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Myrtle Hinkhouse papers

Identifier: IWA0955

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Scope and Contents

The Myrtle Hinkhouse papers date from 1875 to 2015 and measure 14.75 linear feet. The collection is arranged in six series: Biographical, Education, Correspondence, Missions, Photographs, and Artifacts.

The Biographical (1875-2015) series consists of photos, including a tin type from the 1880s, and information about her parents; two photo composites of the Hinkhouse farm near Wilton; family correspondence with a cousin; her mother’s obituary; diaries from the United States and her time in China; pamphlets and a West Liberty church centennial; two address books; a spending book; the mission expenditures; her passport; newspaper clippings and photocopies from 1963-1970; information about Hinkhouse’s niece, Belle; and two different histories written by Hinkhouse’s grandnieces.

The Education (1897-1966) series is organized chronologically. It contains papers from the German English College in Wilton, such as the 1899 school publication titled Echo, school notebooks, Ye Medical Student’s Primer, graduation memorabilia, photos of Hinkhouse and her classmates, and a history on the school by Lynn Ochiltree. Items from Iowa College, later renamed Grinnell, such as church bulletins and prayer meeting papers, homework assignments and notebooks, event invitations, posters, and programs, commencement announcements and programs, letters of recommendation, and publications, including newsletters, yearbooks, the Cyclone Junior Annual, and a Scarlet and Black newspaper. A couple materials from Parsons College, such as a 1908 yearbook, transcripts, a notebook, pamphlets, and a green college letter. Papers from the Philadelphia Women’s Medical College, including a Women’s Medical College Handbook, letter of introduction, a faculty catalogue from 1924, church bulletins, programs and schedules, copies of The Esculapian, The Iatrian and The Scalpel, class notebooks, final examinations and eligibility papers, and newsletters. This collection also includes several primers, textbooks, novels, and alumni publications from Grinnell and the Philadelphia Women’s Medical College.

The Correspondence (1896-1991) series is organized chronologically. This collection includes early correspondence from her father, uncle, and brothers. There are letters written to and from Hinkhouse while she was in school, including a receipt to a New York company that made her Iowa College graduation gown, her certification as a grade schoolteacher in the state of Iowa, and a post card album. Also in this series are all letters written while Hinkhouse was working as a medical missionary, which include letters to and from family in the United States, fellow missionaries, and medical patients. There are also notes from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions and the U.S War Department. Some letters include small memorabilia. Also included in this subseries is a 1944 article co-written by a professor from Cornell about malnutrition in Japanese internment camps. Finally, there are letters written to Hinkhouse after she returned to America. These letters include correspondence with the Women’s Medical College Alumni Board and the obituaries of fellow missionaries from 1955-1967.

The Missions (1905-1970) series is organized chronologically. It contains Hinkhouse’s 1905 appointment letter to China; information pamphlets and magazines about the Presbyterian Missions and different medical practices of the time; a written report and pictures of a trip to Mongolia, Chinese flashcards; greeting and calling cards, notes and invitations; maps and travel itineraries; a published medical report written Hinkhouse regarding the birth of Siamese twins; an armband and identification patch worn by Hinkhouse in a Japanese internment camp; handwritten notebooks; books, magazines, and newspaper clippings; items relating to her work as a missionary; information about the Repatriation; Chinese announcements, pamphlets, books, and posters; Hinkhouse’s guest book for mission meetings and dinners; and Chinese paper art. Finally, it contains miscellaneous publications such as: The Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society; The Missionary Herald; The Carbondale Cookbook (American recipes translated into Chinese); The Chinese Cookbook (compiled by the Y.W.C.A.: Chinese recipes translated into English); The Story of Japan in China As Told In American Cartoons; China Faces Japan: A Comprehensive Survey and Analysis of the Present Conflict Between China and Japan; The Diseases of the Skin; and a hand-drawn book of Chinese shop signs.

The Photographs (1875-1963) series, chronologically ordered, consists of tintypes left in Hinkhouse’s possession, a photograph of the Hinkhouse siblings in front of their childhood home, photos of Hinkhouse’s class and her friends at the Philadelphia Women’s Medical College, portraits of Hinkhouse before she left for China, photos taken on Hinkhouse’s missionary trips, a scrapbook documenting her time in Baoding (Paotingfu) Northern China, and photos from her 1926 furlough, which includes pictures from a visit to her mother’s childhood home in Pennsylvania, a negatives album, two photo albums, microfilm, slides, and later photos of Hinkhouse at her home in West Liberty.

The Artifacts (1897-1930) series contains materials related to Hinkhouse’s education, family, and mission work. Education-related artifacts include a colored glass framed illustration given to Hinkhouse by her teacher in 1895; a 1897 certification of completion from Common School; pieces of chalkboard, either used by Hinkhouse or in the rural schools she taught in; a 1902 diploma from German English School; Hinkhouse’s doctoral hood; two quilts created partly with Hinkhouse’s 1908 graduation gown; a silver commemorative spoon from Parson’s College; and a matted photo and a framed collage of Hinkhouse and her classmates from Women’s Medical College. Family-related artifacts include a 1925 matted photo of the Hinkhouse family on R.W. and Anna’s 50th anniversary (along with a stand-in for Myrtle) and a 1926 matted photo taken at R.W.’s second wedding. Artifacts from Hinkhouse’s time in China include textiles (embroidered bags and cloth), dinnerware (bowls, spoons, and cups), brass items (a lantern, candlesticks, and a pipe), paper art, dolls, figurines (including a set depicting a funeral procession), a Chinese bible, and a fan.


  • Creation: 1875-2015


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Myrtle Jane Hinkhouse, a doctor, teacher, nurse, and missionary, was born on November 26, 1883, near Wilton, Iowa. Her parents were Rufus and Anna Smiley Hinkhouse. The family moved to the West Liberty area in 1901. In 1902, Hinkhouse taught in rural schools for two years. She then attended Parsons College and, after graduating from Iowa College in Grinnell in 1908, taught for another two years. In 1910, she began studying at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, completing in 1914. After a year of internship at the Infirmary for Women and Children in New York City, she entered a life of mission work.

In 1916, she went to her appointment in China, originally given to her from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in 1905. She served in Tengchoufu for two and a half years as a physician to personnel at the mission. She then moved to Beijing to train nurses, do clinical work, and teach at the North China Medical College. In 1924, she was sent to the Paoting Fu Mission Hospital until March 1943, when she and other foreigners were placed in a Japanese internment camp. In September, the internees were released. Hinkhouse docked in New York City on December 1st, 1943.

In 1946, she returned to China in Tali, just off of the Burma Road, and served for two more years. Afterward, she made the 100 mile plus trip inland China. She moved back to West Liberty in 1949 and began to lecture and write about her experiences, as well as volunteer in Berea, Kentucky to provide medical care to people living in Appalachia. In 1975, she died at the age of 92.


14.75 Linear Feet : This measurement does not include all of the artifact boxes.

Photographs in Box 8, Box 27, box 28, Box 29 boxes

Language of Materials




A medical missionary from West Liberty who worked in China in the early 1900s.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 1374) were donated by Ann Hinkhouse in 2015 and by Todd Thelen in 2020.

Rachel A. Black, 2015; Katie Gandhi, 2016; Heidi Stofer, 2018; Avery Porter, 2021; Meredith Kite, 2024.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)