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COLLECTION Identifier: A/T4617

Letters of Avarani Thomas, 1930-1941


Letters from American missionary Ruth E. Bergevin to her Indian friend Avarani Thomas, describing Bergavin's romantic feelings of love and devotion, as well as letters from Thomas's family and friends.


  • 1930-1941


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Avarani Thomas as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2 folders

Collection contains letters from Ruth E. Bergevin to Avarani "Rani" Thomas, probably written while Rani attended college away from home. The letters describe Bergavin's romantic feelings of love and devotion to Rani, and mention missing her and longing to see her. The letters also include news from home, and recount Ruth's interactions with Rani's family and mutual friends. The collection also contains letters from others to Thomas, including her parents Charles and Bijou, and sister Probhabala. These letters contain news of home, family and friends.


Avarani "Rani" Thomas was the daughter of Charles Thomas and Bijou "Dolly" Thomas and lived in Dehra Dun, Northern India, during the 1920s and 1930s. Thomas and her sister Probhabala "Probha" attended the Girls High School in Dedhra Dun, where she met an American Presbyterian missionary, Ruth E. Bergevin, who served as principal of the school. Bergevin published a memoir, One of Us: Adventures in India (1980), which documents her experiences in India, including her friendship with the Thomas family. According to the memoir, Charles Thomas was a judicial officer for the Dehra Dun City and District and a member and chairman of the high school's governing board. Bijou Thomas was the member of a large Bengali family. Bergevin considered herself a close friend to Rani and Prohabala. After graduation, the sisters attended Kinnaird College in Lahore, and later Rani received a degree in education at the Isabella Thoburn College in Lucknow. Prohabala attended library training in the United States and returned to India to become a librarian at the Agricultural Institute in Allahabad. In her memoir, Bergevin states that she viewed herself as a mentor to Rani.

Ruth E. Bergevin, daughter of Lillie Heppe and Louis Bergevin, was born April 28, 1893, in Markleeville, California. In 1909, Bergevin moved to Berkeley, California, to live with her sister and attend high school. After graduation, she enrolled in a business course and worked for the Fisk Teacher's Agency of Berkeley. Bergevin also attended Bible study and programs at the First Presbyterian Church. In 1915, she was baptized and moved to Los Angeles to study at the Bible Institute. Bergevin later traveled to New York, where she met with the Presbyterian Church Board of Foreign Missions. In 1917, she traveled to India, where she served for 41 years as a missionary. She was principal of the Girls High School in Dehra Dun, and later worked as a hospital administrator at the Frances Newton Hospital in Ferozepore, India. Bergevin frequently traveled to the United States to give talks at Presbyterian churches. Upon her retirement in 1958, she returned to live in the United States, visiting India in 1960 to assist with the building of a hospital in Ferozepore and again in 1973 in celebration of her 80th birthday. Bergevin died December 25, 1984, in Los Angeles, California.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2022-M99

The papers of Avarani Thomas were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Max Rambod Rare Books, in May 2022.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2022

By: Paula Aloisio

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Class of 1957 Schlesinger Library Fund and the Kim A. Bendheim Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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