends School, 1934.
United States passport, 1949.
Road passes, 1938.
Certificate of Naturalization, 1946.
Birth Certificate, 1886. (in Turkish)
Certificate of Death for Ermina Jones Totah, 1928.
Four childhood photographs of Khalil Totah, ca. 10 years old to mid-teens, including a school group photograph taken at Friends Boarding School at Ramallah.
Includes photographs of Friends Schools buildings, student life, classes, sports, special events, teachers and teachers' families.
Not all the letters are described here, but those that are are based on content or tone. In general, they are loving letters to her husband, KAT, which give details of her visit to family in South China, ME in the summer of 1923.
States she cannot be forced to enjoy living in Jerusalem but will try.
At Yearly Meeting, Rufus Jones spoke of the work Khalil and she were doing in Palestine
observations of her surroundings.
Tells Khalil not to worry about Selim [KAT's brother] and offers advice; suggests he be loving. Asks about Khalil's impressions of London Yearly Meeting. Wonders if she behaves better with her parents than she does with him. Thinks it might help if they prayed together, for themselves and those whom they would help.
Mentions reckoning of a debt for Ermina and Khalil, and how well Rufus Jones spoke of Khalil at Yearly Meeting and is glad that they are both her friends.
Update on business issues, such as buying and selling liberty bonds.
The dates were assigned by the donor. Includes sea voyage from Haifa (Israel) to Naples (Italy) and visit in Italy. In July 1925, left Ramallah for U.S. and much of following content is in NY. There are many empty pages. Most entries are undated.General Physical Description note
The diary is a small cloth-bound brown book.
Photographs show Ermina as a child, later with Khalil in ca. 1910, in Jerusalem in 1919, her certificate of Palestinian nationality photo in 1925, in Palestinian costume in ca. 1927, on a camel at the Dead Sea, possibly with her mother and another woman, likely in South China, ME, and a small portrait photo. In addition, there is a photo of Mary Hoxie Jones (1904-2003), a relative of Ermina's through her father, Rufus M. Jones.
There are also 3 photographs of a piece of "trench art" bearing Ermina's name. "Ermina J. Totah", "St. Miheil 1918" are written on the shell as well as the name "E. Ricard" (possibly the artist). It is believed that this trench art was commissioned by Khalil for his first wife.
There is a total of approximately 200 letters by Eva Marshall Totah. They are not all detailed here. Most letters are very descriptive - about Friends Girls and Boys Schools in Ramallah, general descriptions of Ramallah, Palestine, and people in the school, locally and visitors, about religious holidays and visiting religious sites as well as vacations in Jordan, Syria and other countries, assistance to the needy and political issues. Some of her letters were published in the American Friend.
writes to her classmates of the class of 1918 at William Penn College, suggesting they make donations and offering information about various class members and about the college in 1927.
Arrived in Jaffa, attended a wedding, then traveled to Ramallah. Continues with the trip prior to Jaffa, which was through Athens.
Describes an impoverished Islamic village and the custom of women wearing a face covering [niqab] as well as a black clothing and several customs of the people. Mentions Khalil and Ermina Totah and several other Friends; a very descriptive letter.
Describes how women have to go for water for their households; Girls School 10 minutes' walk from Boys School and Mission House.
Reports on her schedule: teaching Bible, History- Ancient and Medieval, Hygiene, Rhythmics, English, sports
continued description of life at the school, what is taught, what life there consists of.
describes all the activities surrounding a roofing party for a new house, including the food, which is meant to be accompanied by strong drink, but as the people are Quakers, they substitute lemonade. Also attended a Greek wedding and a YWCA bazaar, and includes some political discussion of China.
Describes British occupation of Palestine; calls Britain a country "good at colonizing." Notes standard of education has seemed to improve [based on western ideals]. Discusses the anger the Arabs/Palestinian locals feel towards British occupation; it is said that the lives of the impoverished are now worse than they were when under Turkish rule.
Tells of Christmas pageant in Bethlehem. Reports on the things she appreciates in Ramallah, including head of school, Miss [Sybil?] Jones.
extensive description of her trip to Egypt with two other people.
Reports that Mildred White was offered the principalship of the Girls School and that the current head, Alice Whittier Jones, was disappointed it was not offered to Eva, but she (Eva) is also waiting to hear about a position at William Penn College.
Mentions that family is having her letters printed in the Independent and the Republic; is sending a copy of her record of her trip to Egypt (not present); a description of Palestine by James Nichols does not give the whole story.
description of life at the school now that Miss [Ermina?] Jones has departed on vacation, and of a Greek Orthodox wedding of one of the pupils.
J. Usang Ly is to arrive on his way on a trip around the world.
earthquake on Feb. 23 and impact on students. Dr. Grant has arrived.
Gives a very detailed description of a tour of Jerusalem provided by Totah; praises his skills as a tour guide
the Silcox family (missionaries in China) have arrived to attend large missionary conference in Jerusalem.
Has reached decision to stay in Palestine and is waiting for letter from William Penn College to say they are releasing her from previous commitment to come back there to work.
Writes of the tragic suicide of acquaintence and coworker, Ermina Jones Totah
Hand-drawn map of Friends Boys School, Ramallah
explains all the characteristics of Kahlil Totah she finds positive and says they are to be married
a biographical description of Khalil Totah
Impressions of impact on local people by British rule over Palestine, including jobs and class division and resulting poverty of most Palestinians
architects looking at land where new school building will be located
Reports that the school children of the government school in Nablus went on a strike of protest over the dire conditions in Palestine. Government officials beat some of the students, resulting in a Palestine-wide school strike, however Khalil Totah prevented the Friends School boys from striking, also.
Reports on her wedding to Khalil and view of the political situation in Palestine.
Reports that several cities are under martial law, railroads are patrolled, Jewish colonies guarded with large forces, most of the Arabic press is suspended. There is revolution in Nablus and Gaza.
There are more than 12,000 British troops in the country, but the Arabs continue their strike.
Daniel Oliver has had many conversations with Khalil
on the death of her father.
description of her impressions of Arab village life
describes conditions in Palestine which is "now in a state of revolt" and the world on the brink of war
re continued chaos, military and economic issues. States, "With war clouding Europe, America looks like heaven."
The diary opens with the announcement of the birth of Eva and Kahlil's daughter, Sybil, at Whittier hospital in 1932. On the same page, for 1943, Sibyl entertains and mentions an ill acquaintance in 1944. The diary primarily reports on her life in Palestine, from domestic to school and other issues.
The diary represents time spent in the U.S. (Philadelphia area) as well as Palestine. Some political comments.
Includes comments on events during World War II.
Manuscript titles include: Azizeh; Getting Ferns from Bethel Caves; An Interlude in the Office, Boys School; The Jordan River; May we have Pictures Today?; The Opening Day of School; Sea of Galilee; The Search for God; A Week-End in a Greek Monastery; Wedding Customs in Palestine; We Like our School.
There is also a report on Sunday School conference, n.d. and 2 other pieces, along with 3 items written by others
Letters recounting Khalil's trip to the Middle East with a newspaper clipping and article he wrote about the trip.
Various letters from Wadie Said, the Arab Chamber of Commerce, the American Friends Board of Foreign Missions, Philip Hitti, and letters from the Arab Higher Committee to the Royal Commission, and Arif Alod Al Raziq Office of Arab Revolution to President Roosevelt on the United States. Includes a few letters from Khalil and Eva as well.
Letters to, from and concerning Khalil Totah.
Letters in Arabic with translation about Totah's orange grove in Gaza, from Khalil's newphew Yacoub Araj, son of Khalil's sister Nasra Araj.
Various writings by Khalil. Pieces titled Palestine in Revolt; Memorandum on Palestine and Modern Arab Education in Palestine. Also includes notes on Khalil's retirement and a photocopy of a booklet cover from a lecture he gave.
Articles titled Reflections of a Money Raiser; Education in the Mandated Territories of Syria and Lebanon; Problems of Jewish Education in Palestine; A Fresh Start for Jews in Palestine; Statement on Britain and Palestine by Arab Higher Committee; The Palestine Triangle; Is Education Poison to Religion?; and other writing.
Khalil's never-completed memoir, ending with chapter 4 of 10. The first 4 chapters are titled: Biographical Sketch; The Institute of Arab American Affairs; The Zionist Organization in the United States; and Public Speeches
Materials related to memorial services, condolences, letters, newspaper articles and obituaries for Khalil.
Letters and documents related to the Government Arab Training College when Khalil was principal.
Letters, photos and documents related to the dedication of the Khalil Totah Auditorium in Ramallah.
Newsletters, pamphlets and programs for the Boys and Girls Friends schools in Ramallah, Palestine.
Ramallah Friends meeting minutes noting Khalil's resignation and Khalil and Eva's sojourn in the United States.
Documentation of the sale of Khalil's Grandfather's home to Khalil.
Passports for Khalil, Eva and nineteen members of the Men's Elementary Training College of Jerusalem.
Transcript, record book and registration book.
Education in Palestine article by Khalil on page 155.
Newspaper articles by Khalil, Eva and others on Ramallah, Palestine and Quakers.
Jerusalem Inter-School Sports Programme, Government of Palestine Department of Education Statistical Tables and Diagrams, 4 issues of Palestine & Transjordan News & Views, A Sample of the Methods Adopted by the Government of Palestine in the Administration of the Country and The Jerusalem Young Men's Christian Association.
Family, school and travel photos from a range of time periods in Khalil's life.
Khalil and Ermina's travel photos.
Newspaper clippings, cards, comics and ephemera collected by Khalil.
Khalil's loose family, military and Friend's school photos.
Khalil and Ermina's loose photos of travel and friends.
Eva's transcript from Haverford College, Eva's daily reminder, notes from an article that Khalil and Eva worked on together titled Palestine and the Bible.
Letters and cards to Joy [Totah (Hilden), daughter of Kahlil and Eva] from family and friends, includes childhood family photos.
A letter to Jane Totah thanking her for photocopies of Oak Leaves Alumni Issue with articles by and genealogical material on Khalil.