Helen Foster Snow Collection


Helen Foster Snow, one of the first Western reporters to encounter the fledgling Chinese Communist Party and Mao Zedong in the 1930s, was originally from Cedar City, Utah. She later traveled to China, where she married Edgar Snow. Together, they spent nearly ten years in Asia documenting the Chinese Communists. Helen’s experiences in China served as the impetus for a dozen publications and hundreds of essays. After her return to America, Helen maintained a close relationship with China, and continued to write on a variety of subjects, including genealogy and New England history. This collection contains the bulk of Helen Foster Snow’s personal and professional papers. Of most interest, and historical significance, are the photographs and writings coming out of Helen’s China years. The collection also contains original drafts of all of Helen’s major literary publications, most dealing with China, as well as essays written during Helen’s later intellectual life on topics such as politics, women’s rights, genealogy, history, and philosophy.

Secondary Sources and General Information

The Helen Foster Snow Collection will be more useful after the researcher has a better understanding of the early 20th century Chinese history. The following bibliography identifies resources that range from historical and political surveys to the writings of Helen and Edgar Snow concerning their experiences in China.

  • 20th Century Chinese History
    • Spence, Jonathan D. The Search For Modern China. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.
    • Fairbank, John King. China: A New History. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Works by Helen (Nym Wales) and Edgar SnowOf the many literary works published by Helen and Edgar Snow, the following have won international recognition for their portrayal of early Communist China:
    • Snow, Edgar. Red Star Over China. London: V. Gollancz, 1937.
    • Wales, Nym. Inside Red China. New York: Da Capo Press, 1977.
  • Notable Samples From the Helen Foster Snow CollectionThe Helen Foster Snow Collection is a rich assortment of materials that has much to offer the student with a casual interest in 20th century China, as well as a great potential for scholarly research. The following are notable selections from the collection proper:
    • Book Draft of Inside Red China (Box 36) Includes the original handwritten and typed drafts of Helen’s most famous work, Inside Red China.
    • Pamphlets From China (Boxes 185-189) Helen collected a large set of official Chinese pamphlets that contain political speeches, attacks on capitalism and the West, and nationalist propaganda—all directly from China. This series offers a rich understanding of Chinese political thought, ca. 1930s-1970s.
    • Historically Significant Manuscripts
      • Letter from Mao Zedong to Helen Foster Snow (Box 175, fd. 4) Includes the original letter, dated 3 January 1973, given to Helen, on the occasion of publishing Inside Red China. English translation also included.
      • Interviews With Student Movement Leaders (Box 24, fds. 1-3) Notes from interviews with students who staged the December 1935 Student Movement.
      • Interviews With Early Chinese Communist Leaders (Box 25, fds. 2-4 & Box 169, fd. 12) The first section contains Helen’s notes from interviews with such notable figures as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Zhu De. The second section contains Edgar Snow’s notes from similar interviews with Mao Zedong, Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, and other Red Army Commanders.
    • Photographs (Series V & VIII)The largest and most historically significant section of Helen’s collection, this series contains some of the earliest known photographs of the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership. The photographs number in the thousands, and most are black and white. Some notable examples include:
      • Mao Zedong (items 2575-2603, 3314)
      • Zhou Enlai (items 2602-2603)
      • Zhu De (item 2597)

This Popular Search Topics page offers only samplings of materials included in the 20th-21st Century Western and Mormon Americana Collection. To examine the complete collection inventory (and any other additional manuscript materials related to this topic), go to the L. Tom Perry Special Collections EAD Search page, and enter the term “Helen Foster Snow”.

Last Modified: June 4, 2013

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