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COLLECTION Identifier: 81-M286--2010-M10; MP-7

Papers of Margaret Cook Thomson, 1850-1980 (inclusive), 1904-1978 (bulk)


Correspondence, photographs, diaries, home movies, etc., of Margaret Cook Thomson, teacher and missionary in China for the United Presbyterian Church.


  • 1850-1980
  • Majority of material found within 1904-1978

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Margaret Cook Thomson is held by her children: John Seabury Thomson, Sydney Thomson Brown, James C. Thomson, Jr., and Anne Thomson Waller. After their deaths, copyright transfers to 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.


4 linear feet ((4 cartons) plus 3 motion pictures)

This collection consists of correspondence with family and friends, including Margaret Cook Thomson and James Claude Thomson's two daughters Anne (Nancy) (Thomson) Waller (born 1918), Sydney (Thomson) Brown (born 1922), and 2 sons, John Seabury (born 1921), and James C. Thomson Jr. (born 1932). Letters describe life in China, including the uprising in Nanking in 1927. Additionally there are photographs, diaries, notes for speeches and notebooks, guest books, and home movies filmed during their stay in China.

Additional material received between 1992 and 2010 (accession numbers 92-M171, 97-M141, 98-M96, 2000-M33, 2010-M10) were added to the collection in June 2017 and are housed in #89-90. A few items were added to #2, 29, 79, and 86. All other files remain in the same order.


Margaret (Cook) Thomson, born in 1889, the daughter of Robert A. Cook and Margaret (McIntosh) Seabury, was brought up by her aunts and attended Smith College, A.B. 1911. She married James Claude Thomson in 1917, a chemist and nutrition expert. In 1917 they went to the University of Nanking, where James Claude Thomson was Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, and remained there (except for furloughs home) until the communist takeover in 1949. During the Japanese occupation of China, the university was moved to the City of Chengtu on the Tibetan border. Margaret Cook Thomson was herself a teacher and missionary for the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. In the 1950s, James Claude Thomson taught at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, and traveled in Iran, Turkey and Pakistan as nutrition consultant to the World Health Organization.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 81-M286, 83-M6, 86-M87, 92-M171, 97-M141, 98-M96, 2000-M33, 2010-M10. Accession numbers 92-M171, 97-M141, 98-M96, 2000-M33, 2010-M10 were added in June 2017.

This collection was given to the Schlesinger Library by the Thomson family between November 1981 and January 2010.


  1. Carton 1: 1-28
  2. Carton 2: 29-63
  3. Carton 3: 64-90
  4. Carton 4: See Inventory
  5. MP-7.1-3

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory: April 1982

By: Jane S. Knowles

Updated: June 2017

By: Anne Engelhart

Thomson, Margaret Cook, 1889-1975. Papers of Margaret Cook Thomson, 1850-1980 (inclusive), 1904-1978 (bulk): 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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