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Sarah Brown Hooker Capron papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

Sarah Brown Hooker Capron was born on April 24, 1828 in Lanesboro, Massachusetts. The eldest of three daughters born to the Reverend Henry Brown Hooker and Martha Vinal Chickering Hooker. The family subsequently moved to Falmouth, Massachusetts. Sarah attended Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Massachusetts from 1844-1846. She then entered the Normal School in West Newton, Massachusetts 1849, and graduated in 1850. She served as "Assistant" at the Oliver High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts and upon her resignation on January 21, 1852, the School Committee of the City of Lawrence noted, "a step deeply lamented by the Committee and the School, with the parents of scholars and the many who had witnessed her peculiar aptness in teaching." (Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Lawrence, 1851-1852). She immediately accepted a teaching position at Hartford High School, where she taught until April 1854. Her brief tenure at Hartford High School resulted in her meeting her future husband, who also taught at Hartford High School from 1847-1853. She married the Rev. William Banfield Capron (1824-1876) on October 1, 1856. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions appointed the newlyweds as missionaries to the American Madura Mission in Madura, India and they set sail on November 21, 1856.

They arrived in Madura in the spring of 1857. Sarah was put in charge temporarily of the Madura Girls' Boarding School, while her husband did evangelistic work and supervised the building of a new bungalow at the Mana Madura outstation. The family, which now included daughters Annie Hooker (1860-1909), Laura Elizabeth (1862-1946), and son Henry (1864-1865), moved to the new bungalow in 1864. The Caprons continued their missionary work with Sarah starting a girls' boarding school, providing medical aid to women and children, and teaching local woman to read the Bible in their homes.

The Caprons sailed for home in 1872 and remained there until 1874. Upon their return to India, their daughters remained in America under the care of Sarah's sister, Annie and her husband, Arthur Tufts, all with whom she corresponded. Once she arrived in India, Sarah spent 6 weeks in the Government maternity hospital in Madras learning how to provide better medical care. Tragedy struck in October 1876 when William Capron unexpectedly passed away from heart disease. Sarah believed she still had work to do in India and chose to stay. She was transferred to Madura where she continued her educational and medical work for an additional 10 years.

Sarah retired and returned to the United States in 1886. Her retirement was spent serving on the Women's Board of Missions and speaking to groups of her missionary experience in India. In 1889, she accepted a position as superintendent of the Women's Department at the Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago. She retired from the Bible Institute in 1894 and returned back east, eventually settling with her daughter Laura and her husband, James D. Keith, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Sarah died on December 15, 1918.

This collection consists primarily of correspondence between Sarah Brown Hooker Capron and her daughters Annie and Laura, with a few letters between Sarah and other family members, as well as friends. The letters are arranged alphabetically by recipient and chronologically thereunder. Her missionary work and life in Madura, India is well documented in letters to Annie and Laura after they were sent back to America in 1872 for their education. Residing with Sarah's sister Annie and her husband, the girls were in close proximity of other family members and kept their mother up to date on everyone's activities. The girls provided details on Christmas and birthday gifts, music lessons, illnesses, trips taken, activities with friends, Sunday sermons, and books read. The girls also kept their mother apprised of their schoolwork. In one letter, Annie described her lessons in French and drawing but revealed she was reprimanded for talking. Sarah's letters to her daughters are filled with motherly advice, and anecdotes about her life and work in India. The emotional toll of the death of William Capron and the long separation between Sarah and her daughters is evident in these letters. Despite the hardship, she credited her faith for giving her the strength to continue her educational and medical work.

A prolific letter writer, Sarah also contributed short articles for Life and Light for Woman, published by the Woman's Boards of Mission. Unfortunately, the collection does not contain any of these articles except for an excerpt of a paper, "Zenana Work in Madura," given by Sarah at the Missionary Conference: South Indian and Ceylon in 1879. The paper was published in Life and Light for Woman in 1881. There are some notes about the Zenana, children's toys, and the story of Kisa Gotami. There is also two chapters of an original work entitled, "Vanessa Tetumsis" written by "her own self" located in the Mary Peters folder.

The collection includes a small number of photographs taken in India. Primarily of buildings and landscapes, there is an undated, unidentified group photograph of the missionaries taken in Dindigul.

Researchers should note that many of the letters are brittle and should be handled with care.

Gift of Dr. Rosane Rocher, 2018.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kristine McGee
Finding Aid Date
2022 October 26
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This collection is open for research use.

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Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

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Biographical, 1895, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Capron, Annie and Laura, 1869-1881.
Box 1 Folder 2
Capron, Annie and Laura, 1882-1884.
Box 1 Folder 3
Capron, Annie and Laura, 1885-1900.
Box 1 Folder 4
Capron, Sarah Brown Hooker, 1838-1876.
Box 1 Folder 5
Capron, Sarah Brown Hooker, 1877-1882.
Box 1 Folder 6
Capron, Sarah Brown Hooker, 1891.
Box 1 Folder 7
The children's post office, undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
Notes on the playing things, circa 1860s.
Box 1 Folder 9
Peters, Mary, undated.
Box 1 Folder 10
Photographs, undated.
Box 1 Folder 11
Tufts, Annie Hooker, 1879, 1884.
Box 1 Folder 12
Unidentified, 1854-1861.
Box 1 Folder 13
Woodruff, Julia Southmayd, 1834-1858.
Box 1 Folder 14
Capron, Sarah B., 1828-1919. Writings, 1879, undated.
Box 1 Folder 15

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