Billy Graham Center

Interview with Ruth Margaret (Hatcher) Thomas - Collection 299

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Ruth Thomas

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

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

Audio file and transcript T1

Audio file and transcript T2

Brief Description.

Oral history interview with Thomas about her family and religious background, conversion, recollections of Billy Sunday's campaign in Scranton, PA in 1914, her Wheaton College education, call to missions, work as a Presbyterian missionary nurse in a rehabilitation program of a leper colony in southwestern China along the Burmese border among the Tai-Lu people, language study, worship and use of music, an anti-opium campaign, and a cooperative program of the colony. Also see Collection 298, a similar interview with Thomas'shusband.

Collection 299 [April 4, 2000]
Thomas, Ruth Margaret (Hatcher) ; 1901-
Interview; 1985

Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Ruth Margaret Hatcher was born August 17, 1901, in Scranton, PA to Philip and Emma Hatcher. She grew up in a Christian & Missionary Alliance church and was converted while a teenager at a church revival meeting. She went to the Missionary Training Institute (1923-1925) in Nyack, NY and worked as a secretary at the Christian and Missionary Alliance headquarters in New York City (1925-1928). She received nurses training at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey, becoming an Registered Nurse in 1932. She then attended Wheaton College for one year, graduating in 1934. She married Howard E. Thomas in 1933; the Thomases were the first Wheaton couple allowed to marry while still students. While Howard studied at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, she worked for Wheaton's president, J. Oliver Buswell. She received additional degrees from Cornell University in Education in 1943 (Masters) and 1945 (Doctoral).

In 1937, the Thomases went to Yunnan Province in the Golden Triangle along the Burmese border in southwestern China as missionaries with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. There she with her husband was involved in ministry at a leper colony. While her husband coordinated the administration of the colony, Ruth oversaw the medical services and training. Immediately following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the Thomases were interned by the Japanese in Thailand until mid-1942, after which they returned to the United States. They returned to Asia in 1946 for one year, continuing work among lepers. After returning to the United States, the Thomases moved to Cornell where Howard began teaching. Ruth joined the College of Home Economics faculty in 1948. She interupted her teaching to establish the School of Practical Nursing fo the New York State Department of Adult Education, returning afterward to the University. The Thomases went to Laos in 1962 on a Community Development project for the U.S.A.I.D. The Thomases returned to the U.S., where they worked at Montreat College in Swannanoa, NC until their retirement.

Scope and Content

Ruth Thomas was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on March 6, 1985, at the Thomases home in Swannanoa, NC. The time period covered by the interviews is 1910-1947. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to a cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original.

Tape T1 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:15 Introduction to interview on March 6, 1985
01:45 Childhood and education, marriage at Wheaton College
06:30 Conversion, Christian & Missionary Alliance revival meetings
10:15 Attendence at Billy Sunday's 1914 Scranton campaign, Sunday's preaching
13:00 Development of call to missions, others with spiritual influence, interest in medical work and training at Englewood hospital
20:00 Wheaton College: decision to attend, fondness for Wheaton, J. Oliver Buswell's character
25:00 Presbyterian church at Kishwaukee in rural Illinois, church's financial support of Thomases
29:45 Decision to go to China despite reluctance
31:30 Wheaton College: spiritual life, chapel, Evan Welsh
35:15 Travel to mission station, first impressions of China
40:00 Getting established, Marie Park as director at the station, complexity of incorporating unseasoned missionaries into the work, language study
45:30 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
00:45 Continuation on language study, portion of Lord's Prayer in tribal language
05:15 Tribal use of music, singing hymns, typical worship and use of drama
10:45 Language study: husband's difficulty, relocation to isolated village for immersion
13:15 End of side 2

Tape T2 - side 1
00:00 Beginning of tape
01:15 Anti-opium campaign: how she and her husband coordinated their work, treament, extent of opium use in the area
07:15 Medical work in the villages, vaccinating for small pox, gaining trust
12:15 Leper cooperative: processing cotton; growing tobacco, peanuts, and vegetables; benefits of program; national adminstration; adapting diet
21:15 Relational problems minimized by careful consultation with nationals
23:00 Obtaining food supplies
28:15 Perceptions of the Thomases by other missionaries
31:15 Differences in denominational practices, helpfulness of Bukers in Burma
35:30 Usefulness of Nyack education for missionary work
38:30 End of side 1 and interview


The materials in this collection were received by the Center in March 1985 from Ruth Thomas.

Accession 85-37
February 22, 1993
Paul A. Ericksen
C. Easley

Accession 85-37
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, minutes. 60 minutes. One side only. Originally recorded on cassette and transferred to reel-to-reel tape for long-term preservation. Interview with Ruth H. Thomas by Paul A. Ericksen. Topics covered include background, conversion, Billy Sunday's 1914 Scranton, PA campaign, call to missions, Wheaton College education, work as a missionary nurse with the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions at a leper colony in southwestern China among the Tai-Lu people, language study, and worship and use of music. Recorded on March 6, 1985.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 39 minutes. One side only. Originally recorded on cassette and transferred to reel-to-reel tape for long-term preservation. Continuation of an interview with Ruth H. Thomas by Paul A. Ericksen. Topics covered include the Thomases' role in an anti-opium campaign, the medical work in the area, a cooperative program they developed, and life as isolated missionaries. Recorded on March 6, 1985.

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Last Revised: 9/09/02
Expiration: indefinite