Fine series of six autograph letters, signed “Mary A. Ives.” To Mary Norton. Honolulu, Hana, & Kealakekau, 26 April 1837 – 10 July 1849
Folio (12 ¾ x 8 1/8 in.; 324 x 207 mm.). 24 pages, written on all pages and in margins; formerly folded, some stains and holes at the folds. Accompanied by typed summaries, sometimes inaccurate transcriptions, and tracings of postal marks.
detailed eyewitness and heart-felt account of the difficult missionary life in hawaii with topographic description of the island of Hawai’i
Mary Ann Brainerd (1810-1882) accompanied her husband Mark Ives (1808-1885) as missionaries sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on the journey from Connecticut to Honolulu, arriving 9 April 1837. They were stationed at Hana 1837-1839 and at Kaawaloa 1839-1848. Mr. Ives left Hawai'i before his wife due to illness. She left the island in late 1853.
Her letters begin pervaded with shock at the behavior and dress of the “foreigners” (Americans and Europeans) on the scene, but providing insight on the internal conflicts of the missionary: “Missionaries have much to kill spirituality. They have earthly cares as well as others and what is worse are surrounded by a deadly influence with no one to reprove, exhort or encourage. ... I would like to show you, if I could, what missionary life really is and correct the romantic ideas some have. Many will imagine to themselves the missionary ... perhaps surrounded by listening heathen greedily devouring the bread of life and drinking in the waters of salvation.... But let me tell you we feel that we spend much time in vain.” (26 April 1837).
In her second letter, her mood has improved: “I never enjoyed myself better than I now do notwithstanding some little vexations which none but missionaries know.” She reflects upon her teaching school: “It is plain that the children are capable of being taught but what school teacher at home does not know that half his influence is counteracted by the bad example of the scholar’s parents, at least in many instances. I feel more and more that if we would save this nation from destruction, we must do it speedily. The rapid decrease of population is alarming. I do not know a native free from disease. All the children inherit this evil which is the consequence of associating with foreigners.”(8 November 1838).
After a gap of five years the letters resume (May 1843) with topographic description of the approach to the village of Kaneohe (12 miles from Honolulu) and other trips to circumnavigate the island of Hawai’i. The February 1846 letter recounts a visit to the mission at Kau, including passage across a lava field where she was carried by men “as a horse can go but a short distance.” The letter of June 1847 returns to the theme of “our continued trials... You know nothing of heathenism, the deep seated satanic character of heathenism. Many of our best men and women are continually falling into sin. We have had to discipline as many as four or five hundred for forsaking meeting, the reading of the scriptures, and praying. Most also of these smoke to excess – and should you ask them what they were disciplined for they would tell you for smoking ...”
The last letter (10 July 1849) just precedes her husband’s return to the States: “My last letter to you contained an account of Mr. Ives ill health – he is still much the same – not able to attend to any business, he just keeps about the house and does a few little household jobs. If he continues as well as he is at present, we have decided to leave the Islands late in the autumn and embark for our native land.”
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