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Staff Picks: Resources for Educators and Researchers

By Carolina Ruiz


This regular section of the new ALPHA Newsletter will alternately feature Resources for Educators and Researchers called "Staff Picks," and "Stories from the Archive."

Staff Picks will include resources (instructional material, research and/or teaching aides) that come highly recommended by the ALPHA Team. Sometimes they will feature tried and tested primary sources that ALPHA has used in its education work, but sometimes we will also feature compelling content that is available online and say something about its usefulness - whether in creating lessons or for other research purposes. Stories from the archive, as the name suggests will feature important historical events and persons from World War II history in Asia but instead of a full length essay, we will let artefacts or archival material tell us a piece of the story. Occasionally, we will also feature ALPHA Education resources from the Digital Archive Project.


Primary Source Document: Minnie Vautrin's Diary, Nanjing August 1937 to April 1938 from the Yale University Divinity Library (Microfilmed collection of Vautrin papers includes her diary (1937-1940), correspondence and newsclippings ), part of the Nanking Massacre Archival Project, Yale University, Divinity Library

How to Cite (Chicago): Minnie Vautrin's Diary, The papers of Minnie Vautrin in Record Groups No. 8 & 11, and microfilm Ms 62, Yale University Divinity Library

Terms of Use: Available for Use in Teaching and Research, but requires permission for publication and distribution

Staff Favorite/Picked By: Judy Cho, ALPHA Education Program Director

What we love about it: Minnie Vautrin's diary records important details about the horrific events at Nanking from August 1937 to April 1938 from the perspective of an actual witness. But because it is a diary, the record also provides a compelling personal account of the life of an important figure in the International Zone of Safety, a perimeter within the city that was established by expatriate businessmen and missionaries to serve as a refuge for the locals while the city was under siege by the Japanese army. The diary gives us a glimpse into the humanity, courage and compassion of its writer.

How we've used it as a resource: Judy uses excerpts from Minnie's diary to engage students in confronting ethical decision making as part of her repertoire of exercises that challenges young people to reflect on what it takes to be an upstander.

Why we highly recommend it as an educational resource: Even just one or two pages out of Minnie Vautrin's diary can be useful for instructing students about: 1) Historical Events (The Nanking Massacre), 2) How to read and analyse primary sources, specifically private memoirs as contemporaneous historical records, 3) Ethics/Philosophy/Moral Reasoning (Examples of tough choices - Minnie Vautrin faced many!)

Above: A page from Minnie Vautrin's diary dated December 24, 1937 and a Photo of Minnie Vautrin

About Minnie Vautrin

Minnie Vautrin was born Wilhelmina Vautrin in Secor, Illinois on September 27, 1886. Minnie lost her parents at an early age and went on to study at the University of Illinois. At 26, she joined the Foreign Christian Missionary Society and was assigned to Hofei, China, where she established a middle school for girls. After she earned her Master's degree from Columbia University in 1919, she returned to China and became the acting President of Ginling College at Nanking. In July 1937, she defied orders from the American Embassy to evacuate the city anticipating the arrival of the advancing Japanese Kuwantung Army. Full scale war had erupted between China and Japan and the army had already wreaked havoc in Shanghai. Along with other foreigners living and working in Nanking at the time, Minnie helped to create an International Zone of Safety, - a secure perimeter that could provide refuge to locals during the Japanese siege of the city. Within the Zone, she established a refugee centre for women and children at Ginling College, and ran it with other teaching staff who were left behind. When Nanjing fell on December 13, thousands of refugees poured into the Zone. On December 15, Minnie wrote in her diary: "From 8:30 this morning, till 8 this evening, excepting for the noon meal, I have stood at the front gate while refugees poured in. There is terror in the faces of many of the women - last night was a terrible night in the city and so many women were taken from their homes by Japanese soldiers."


Hu, Hua-ling. "Minnie Vautrin." National Women's History Museum. 2016.

Excerpt from the Diary of Minnie Vautrin, Nanking Massacre Archival Project, From papers of Minnie Vautrin in Record Groups No. 8 & 11, and microfilm Ms 62, Yale University Divinity Library

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