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Kate and Sue McBeth, Missionary Teachers to the Nez Perce

Sue McBeth's Papers

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Letters to: Kate McBeth, Church Officials, Businessmen,
                Friends, Dr. Bibby (Physician)
Nez Perce / English Dictionary, Last Will and Testament

Please note: the McBeth sisters subscribed to the ethnocentrism of 19th century middle-class whites. Their observations are often patronizing and offensive by contemporary standards. 

To Kate McBeth  - 57 letters
Sue McBeth wrote to her sister frequently after 1885.  The hectoring tone of the letters probably reflects the brittle nature of their relationship.  Initially, Sue provides a laundry list of things she wants Kate to accomplish.  As the years pass however, more of the text dwells on the alleged conspiracies directed toward her beloved student, Robert Williams.  

To Church Officials - 61 letters
Sue McBeth poured her heart out to the church officials in New York, Philadelphia and Portland.  The early letters ask for specific aid, i.e., a printing press.   Later letters focus primarily on critiques of  colleagues (including her sister) and students.  Website readers may find Sue's use of the third person awkward.  The humble voice used in these letters contrast sharply with other correspondence.

A limited selection Sue McBeth's "unofficial" correspondence is extant. These letters are categorized as personal, medical, and business. Although few in number, they offer the opportunity to consider Sue McBeth interacting with others as an "ordinary" person.

Business Letters - 21 letters
This collection, arranged chronologically, reflects the variety of business transactions Sue McBeth conducted. The letters include Sue’s directions to photographers, a "hauling company," the grocer, several banks and perhaps most intriguing Bloomindales Department store. It is fascinating to imagine a missionary in remote Idaho pouring over a Bloomingdale catalogue by candlelight.

Personal Letters -3 letters
Three personal letters are featured in this section. They serve as a notable contrast to her business letters, her letters to Kate McBeth, or to church officials. The flowery, gushing nature of the writing is typical of letters exchanged between women friends in the late 1800’s.

Medical Letters - 17 letters
Sue’s letters to Dr Bibby are perhaps the most poignant of the McBeth collection. As her health failed she wrote pleading letters seeking his help. Although the direct cause of her death is not known, it is likely she died from renal failure and/or congestive heart failure.