BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence I 1940-1946

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Staff/Personnel
BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence I 1940-1946

BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence I 1940-1946

Sociology Teacher, Community Groups Coordinator 1940-1944
Dietitian 1944-July 1946

TAGS: Birdena Bishop, Glyn Morris, H.R.S. Benjamin, Berea College, Blackburn College, contracts, community outreach, sociology teachers, dieticians, James Bishop, Mary Jane Bishop, William D. Webb, Old Log

“Me and kids.” Birdena Bishop and Jane and Jim at Putney Fire Tower, “Mountain Day,” 1940s. [bishop_06_005.jpg]

BIRDENA BISHOP CORRESPONDENCE I 1940-1946: This is part 1 of images of documents and a list of their contents concerning Mrs. Birdena Bishop’s application for a position at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, contracts authorizing her employment, and letters she wrote to the PMSS staff while on summer vacations. For Part 2 of her correspondence in the years after she left Pine Mountain, go to BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence II 1946-1962.

CONTENTS: BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence I 1940-1946

[Note: Letters from PMSS staff in the PMSS Collections are carbon copies, typewritten, unsigned, and meant for the Office files. The original signed copies were sent to the correspondents. Letters from Birdena Bishop are handwritten and original. The following list of contents is in chronological order and not necessarily in the order of the image numbers.]

1940 Applicant for PMSS Position; Community Groups Coordinator

[004] May 8, 1940. Typewritten letter to Glyn A. Morris from Chas. T. Morgan, on letterhead for Office of the Alumni Secretary, Berea College, letterhead, providing his and Miss Dingman’s reference for Mrs. Birdena Bishop: “…[S]he would fit so well into different situations…. Mrs. Bishop is by all odds one of the finest persons I know. …”

[005], [005a] May 8, 1940. Two-page typewritten letter to Morris from Helen H. Dingman, Executive Secretary on letterhead for Conference of Southern Mountain Workers, Berea (KY) College, suggesting that Angela Melville, who is at Brasstown now and is looking for a job beginning in the fall, may be able to do a good job as Coordinator of the Community Group at PMSS; provides Melville’s Jamaican address. Describes Bishop, who is just visiting with Dingman: 

Mrs. Birdena Bishop [is a] mature woman with two children who will be in the eighth grade next year, and I think one of our finest Berea College graduates. She could have graduated with her sociology major in 1948 but took an additional year in order to get her teaching certificate and a major in English. She is a young widow who has made a valiant struggle to go through college and at the same time to keep up her home for her two children on an almost unbelievably small income…. I have perfect confidence in her integrity and ability….”

Lists three courses that Bishop took from Dingman; could also be a housemother at PMSS. She has assisted Dingman in teaching and reading exam papers.

[006] through [006b] May 9, 1940. Three-page letter to Morris from Bishop, concerning the PMSS positions that are open. [006] “My initial nineteen years were spent in rural and small-town atmosphere of central Illinois, the oldest of four children, daughter of a moderately successful businessman. My mother’s death while I was still in high school resulted in early acceptance of adult responsibilities — homemaking and childcare. Three years of substitute teaching in our town school (keeping house at the same time) were followed by five years in an office of the Chicago Northwestern Railway in Chicago. It was there that I met and married a Kentuckian (a Clay Countian), who was a Chicago high school teacher. For eight years following, we worked with young people, our home a gathering place for them, both from school and from church. During that time I served for several [006a, page 2] years as editor of our monthly church publication, “The Austin Congregationalist.” Summer vacations were always spent in the Kentucky hills, and my interest in and concern for young people in the mountains grew steadily with every contact.

“In 1931, my husband’s health was such that it was necessary for us to leave the city. We came to Berea, spent two quiet years here before his death in October 1933. The next September, I entered Berea College as a freshman, received my A.B. degree, with majors in sociology and English, at the end of four years, then last year return to school for a full year of post-graduate work. My deepest interests have been in the field of social service….”

Bishop continues, assuring Morris that she is fit for the position “both by training and natural aptitude for personnel work” and providing examples of her experiences in the field. She tells of her daughter (11 years old) and son (12), her responsibility to care for them, and the “small contribution” they may make to Pine Mountain as well.

Following Dingman’s suggestion, she [006b] provides two references: Prof. J.W. Hatcher and Dr. Walter Mulder; requests a personal interview at PMSS. “I have a strong desire to see the school that Miss Dingman describes as “a beautiful gem in the mountains.” Mentions she is 40 years old: “I do have ‘a few grey hairs’ and, I hope, ‘something underneath.’”

[001] May 13, 1940. To Morris from Bishop, Berea, KY, detailing the bus route she will take to travel from Berea to Harlan and Dillon; asks for help to get from Dillon to PMSS; thanks Morris for his reply and “the opportunity to come to Pine Mountain.”

[002] May 13, 1940. Carbon copy of Western Union telegram to BIshop from Morris, stating he will be away until Wednesday noon and will interview afterward.

[003] May 15, 1940. Carbon copy of Western Union telegram to Bishop from Fern Hall, Secretary, stating meeting time at Laden Pine Mountain bus stop.

[007] May 24, 1940. To Morris from Bishop, accepting the Pine Mountain position of community coordinator. She asks for suggestions concerning preparation for the work; appreciates being housed with her children; thanks Mr. and Mrs. Morris for their hospitality — also Anna Lee, Mrs. [Alice Joy] Keith, Miss [Fern] Hall, Mr. [Fred J.] Burkhard, Mr. and Mrs. Bunch, Mr. [Brit] Wilder, Majel Jones, Willard Enix, “everyone who contributed to twenty-four hours crammed with more delight and interest than any that have come to me in a long time.”

[008], [008a] May 29, 1940. Two-page letter to Bishop from [unsigned, apparently Morris], confirming her employment by PMSS as coordinator of the Community Group for the upcoming school year; salary will be $75 plus maintenance for her and her children (room, board, laundry). Gives the School’s opening date (Sept. 7) but asks her to arrive earlier for the Guidance Institute (Aug. 25-31). Suggests several books she could read in preparation, including “Education as Guidance by Brewer. This book is very basic to our point of view at Pine Mountain.” 

[011] July 16, 1940. To Bishop from [unsigned]. At Morris’s direction, the writer provides school opening and Institute dates.

[009] July 26, 1940. To Mrs. Fern Hall Hayes from Bishop. Confirms the dates of the Institute and school opening. “All good wishes to you and Mr. Hayes, since such big things have happened to you recently.”

[010] August 22, 1940. To Mrs. Hayes from Bishop, arranging her transportation and pick-up when she arrives in Harlan or Laden.

[028] N.D. Christmas Vacation Memorandum: Bishop’s plans for Christmas vacation. Memorandum: Contract for Bishop to work as supervisor of Workshop cleaning, coordinator of the Community Group, and Sociology teacher for the school year 1941-1942. Salary is $75 per month for nine months with maintenance and laundry for herself and her two children. Her children can attend PMSS without charge.

1941 Community Groups Coordinator, Teacher

[012] February 6, 1941. Memorandum from the Director’s Desk to Bishop, asking her to compose a report on the Community Group for the Knoxville conference.

[013] February 9, 1941. To Morris from Bishop, volunteering to take her turn at the Schoolhouse on Sunday afternoons as her “contribution to the proposed extended recreation program.” She suggests setting up shuffleboard courts.

[014] July 28, 1941. To Miss Barbara Spelman, PMSS, from Bishop in Gillespie, IL, asking that her check be sent to her father’s address (in care of W.H. Russell) in Gillespie where she is staying for two months; asks for the School’s opening date; asks the location of Mr. [Arthur] Dodd in order to write him about reading material for the community group. 

[015] July 31, 1941. To Bishop from [unsigned]. Gives School opening date, the possibility of Bishop’s early arrival, Mr. Dodd’s summer address in Nashville, TN. Mentions Kiwanis camp and the work camp presence on campus.

[016] August 7, 1941. To Bishop in Gillespie, IL, from [unsigned]. Suggests the day Bishop should return. Mentions the “fresh airers,” who put on a dramatization of “Sleeping Beauty.”

[017] August 11, 1941. Address side of postcard to Janet Grant at PMSS from Bishop, who asks to be alerted if Far House would be available if she arrives a few days earlier. [017a] Picture side of postcard with “Greetings from Gillespie, Ill.”

[018] August 18, 1941. Address side of postcard to Mr. and Mrs. Glyn A. Morris at PMSS, from “Birdena, Jane & Jim Bishop.” Visited Blackburn College (Carlinville, IL), “similar to P.M. in some respects. … We’ve sold P.M. to so many young people up here that I think you’ll be receiving applications from Illinois.” [018a] Picture side of postcard with “Greetings from Gillespie, Ill.”

1942 Community Groups Coordinator, Teacher

[026] April 11, 1942. Contract. To Bishop from Glyn Morris, Director, who has been authorized by the Board of Trustees to employ Bishop as Coordinator of the Community Groups for the school year 1942-1943 (The dates are revised in red ink to 1943-1944); also teaching sociology, supervising the cleaning of the Workshop, relieving other workers when necessary, and other teaching duties; salary is $75 per month; room at Far House for Bishop and her children (revised in red ink to “Housing at Old Log); and other stipulations.

[027] May 15, 1942. Addenda to April 11, 1942, contract: “Mrs. Bishop will live at Old Log next year with her two children.”; PMSS will pay $2 per month for light.

1943 Coordinator of Community Groups

[029] April 16, 1943. Contract. To Bishop from William D. Webb, Acting Director, who is authorized by the Board of Trustees to employ Bishop as coordinator of the Community Group for the school year 1943-1944; duties; salary; meals; housing at Old Log; laundry; tuition; vacation; weekends. Signed by Webb, Bishop, and Evelyn K. Wells, Chairman of Personnel Committee.

[019 through 019c] August 11, 1943. Four-page letter to Mr. and Mrs. [William D.] Webb from Bishop, [019] who appreciated Webb’s letter with news “from home.” Describes plans to leave for Berea for a visit en route to PMSS. “Jimmy” needs to arrive early for the [019a, page 2] school catalogue printing job. Mentions that her injured arm is slowly improving. Tells of her plans to “go over Old Log very systematically from attic to cellar.” from which Jimmy will be removing mud and debris from the flood; also plans to dye and sew curtains [019b, page 3] for Old Log from a bale of material in the Office attic. [019c, page 4] Mentions Dr. Arthur and trying to contact Dr. William Tucker; sends her regards to the Webbs, the Dodds, the Tuckers, the Hayeses, Ruth, Miss Hebner.

[020] August 13, 1943. To Bishop from [unsigned], with PMSS news: Brit Wilder’s truckfuls of returning staff and blueberry-pickers; canning tomatoes; mentions Cynthia and Janet Grant and Christopher Rogers.

[021] December 30, 1943. Postcard to Mr. and Mrs. Webb from Bishop, stating her arrival plans by bus; mentions Mrs. Smith. [021a] Address side of postcard, postmarked Berea, KY.

1944 – 1946 Dietitian

[022] through [022c] June 26, 1944. Four-page letter to Mr. and Mrs. Webb from Bishop on PMSS stationary. “I think not many minutes go by … without our thinking and talking about ‘home’ — our school.’ She thanks Mrs. Webb for the “Garner card”; found kitchen equipment while in Berea with Mrs. Welsh’s help; Lists her kitchen purchases and prices. 

[023] through [023c] July 24, 1944. To the Webbs from Bishop in Gillespie, IL. Asks that Miss [Margaret] Nace use her father’s Illinois address instead of the one in Colorado; explains reasons for not joining Mrs. Garner in the West. Mentions slipcovers sewn by Marian Kingman with material from Mrs. Northam; wonders about the kitchen, (work) camp dietitian; mentions Miss Spinney who left for Gatlinburg; housing in Berea for the Webbs; possibly bringing Mary Jane to PMSS to help with Laurel House.

[024] August 5, 1944. To Miss Margaret Nace from Bishop, asking when she can move into Laurel House; mentions Miss Spinney’s and Dr. Francis’ good words about the Nace sisters and looks forward to meeting them.

[025] August 8, 1944. To Bishop in Hamilton, OH, from H.R.S. Benjamin, PMSS Director. Mrs. Comfort and Miss [Abbie] Christensen are sharing kitchen administration until Bishop’s arrival “to take over the complete program.” Miss Pennington may return and work as a second cook. He understands that Mary Jane will return and help until entering Berea College in November. Suggests coming over the mountain in the mail truck.


BIRDENA BISHOP Correspondence II 1946-1962

See Also:

BIRDENA BISHOP Staff (Biography)

BIRDENA BISHOP — Chapel Talk (PMSS) November 22, 1942

BIRDENA BISHOP Guide to Scrapbook Collection

BIRDENA BISHOP Jane and Jim Progress Reports 1940-1943 

BIRDENA BISHOP Kitchen Reports 1944-1947

BIRDENA BISHOP A Philosophy of Freedom PMSS Commencement Speech 1942

BIRDENA BISHOP Photograph Album

BIRDENA BISHOP Women’s Assembly Talk Berea College March 28 1942

COMMUNITY STUDY MAP (Created by Birdena Bishop)

JANE BISHOP HOBGOOD (Biography of Birdena Bishop’s daughter)

PINE MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY STUDY (Bishop assisted with this Berea College archive)