Women at Hope College in the 1930's and 1940's

Diversity Statement

As a research team, we want to acknowledge the limited scope of our project.

History is filtered through many biases which silence those without power.  Philosopher and historian Michel-Rolph Troulliot argues that this happens in four stages with the first being in the original recording of documents. The poor, the powerless, and the illiterate are never heard from. The second stage happens when only some documents get archived, as those documents deemed "important" are saved and others are discarded. The third stage of silencing happens when historians choose what archived materials are worthy of research. The fourth stage occurs with the establishment of the canon of historical topics and works. Throughout these steps, people and perspectives are intentionally or accidentally forgotten and silenced [1]. 

Though students and faculty of varying identities have attended Hope, those with marginalized identities or living at the intersection of multiple identities are more likely to be victims of these biases in the historical record. Therefore, they are marginalized in the archive and in Hope’s history. As a result, most of the women featured in this project are middle to upper-class, White women. This can be seen clearly in trends among the female faculty and students analysis page. Chapters in commissioned chronicles of Hope’s history focus on the White, Dutch, male founders of Hope and Holland. Occasionally, they feature men of color but spend little time considering variations in religious identity, ability, gender identity, and sexuality. Therefore, despite our effort, our project is clearly and frustratingly exclusive. 

In light of this reality, we hope to provide some context on Hope’s progression towards diversity in the realms of gender, ethnicity, and race. We must be transparent that this short timeline oversimplifies a complex history, but we hope to do it accurately.

Ottawa Nation

Before settlers from the Netherlands came to the area now known as Holland, the land had long been occupied by the Odawa (Ottawa Nation), specifically the Black River Band of Ottawas. Chief Joseph Wakazoo (later Waukazoo) and his tribespeople welcomed the immigrants, though there was much cultural and linguistic confusion. Albertus Van Raalte, the founder of Hope College, and other immigrants founded the city of Holland in 1847, displacing the Odawa. The Ottawa Nation was among other tribes of Native Americans forced to choose by President Andrew Jackson to become settled in reservations on the Western frontier (West of the Mississippi River) or become settled farmers. After the 1830 Indian Removal Act, Michigan tribes surrendered their land to the government. Chief Wakazoo hired Reverend George N. Smith to lead them, and the Ottawa Nation moved to Northport, Michigan, where they had previously spent summers, by 1849 [2].

It was not until 1924 that the first Native American student graduated from Hope College, though he was not a member of the Ottawa Nation [3]. As a research team and a community, we acknowledge the reality that the creation of Hope and the Dutch immigrants' presence in Holland rested on the removal of the indigenous peoples. As a result, many ancestors of Chief Wakazoo’s tribe are a part of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. They are active today throughout Michigan. 

Early Graduates of Hope College

Hope College’s first matriculating cohorts were male and mostly White. The exceptions were two international students from Japan who graduated from Hope in 1879. Though multiple Japanese students attended Hope, the first to graduate were Kumaji Kimura and Motoichiro Oghimi in 1879. According to Elton J. Bruins, author of Envisioning Hope College: Letters Written by Albertus C. Van Raalte to Philip Phelps Jr. 1857-1875, international students were accepted to Hope under perceived Christian duty and the aspiration that the students would convert to Christianity and evangelize in their home countries. This can be seen in the admittance of Kimura and Motoichiro who were both unconverted before attending Hope, but both served in ministry after matriculating. This is also exemplified in one of Van Raalte’s letters where he wrote, 

“I rejoice in the increase of the number of Japanese: the Lord may make this Institute, by many of no account felt even far off. - Your wandering in the East is need[ed] and fruitful. - I trust that Mrs Phelps will rejoice in having now in hand three Japanese : So she does do missionary work indeed.” [4]

Over the next 50 decades, most international students came from locations where the Reformed Church of America had missions such as China, Japan, India, Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Mexico, Korea, and Peru.

Japanese Women

In 1878, women were first welcomed to Hope. At first, they boarded locally or lived with their parents. When Voorhees Hall was completed in 1907, women were housed there for a time. Though there is not much information on women of color at Hope in the early twentieth century, one Japanese woman is featured in the 1934 Milestone named Setsu Matsunobu. She was from Yokohama, Japan and majored in English. Matsunobu was an active member at Hope, participating in Greek Life (Alethea), International Club, Student Volunteers, Chapel Choir, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and Senior Girl’s Alliance [5].

Two Japanese women also graduated from Hope in the 1930s. Fumi Watanabe, a resident of Tokyo, graduated in 1931. In the Milestone, she is described as, “Friendly, Free, Firm,” and her hometown is listed as Tokio, Japan [6]. Miyo Tase, a graduate in 1932, participated in Women’s Gospel team, Girl’s Glee Club, Athletic Debt Diggers, Dorian Sorority, and Dorians’ Inter-sorority Basketball Championship Team [7]. Clearly, international women and women of color were important members of the community - though detailed records of their lives have not been saved.

Bias in Saving Materials

We can see evidence of the small sampling of what is saved in the archives when comparing  our information available on three students of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s: Japanese international students, Fumi Watanabe and Miyo Tase, and the daughter of missionaries,  Wilhelmina Jean Walvoord. The only information we have on Fumi Watanabe Takenouche and Miyo Tase remains in their matriculate document that notes their general enrollment at Hope as well as their grades, attendance at graduate schools, and possible work after college. Watanabe attended Ferris Seminary in Yokohama, Japan and continued to teach there after graduating. Her records were burned in a fire, after which we have no information on this woman other than her married name, Takenouche [8]. We were unable to find Miyo Tase’s matriculate document. 

Meanwhile, we have a large history of Wilhelmina Jean Walvoord. Born in Japan in 1909, Walvoord was the daughter of American RCA missionaries in Japan. She and her two sisters were homeschooled in Karuizawa, Japan by her mother until the death of her father in 1919. After his death, the Walvoord family returned to the United States. Wilhelmina was just 10 years old. Her mother became the first matron of Voorhees Hall. After attending school in Holland, Wilhelmina and her sister enrolled at Hope College in the fall of 1926. After her time at Hope, she became a youth director on the east coast until WWII. During the war she worked for the USO and continued with the organization and the YMCA after the war until her retirement in 1979 [9]. Wilhelmina’s entire life story was documented by her cousin, David De Jong in 2009. 

These three women attended Hope around the same time. Both Walvoord and Tase participated in a number of activities during their time at Hope [10]. However, the histories donated and saved about these women are, sadly, completely different. Wilhelmina, due to her connection through her cousin, David De Jong, had her entire life story written and saved. Her Dutch heritage and connection to the college allowed her story to be completely told. On the other hand, the Joint Archives have precious little information on Watanabe and Tase. Speaking with the Joint Archives of Holland’s Director of Archives, Geoff Reynolds, this may be due to a difference in feeling worthy to donate their information to the Archives [11]. Meanwhile, Watanabe and Tase perhaps did not think their own story worthy of documentation and therefore, did not leave records for the archive. They may not have been invited to do so, and no one else donated materials about them.

This complex process of what’s saved in the archives limits the sample of experiences  that we are able to examine for our research. The saving of materials from these three women is an example of the flaws in the way that people’s stories have been saved at the Archives throughout the 20th century. Because the Archives is limited to what is donated by family members or individuals, much of the collection remains extremely exclusive. It also demonstrates the difficulty for researchers to get an accurate sample of all student experiences at Hope. 

The First Native American Student at Hope College

In comparison to international diversity, Hope took longer to embrace American racial and ethnic diversity. Nonwhite American students began enrolling in the 1920s. As previously mentioned, the first Native American student was James Collins Ottipoby, a member of the Comanchee nation; he graduated from Hope in 1925. While at Hope, he took a classical course and participated in Greek Life (Cosmopolitan), Home Volunteer, Gospel Team, Football, Baseball, Varsity Basketball, the Monogram Club, and the Hope College Kurfew Klub [12]. After graduating from Hope, Ottipoby attended Western Theological Seminary and became a minister and pastor. During World War II, he was a Chaplain and a Major. Afterwards, he served in the ministry at the Laguna Reservation [13].

The First African American Student at Hope College

James Carter Dooley Jr. was the first African American to matriculate from Hope in 1932. He majored in history at Hope. Then, he received a Masters in Education Administration and Supervision from Texas Southern University. He later served as a teacher, assistant principal, pastor, and missionary (graduates program). Carter Dooley's father, James Carter Dooley Sr., founded the Southern Normal School in Brewton, Alabama. That school then became a feeder school to Hope College. Pauline Hendrieth (see below) and many other African American graduates from Hope came from the Southern Normal School [14].


Dr. Samuel Lewis, an African American from Brewton, Alabama, graduated from Hope in 1951 with a double major in chemistry and biology on the pre-medical track. He received a doctorate in zoology from Howard University, entered medical school and the U.S. Army. He was employed as a heart disease specialist [15].

In 1951, three women of color appear in the 1951 Milestone. Pauline Rosalee Chaat, a Native American student from Oklahoma was a Junior [16]. There is no record of her in the 1952 Milestone, though that does not mean she did not matriculate from Hope. Wynette Devore, an African American student, was a Senior in 1951. She was from Metuchen, New Jersey and majored in English. She was a member of Dorian or Kappa Beta Phi [17]. Lastly, Pauline Hendrieth, an African American student, was also a Senior in 1951. She was from Brewton, Alabama, majored in English, and was a member of Sigma Iota Beta [18]. Pauline Hendrieth and Samuel Williams, a Western Theological Seminary graduate, married and ministered together across the country. Samuel Williams, her husband, started Upward Bound at Hope College which is pre-college preparatory program which serves high school student from families who have low incomes and are first generation college students. He also served as an assistant chaplain for Campus Ministries [19]. As we researched the predominantly White women at Hope in 1930s and 1940s, we hoped to recognize the importance of these women of color's lives in shaping the experiences of all of Hope's future students.

We do not have many indicators of what daily life was like for minority students at Hope during Hope’s first century, and they certainly must have faced discrimination and many challenges. One positive memory stands out in the record, however. In regards to President Truman’s mission to desegregate the military, Samuel Lewis said  “The only conversations that I heard about segregation and civil rights were students saying that they were hoping that [US president Harry S.] Truman was able to do what he was trying to do. They were not opposed to that. As a matter of fact, they were fine with it.” [20]

While this quote paints a positive picture, this statement should not negate the struggles and structural problems that minority students have faced and continue to face at Hope. There is still much to do for Hope to be considered an actively anti-racist and diverse institution. The second annual Green lecture on October 15, 2020 at Hope College entitled “To Achieve Our Country: Pathways to an Anti-Racist Future” listed steps forward for Hope College. This includes inclusive worship in our curriculum and co-curriculum, diverse leadership, an overarching goal of diversity, personal skills for students to interact with diverse communities, and using our location in Holland as an asset for building stronger community ties with diverse groups. Dr. Chuck Green argued that these steps were essential to continue progressing towards an inclusive and accepting community atmosphere so all students and faculty feel valued and heard.

The trials placed on diverse individuals and the biases in what is saved in the Archives throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries were crucial in giving us the sources we have when researching. They have also limited us to exploring the lives of White women at Hope during the 1930s and 1940s.

Our research includes a focus on the treatment of women in the 30s and 40, and we have found that Hope was not always equitable in its treatment of women, as readers will discover while reading our project. There are also times where the women we are studying here reinforced inaccurate depictions and stereotypes (see above). Researching the diversity of Hope has allowed us to understand the systems and background from Hope's history that continue to perpetuate divisions today. We also learned more about the relevance of our project and places where future research can be done to investigate the treatment and experiences of other diverse groups.

[1] Trevor Getz, Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 139-1940.
[2] Robert P. Swierenga and William Van Appledorn, ed., Old Wing Mission : Cultural Interchange as Chronicled by George and Arvilla Smith in Their Work with Chief Wakazoo’s Ottawa Band on the West Michigan Frontier (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 2008), xviii-3.
[3] Milestone 1925 (Holland: Hope College, 1925), 41, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/milestone/42. 
[4]  Elton J. Bruins and Karen G. Schakel, ed. Envisioning Hope College: Letters Written by Albertus C. Van Raalte to Philip Phelps Jr. 1857-1875 (Holland: Van Raalte Press, 2011), 263-264.
[5] Milestone 1934 (Holland: Hope College, 1934), 35, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/milestone/15.
[6] Milestone 1930 (Holland: Hope College, 1930), 72, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/milestone/17.
[7] Milestone 1930, 132, 137, 163, 188, 221.
[8] “Takenouche, Mrs.,” September 13, 1930, Matriculate Files.
[9] David De Jong, “Billie Walvoord”: Wilhelmina Jean Walvoord, 2009, Walvoord, Wilhelmina “Billie” J. (1909-1987). Papers, 2009 (W12-0121.6), Joint Archives of Holland, Hope College, Holland, MI. 
[10] David De Jong, “Billie Walvoord”: Wilhelmina Jean Walvoord, 2009, Walvoord, Wilhelmina “Billie” J. (1909-1987). Papers, 2009 (W12-0121.6).; Milestone 1930, 132, 137, 163, 188, 221. 
[11] Reynolds, Geoff, July 15, 2021. 
[12] Milestone 1925, 41.
[13] Hope: Portraits of Early Graduates (Holland, International and Multicultural Education: 2013), 9. 
[14] Hope: Portraits of Early Graduates, 11.
[15] Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, Black Collegians’ Experiences in US Northern Private Colleges: A Narrative History, 1945-1965 (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 220.
[16] Milestone 1951 (Holland: Hope College, 1951), 56, https://digitalcommons.hope.edu/milestone/43.
[17] Milestone 1951, 41.
[18] Milestone 1951, 44. 
[19] “Distinguished Alumni of 2000,” The Commons, June 2000, 1.
[20] Stewart, Black Collegians’ Experiences, 146. 


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