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Compiled Research on Nora Waln


Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore 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

Nora Waln was born June 4, 1895, and died September 27, 1964, aged 70. She was born in Grampian Hills, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, daughter of Thomas Lincoln and Lillian (Quest) Waln, and granddaughter of Elijah and Ann Waln. She was a descendant of Nicholas Waln, who came to Pennsylvania on the ship Lamb in 1682, on the Settle certificate, from Yorkshire, England. Nora Waln was in the class of 1919 at Swarthmore College, but left before graduating to pursue relief work during World War I. In 1920 she sailed for China to visit the Lin family in Hopei Province and ended up living there for twelve years. While in China she met and married George Edward Osland-Hill, an officer in the English Foreign Service, whom she called "Ted." Ted had one daughter by his first wife, Marie Osland-Hill Wade, Class of 1940 at Swarthmore College. Nora wrote "House of Exile" about her years in China.

She and her husband lived in Germany from 1934-1938 after he had retired from the Foreign Service and wanted to study music. Her book Reaching for the Stars was published in 1939 and dedicated to Charles F. Jenkins. In this book she expressed great faith in the German people and predicted that such an educated people would not permit the National Socialism of Hitler to last. By the time World War II was over she was not so sure, because so many of the people who had been against the Nazis were no longer living.

Nora Waln traveled widely in Europe, Asia and the Americas, contributing articles to the Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly and other magazines. She was one of the few correspondents and journalists who reported from Communist China and Mongolia. From 1947-1951 she was Tokyo correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post and later was correspondent for Atlantic Monthly in Germany and Scandinavia. She was a freelance writer from 1951 on. Other books she wrote were "The Street of Precious Pearls" and "Surrender the Heart."

In 1940 Swarthmore College conferred on Nora Waln the honorary degree of Master of Arts, which was accepted in absentia by her step-daughter, a member of the graduating class, as her representative. After the war she made a lecture tour of 90 speeches around the United States, including one at Swarthmore College. All of the proceeds were to go to the war relief organizations. Her husband died in 1958, and for the last three years of her life, she lived near Malaga in southern Spain. Her brothers were Robert and James Waln, and sisters Emma Waln, Mabel Waln Smith, and Ann Waln Ody.

This collection consists of the accumulated correspondence and notes compiled by Olga B. Skeehan about Nora Waln (1895-1964), a Quaker writer. Nora Waln's sister, Ann Waln Ody, was gathering material for a biographical memoir of her sister and asked Olga B. Skeehan for assistance. Olga B. Skeehan did research and made notes of her personal recollections of Nora Waln, whom she first met in Vienna in the 1930s.

Accession information

Donor: Olga B. Skeehan, 1989

The papers were compiled by Olga B. Skeehan in the 1970s to aid Ann Waln Ody in writing a biographical memoir of her sister, the Quaker writer Nora Waln. Ann Waln Ody died before she could write the memoir, and Olga B. Skeehan donated her research papers to Friends Historical Library in 1989, with the hope that someone else would write a biography of Nora Waln. The material has been retained in its entirety, except for some duplicate photocopies, and the general organization is that of Olga B. Skeehan.

The material has been retained in its entirety, except for some duplicate photocopies, and the general organization is that of Olga B. Skeehan.

Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See

Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

Letters from Olga B. Skeehan are carbon copies.

Nora Waln to Olga Skeehan, 1937-63 & n.d.
Box 1 Folder 1
Physical Description

7 ALsS, 1 TLS

Olga Skeehan to Nora Waln, 1963.
Box 1 Folder 1
Physical Description


Nora Waln to Charles F. Jenkins, 1933.
Box 1 Folder 2
Scope and Contents

Original in PG7, Waln, Nora.

Physical Description


Olga Skeehan to and from Marie Osland-Hill Wade, Nora Waln's stepdaughter, 1964-71.
Box 1 Folder 3
Physical Description

1 ALS, 4 TLs

Olga Skeehan to and from Ann Jenkins Lennox, Nora Waln's goddaughter,, 1964-90.
Box 1 Folder 3
Physical Description

3 ASLsS, 3 TLs

Olga Skeehan to and from Alice Waln (Mrs. Robert Waln), Nora Waln's sister-in-law,, 1964-79.
Box 1 Folder 3
Physical Description

6 ALsS, 4 TLs

Olga Skeehan to and from people unrelated to Nora Waln who knew her, 1966-74.
Box 1 Folder 4
Physical Description

7 ALsS, 4 TLsS, 12 TLs

Olga Skeehan to and from Friends Historical Library concerning the donation of this collection, 1989-90.
Box 1 Folder 5
Physical Description

1 ALS, 2 TLsS, 3 TLs

Scope and Contents

These are the categories established by Olga B. Skeehan.

Genealogical notes and addresses.
Box 1 Folder 6
Nora Waln.
Box 1 Folder 7
George Edward Osland-Hill.
Box 1 Folder 8
China and Chinese History.
Box 1 Folder 9
Larson, Duke of Mongolia, thought to be Nora Waln's first literary pursuit.
Box 1 Folder 10
Bibliography of Nora Waln's writings.
Box 1 Folder 11

Print, Suggest