Billy Graham Center

Sarah Belknap "Belle" Sherwood Hawkes - Collection 39

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Sarah Belknap Hawkes

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Photographs in This Collection (Location Records)

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection

Click here to go to the Sarah Belknap "Belle" Sherwood Hawkes collection at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Letters, reports, and photos of an American missionary in Persia, now Iran. Subjects discussed in letters include status of women in Persia, progress of mission work, and Sherwood family affairs. For more information, please see guide.

Collection 39

[January 21, 2000]

Hawkes, Sarah Belknap (Belle) Sherwood; 1854-1919

Papers; 1881-1899; n.d.

1 Box (DC)


There are no restrictions on this collection.


Sarah Belknap "Belle" Sherwood was born December 13, 1854. From information available in the collection itself, it appears that the Sherwood family was native to Ballston Spa, New York; that Belle's father died prior to 1883; that her mother's name was Mary Frances; and that her siblings were William (d.1889), Minnie, Sidney (b.1860, became a lawyer), and Margaret (b.1864). In 1883, Belle sailed from New York City for Persia, arriving in the city of Hamadan, a nine-day trip inland from the coast, in November of that year. The Presbyterian Church, USA, had opened work in Hamadan in 1882, with Miss A. Montgomery in charge, thus the Hamadan girls' school was only a year old when Belle joined Miss Montgomery there.

Belle was not in Hamadan very many days before she met missionary James W. Hawkes (b. August 13, 1853). They were married in Teheran, October, 1884. The long journey to Teheran was necessitated by the fact that legality of the marriage in America required the presence of the United States ambassador to Persia at the ceremony. Belle lost a baby in early 1886 in the wake of a serious illness, and that summer traveled to London for an operation. In 1889, James and Belle Hawkes continued to serve as missionaries in Persia.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of several letters written by Belle to her family, 1883-1899; and two reports prepared for the mission board which she served, 1884 and 1899. The correspondence discusses her initial reactions to Persian life upon her arrival in 1883, language instruction, her courtship and marriage, individual instances of witnessing (especially to the Musselmen, i.e. Muslims), progress in the school, her convalescence in 1886, servants and housekeeping, and glimpses of Persian life. Fellow missionaries mentioned include A. Montgomery, Charlotte Montgomery, and Dr. and Mrs. E. W. Alexander. One nearly constant theme is the management of her finances by brother Sidney in New York, specifically how she wishes her tithe on the interest income to be spent. She deals at length in several letters with the possibility of turning a substantial amount of her capital (four to five times her annual salary) over to the girls' school work at Hamadan, seeking to convince her brother and the mission board that a woman is capable of making financial decisions.

Letters of December 27, 1884, and April 6, 1886, deal with the struggle between Victorian propriety and expressing affection. Written both to Sidney, they display a woman wrestling with regret over "this reserve in the New England Character" which she feels has damaged family relationships, perhaps irretrievable. The first of these letters is dated shortly after her marriage.

The 1884 report discusses the development of the girls' school students at Hamadan. The 1899 report recounts her travels in Persia visiting Muslim women and observing their spiritual and social condition.


The materials in this collection were acquired by the Center from a book dealer in April, 1978.

Accession #78-15
May 19, 1978
Robert D. Shuster
L. Stockton

Revised, April 21, 1982
Galen R. Wilson

Retyped, April 18, 1989
J. Nasgowitz
D. Reifsnyder


Accession: 78-15

Type of material: Photographs

The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.


1881 portrait photo of Belle S. Hawkes taken by W. W. Whiddit of Newburgh, New York (1).

October 1895 portrait photo of Belle Sherwood Hawkes taken in Teheran, Iran, for Mrs. M. F. Sherwood (1).

Photos of Belle S. Hawkes in a garden in Hamadan, Iran (2).

Photo of a woman and a dog (1).

Photo of Belle Sherwood and James W. Hawkes (1).

Group photo of Mary Sherwood, J. W. Hawkes, Fannie Beattie, Annie? Beattie, Mary? Beattie (1).

Photo of Mary Francis Sherwood and Belle Sherwood Hawkes (1).


Box Folder Description
1 1 November 1883
1 2 January 1884
1 3 February 1884
1 4 March 1884
1 5 April 1884
1 6 May 1884
1 7 August 1884
1 8 September 1884
1 9 December 1884
1 10 January 1885
1 11 February 1885
1 12 May 1885
1 13 January 1886
1 14 February 1886
1 15 March 1886
1 16 April 1886
1 17 June 1886
1 18 July 1886
1 19 September 1886
1 20 October 1886
1 21 November 1886
1 22 December 1886
1 23 November 1888
1 24 July 1889
1 25 August 1899
1 26 n.d.
1 27 "Report of Girls' School...;" July 1884
1 28 Report; July 1899

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Last Revised: 1/24/00
Expiration: indefinite