Guide to the Lavinia Scott (1907-) Papers

Collection Title: Lavinia Scott (1907-) Papers
Dates: 1930-1959
Identification: 005
Creator: Scott, Lavinia, 1907-
Extent: 4 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Missionary in Natal, South Africa; papers consist mainly of letters and other items sent by Scott and her colleagues to her mother.
Acquisition Information: The Lavinia Scott Papers were donated to the Department of African Studies in 1959, and were later transferred to the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies. See correspondence of November 19, 1959, and February 17, 1980, in the Africana Archives files.
Processing Information: Processed by Lisa B. Williams, August 1981.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Repository: Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies
Northwestern University Libraries
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
Phone: 847-467-3084

Biographical/Historical Information

Lavinia Scott was born in Yankton, South Dakota, in 1907. After graduating from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1927, she taught for two years in Harvard, Illinois. She spent the next two years in Christian Education work at the United Congregational Church in Bridgeport, Connecticut, then entered Yale University, where she earned an M.A.

In 1932, Scott was sent to South Africa as an educational missionary by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (later renamed the United Church Board for World Ministries).

After briefly studying Zulu, Scott taught for three years at Adams College (then known as Amanzimtoti Institute), mainly in the teacher training department. In 1936, she became principal of Inanda Seminary, a girls' boarding high school, where she remained until 1969. Inanda was one of the few mission schools to escape takeover by the South African government in the 1950s, becoming a private school supported by the United Church Board for World Ministries and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.

Throughout her career, Scott continued her education, studying for brief periods at the University of Wisconsin, Harvard, Yale, and the School of Theology at Claremont, California. In 1954 she was granted an honorary L.H.D. by Illinois College.

Scott left Inanda in 1969 to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary in Cape Province, South Africa. Since her retirement in 1974, she has resided in Claremont, California.

Scope and Content

The Lavinia Scott Papers relate to her life and work as a missionary in Natal, South Africa. They consist mainly of letters and other items sent by Scott and her missionary colleagues to her mother, Mrs. G.H. Scott, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and, later, Evanston, Illinois. The correspondence ceased with the death of Mrs. Scott in 1959.

While the social and political affairs of South Africa are reflected in the papers to some extent, especially in materials dating from after World War II, they primarily illuminate daily life in the Bantu mission schools.

The correspondence, by far the largest subseries, is divided into five groups. The first, letters to Mrs. G.H. Scott from Lavinia Scott, consists of a chronological run of personal letters 1931-1959, followed by a chronological run of general letters 1932-1959. The personal letters, generally handwritten, are from Lavinia to her mother, and deal primarily, though not exclusively, with social and family news. The general letters, mimeographed or typewritten and sent in multiple copies to family and friends, are less personal in nature, often dealing with mission activities and African issues.

The second group of correspondence, letters to Mrs. G.H. Scott from other correspondents, includes letters from family members, personal friends, missionaries in Africa and elsewhere, and Lavinia's colleagues. Arranged chronologically, this file is composed of both personal letters and mimeographed “Dear Friends” newsletters. Also to be found here are “Little Pictures,” narrative descriptions of Inanda life sent to Mrs. Scott by Inanda staff member Beatrice Cowey.

Three small files complete the correspondence: letters to Lavinia Scott from other correspondents; letters to other correspondents from Lavinia Scott; and miscellaneous correspondence. Miscellaneous correspondence consists of a few letters neither to nor from either Lavinia Scott or Mrs. G.H. Scott.

In order to save space and postage, Mrs. Scott's African correspondents, including Lavinia, often mailed more than one letter in the same envelope. Individual letters have been separated and filed in their proper locations. Enclosures, including a few photographs, have been retained where they were found. A few letters bear appended notes by individuals other than the primary correspondent.

The official reports consist of copies of reports prepared by Lavinia Scott for the American Board, including annual reports of Inanda Seminary. Arrangement is chronological.

The printed materials include materials concerning Adams Mission/Amanzimtoti Institute and Inanda Seminary, materials produced by the American Board, miscellaneous printed materials, and clippings. Programs, invitations, brochures, and broadsides concerning activities and mission work in both Africa and America are to be found in the miscellaneous printed materials category. The clippings concern Scott, the mission schools at Adams and Inanda, and persons and institutions that figure prominently in the correspondence files. Many items in the printed materials probably were enclosed with correspondences. In each of the subgroups of printed materials, arrangement is chronological.

The miscellaneous writings include stories, poems, and reports pertaining to Africa and missionary affairs. Some were written by Inanda staff members, others may have been written by Mrs. G.H. Scott.

The notes by Mrs. G.H. Scott include annotated quotations from Lavinia Scott's letters and notes regarding gifts and topics to be discussed in future letters.

Arrangement of Materials

The Scott Papers are divided into five subseries: Correspondence, Official Reports, Printed Materials, Miscellaneous Writings, and Notes.


Corporate Name

Amanzimtoti Institute

Inanda Seminary (Inanda, South Africa)

Personal Name

Scott, G. H., Mrs., -1959--Correspondence

Scott, Lavinia, 1907--Correspondence


Missions--South Africa

Women missionaries--South Africa--Correspondence

Container List / Contents

  • Correspondence
    • Letters to Mrs. G.H. Scott from Lavinia Scott
      • Personal letters to Mrs. G.H. Scott from Lavinia Scott
        • 1931Box 1, Folder 1
        • 1932Box 1, Folder 2
        • 1933Box 1, Folder 3
        • 1934Box 1, Folder 4
        • 1935Box 1, Folder 5
        • 1936Box 1, Folder 6
        • 1937Box 1, Folder 7
        • 1938Box 1, Folder 8
        • 1939Box 1, Folder 9
        • 1940Box 1, Folder 10
        • 1941Box 2, Folder 1
        • 1942Box 2, Folder 2
        • 1943Box 2, Folder 3
        • 1944Box 2, Folder 4
        • 1945Box 2, Folder 5
        • 1946Box 2, Folder 6
        • 1947Box 2, Folder 7
        • 1948Box 2, Folder 8
        • 1949Box 2, Folder 9
        • 1950Box 2, Folder 10
        • 1951Box 3, Folder 1
        • 1952Box 3, Folder 2
        • 1953Box 3, Folder 3
        • 1954Box 3, Folder 4
        • 1955Box 3, Folder 5
        • 1956Box 3, Folder 6
        • 1957Box 3, Folder 7
        • 1958Box 3, Folder 8
        • 1959Box 3, Folder 9
      • General letters to Mrs. G.H. Scott from Lavinia Scott
        • 1932-1934Box 3, Folder 10
        • 1935-1939Box 3, Folder 11
        • 1940-1948Box 3, Folder 12
        • 1949-1959Box 4, Folder 1
    • Letters to Mrs. G.H. Scott from other correspondents
      • 1930-1940Box 4, Folder 2
      • 1941-1946Box 4, Folder 3
      • 1947-1950Box 4, Folder 4
      • 1951-1959, n.d.Box 4, Folder 5
    • Miscellaneous correspondence
      • Letters to Lavinia Scott from other correspondents, 1934-1944, n.d.Box 4, Folder 6
      • Letters to other correspondents from Lavinia Scott, 1936, 1939, 1956Box 4, Folder 7
      • Miscellaneous correspondence, 1930, 1935, 1953, n.d.Box 4, Folder 8
  • Official Reports
    • Official reports, 1936-1959Box 4, Folder 9
  • Printed materials
    • Adams Mission/Amanzimtoti Institute, 1934-1935Box 4, Folder 10
    • Inanda Seminary, 1939, n.d.Box 4, Folder 11
    • American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, 1936-1948Box 4, Folder 12
    • Miscellaneous printed materials, 1932-1951, n.d.Box 4, Folder 13
    • Clippings, 1933-1959Box 4, Folder 14
  • Miscellaneous writings and notes
    • Miscellaneous writings, 1939-1954, n.d.Box 4, Folder 15
    • Notes by Mrs. G.H. Scott, 1939-1954, n.d.Box 4, Folder 16