Skip to main content

Collection 039 Papers of Sarah "Belle" Hawkes

Identifier: CN 039

Scope and Contents

Correspondence etters, reports, and photos relating to the missionary service of Sarah "Belle" Sherwood Hawkes in Persia, now Iran under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Subjects discussed in letters include status of women in Persia, progress of mission work, and Sherwood family affairs.

The collection consists of several letters written by Hawkes 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 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.


  • Created: 1881 - 1899

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on this collection.

Biographical Information

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 had a miscarriage 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.


1.00 Box

1 Photograph File

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were purchased by the Billy Graham Center Archives 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

Collection 039 Papers of Sarah "Belle" Hawkes
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US