Letter from Alfred E. Stearns to Sister Mary Antony, St. Mary's School, Peekskill, New York, September 19, 1928


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Letter from Alfred E. Stearns to Sister Mary Antony, St. Mary's School, Peekskill, New York, September 19, 1928


Letter from Alfred E. Stearns to Sister Mary Antony, St. Mary's School, Peekskill, New York, September 19, 1928


My dear Miss Antony:

On my return to Andover, I have been shown your letter of September 10 to Miss Jones, written at the suggestion in my earlier letter to you. Please accept my thanks for the prompt and efficient way in which you have cooperated with me in handling Miss Helen Tsai's case, and please accept, too, my thanks for your readiness to accept the girl at this early season.

I found on my return that Miss Jones had arranged to have someone accompany Helen to Peekskill, and while the selection made was perhaps not in every sense ideal, the available candidates for the position being naturally few, but the wife of one of our employees was finally pressed into service, and I infer from her report that she at least succeeded in placing Helen safely in your case. I was not able, however, to explain to her in the way I would have liked to do in order that she might discuss with you frankly Helen's problems and needs. Very probably these will reveal themselves direct to you in time and can be handled properly by you without much suggestion or interference on my part.

In general I think you will find Helen exceptionally amenable to the school's regulations and influence. She needs to be taught something of the refinements of life, for while her instincts are all of the best, I find that she has comparatively little idea of the ordinary proprieties, and is inclined to be a bit too free and easy with everyone, especially on comparatively short acquaintances. Perhaps I should not call this a real weakness. I think it is rather pure ignorance, and I am confident that a word of advice now and then along these lines will be helpful and accepted in the best of spirit. She told me when she arrived from China that she had received the nickname of "tom-boy" on the boat coming over, and was quite amused at the fact. I warned her that this seemed in itself to indicate a little lack of control and restraint on her part but I am afraid that my suggestions were not fully appreciated. These characteristics, however, are in my judgment wholly superficial, and I know that they can and will be properly dealt with at St. Mary's.

In my experience with many Chinese wards, I have come to feel strongly that it is not wise to press them too early or too strongly with matters and problems relating to religion. Helen, like a number of others of her countrymen whom I have had in my care, comes from a progressive family. Her father is distinctly a scholar who spent many years in his early life studying in this country, but who, I judge, like most of his friends, still lives the Chinese life and follows the Chinese ways. That he probably wishes something better for his children, I have no doubt, though whether he will be willing when the time came to make the sacrifice necessary to bring this about is the real question. It is my guess that he would like to see his children become professing Christians, though he would perhaps not be willing to say as much as this. A friend of his, Mr. C.Y. Sun, one of the most progressive men in China today, who has had four children under my charge, three of them still in this country, wrote to me frankly that he would be glad if his children would of their own accord decide to join the church. The three boys have done so since, and with very little, if any, direct pressure exerted on them to this end. From my experience with the Chinese nature, I am pretty sure that pressure tends to breed an undercurrent of opposition, cleverly concealed on the outside, but strong and very much alive. Where response to such pressure is apparent, it is pretty apt to prove superficial in the end.

All of these things I should like very much to talk over with you in person, and perhaps the opportunity may yet appear. I am just thinking aloud a bit at the moment in the hope that these thoughts may prove of some help to you in your dealing with this interesting and promising representative of the Orient.

Very sincerely yours,


Alfred E. Stearns


Phillips Academy


September 19, 1928


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