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COLLECTION Identifier: 85-M129--88-M86

Papers of Mary Tyng Higgins, 1912-1987


Correspondence, autobiographical writings, etc., of Mary Tyng Higgins, missionary in China.


  • Creation: 1912-1987

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Tyng Higgins is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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.


8 linear feet ((8 cartons) plus 5 photograph folders, 1 folio folder)

This collection consists of correspondence and other papers of the Tyng and Higgins families and has been divided into the following three series:

Series I, Tyng family, #5-50 consists mainly of correspondence of Ethel (Arens) and Walworth Tyng with his mother, his brother, their children, other relatives, and friends, describing life of the mission in China, 1913-1939, 1946-1949, and in the United States 1939-1946, 1949-74. There are also writings by and about Ethel Arens and Walworth Tyng and correspondence of Ethel Arens and Walworth Tyng with their children and of Mary Tyng Higgins with her siblings.

Series II, Higgins family, #51-79, consists of correspondence of Charles and Mary Tyng Higgins with his parents and his siblings; and family correspondence of the children of Charles Ashley and Mary Tyng Higgins.

Series III, Personal, #80-396, contains most of Mary Tyng Higgins' own papers: correspondence (with scattered letters by Charles Ashley Higgins) with clergy, clergy wives, Little Rock friends, China friends, Radcliffe classmates; appointment books (1932-1984), writings, speeches, fan mail and letters to publishers. The letters from old China friends and Mary Tyng Higgins' writings (see #375-377) describe life in the missions, the effect of the Japanese invasion, and the impact of the Communist takeover on the church in China. There are also business papers including household accounts and estate papers. This series includes letters in Chinese and German.

Tyng family history

Ethel Arens, daughter of Adelma S.and Edward J. Arens, was born in Boston, on October 25, 1887, and received her A.B. from Radcliffe College in 1911. She married Walworth Tyng (Harvard A.B., 1905, Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, S.T.B., 1911), in 1912; they went to China as missionaries in 1913, and for nearly forty years worked as missionaries in Changsha, Hunan Province. At Reverend Tyng's retirement in 1949, they returned to the United States, and he served in parishes in Rome, New York, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and Euston, Maryland. During this period, Ethel Arens Tyng published two accounts of her life and work in China, Letters to My Grandchildren (1963) and Gate of the Moon (1967), and wrote collections of memories and stories for Christmas: "Tyng-a-Ling Memories" (1972), "More Tyng-a-Ling Memories" (1973), and "Still More Tyng-a-Ling Memories" (1974). The Tyngs had five children: Mary Atkinson, John Stevens, William Wark, Anne Griswold, and Franklin Somes. Walworth Tyng died in 1960 and Ethel Arens Tyng died in 1974.

Walworth Tyng married Ethel Arens, 1912. They had five children: Mary Atkinson born April 20, 1913, married Charles Ashley Higgins. John Stevens born May 31, 1915, married Camilla. 3 children: Edward, Eleanor, Catherine. William Wark born December 2, 1918, married Anna. 3 children: William, Robert, and Mary Ethel. Anne Griswold born July 14, 1920. 1 child: Alexandra, daughter of Louis Kahn. Franklin Somes, born January 25, 1924, married Jean. 2 children: Randy and Mary Cabot. Griswold Tyng (brother of Walworth) married Margaret Fuller; 2 children: Stephen. Margaret married Ralph Lauren.

Higgins family history

Mary, eldest child of Walworth Tyng and Ethel Arens Tyng, was born in Changsha, on April 13, 1913. She returned to the United States in 1926 at the outbreak of revolution in China and attended Radcliffe College, receiving her A.B. in 1934. She worked as a secretary and teacher of religious education and took care of her younger siblings when they in turn were sent to the United States for high school and college. In 1937-1938 she and her sister Anne made a trip around the world, arriving in China as it was invaded by the Japanese and in Vienna shortly after the German annexation of Austria.

Mary met the missionary Charles Ashley Higgins while working in Indo-China and they were married in Hong Kong in 1939 (see #90.) They were captured by the Japanese and interned in 1941, and repatriated in August 1942. The Higginses had five sons: Charles Tyng, Alexander, Ashley, Dudley, and Steven. They lived first in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where Charles Ashley Higgins was rector of the Episcopal Church, next in Waco, Texas (1946-1957), and then in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Charles Ashley Higgins was dean of Trinity Cathedral (1957-1977). They moved to Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1977. Charles Ashley Higgins died in 1985.

Mary Tyng Higgins wrote an unpublished play "Co-Prosperity Hotel" (ca.1942), and three autobiographical books, Up in Kuling and Down (1968), about her childhood in China, Nearly Nineteen (1971), about her Radcliffe years, and With a War On (1984).

Charles Millington Higgins married Myrtle Blanche Ashley. They had 4 children: Charles Ashley, Edwin, Clarence, and William Lovell. Charles Ashley married Mary Atkinson Tyng 1939. They had 5 children: Charles married (1) Charlotte, divorced 1974, (2) Gail. 2 adopted children: Wally and April. Alexander (Sandy). Ashley married Lisa. Dudley married Donna Kay Pyles. Stephen married Valerie. Edwin married Jean, 2 children: Heather and Jean. Clarence married Mary. William Lovell married Leota, l child: Annette.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Tyng family (#5-50)
  2. Series II. Higgins family (#51-79)
  3. Series III. Personal (#80-396)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 85-M129, 85-M176, 85-M162, 85-M288, 86-M24, 87-M95, 87-M112, 87-M162, 88-M86

These family papers were given to the Schlesinger Library between June 1985 and October 1987; a portion was transferred from the Radcliffe College Archives in June 1988.


  1. Carton 1: 5-28
  2. Carton 2: 29-63
  3. Carton 3: 64-118
  4. Carton 4: 119-162
  5. Carton 5: 163-238
  6. Carton 6: 239-322
  7. Carton 7: 323-358v
  8. Carton 8: 359v-396

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: January 1989

By: Lucy Thoma

Updated photograph description: June 2016

By: Lillianne Keaney

Higgins, Mary Tyng, 1913-2004. Papers of Mary Tyng Higgins, 1912-1987: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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