Randolph College research takes a closer look at Pearl S. Buck | Education

Pearl S. Buck — a Nobel Prize-winning writer, political activist in the 1940s, and graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, now known as Randolph College — was the basis of a research project this summer at the middle School.

Buck founded the East and West Association in 1942 to facilitate cultural exchange between Asia and the West.

“No one ever did anything about Pearl Buck’s political views or his foreign policy activism,” said Selda Altan, assistant professor of history at Randolph College and lead on the project.

The research stems from Altan’s interests in the perspectives of women in World War II and an ongoing project the professor is working on.

This project is about American journalist Helen Foster Snow and author Ida Pruitt bringing together two Chinese sisters: Soong Mei-ling and Soong Ch’ing-ling, better known in America as Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Sun Yat- sen because of their marriages to these presidents of China.

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They established industrial cooperatives, commonly referred to as “Indusco” or “Gung Ho”, to meet China’s wartime needs by resettling Chinese industry and refugees, who were mostly women and children. At that time, Japan occupied the eastern coasts of China where Chinese industry was based.

The Nationalist government at the time moved some of these factories inland. The Indusco initiative supported this effort by creating smaller production units. Altan said many people escaped the occupation on the coasts and started working in these factories and cooperatives as refugees.

This was all in line with Buck and her efforts as she tried to increase sympathy for China in the United States. Altan wanted to bring these two elements together by going deeper into Buck.

“I was interested in these subjects before coming here, then during the transition to a new project. I wanted to use our sources here at Randolph,” Altan said.

Altan and his student, Ranger Kinney, wanted to understand the foreign policy vision and context of Buck’s perspective on American policy toward China during and after World War II, up to 1949 – when the Nationalist regime backed by the United States in China lost the Civil War to the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party.

Kinney said Buck has always been interesting.

“It’s a very interesting time and I was interested to see what Buck thought about it and what the American perspective was because Buck was, for much of his life, the American to talk to about China.” , Kinney said.

To start, they used special collections at the Lipscomb Library at Randolph College. The special collections contained interviews with people who knew Buck during his lifetime, as well as short articles and letters Buck wrote to other important political figures.

Within these collections, the group examined issues of a magazine called “Asia and the Americas”, covering the period from 1941 to 1946.

It was a magazine which Buck and her husband took over in 1942 and which became the press of the East and West Association. She wrote articles for each issue and also published articles by other writers who have written about China and Southeast Asia.

An example is an article about people in India who discussed Mahatma Gandhi’s independence movement.

The band also had access to Jane Rabb’s collection at Lipscomb Library. It included her correspondence, recordings of interviews, journal excerpts, and articles she used when writing Pearl Buck’s entry in “Notable American Women.”

They found a copy of a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt that Buck wrote in 1943 before Roosevelt visited China. In the letter, Buck advised the first lady what to do, who to talk to, and what not to do.

“What we learned was that Buck’s idea of ​​wartime foreign policy was not about military aid, it was about getting Americans to understand that the Chinese were, at their core, people. people,” Kinney said. “There was a relationship that could be nurtured beyond any official relationship the US government had.”

Altan and Kinney also visited the New York Public Library. The professor said that during their trip to New York, they learned that Buck was part of humanitarian aid in his work with United China Relief – a semi-official organization that raises funds to provide aid to the China during the Japanese occupation. They provided doctors, medical aid and opened schools.

“From the New York Library in particular, it sort of fits into our larger image of Buck as a foreign policy advocate,” Kinney said.

Altan explained that through Buck’s efforts, she was ultimately unsuccessful in influencing US foreign policy toward China. Still, she pointed out that Buck’s activism was invaluable.

“In 1949, from an American point of view, China was lost,” Altan said. “It was something she was trying to prevent because she knew a civil war was coming and she knew the Communists were gaining ground in China.”

Kinney said that at first Buck was successful, but ultimately couldn’t top the message from the US government at the time.

“Ultimately, because of the aggressive nature of American foreign policy towards the communist movement in Asia, there was no way that a private citizen who was doing, I think, his best to try to gain sympathy for the people in China could outweigh the propaganda the government was talking about the Communists,” Kinney said.

Kinney is a rising junior at Randolph College majoring in history. Kinney plans to continue his education after his undergraduate studies due to an interest in comparative revolutions.

Kinney thinks it was important to study Buck.

“I think what’s most important about what we’ve learned about Buck is that his view of China is still important,” Kinney said. “Buck wanted Americans to see this situation as two groups of people who are very similar and who have, not similar customs, but similar values ​​in many cases.”