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Dora E. Giffen Papers - MS 309

Introduction | Biographical Sketch | Scope and Content | Series DescriptionInventory


The files contained within the Dora E. Giffen collection span over a century from 1877 to 1981. The collection profiles the life of a woman as influenced in her early life by the religious vocation of her parents, and her subsequent chosen path to the rest of her life. Most beneficial to any research done on this collection are the correspondence files, the academic files, and the photographs, which when combined provide a complete and stunningly clear image of the woman, Dora E. Giffen. The genealogy is very helpful for placing family members. The diaries, in conjunction with the correspondence, provide an excellent look at changing attitudes, not only of Dora, but those of British-held Egypt and also those of the world.

The records were donated and transferred to the Center for Archival Collections in May, 1983 through the cooperation of Dora Giffen's niece, Mrs. Martha Ann Giffen Wright, of Bowling Green, Ohio. There are no restrictions on the use of this collection. The register was prepared by Karen Roberts in 1985, and revised by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in March, 1991.

Biographical Sketch

Dora Eunice Giffen (1897-1982) was born on 15 January 1897 at the Pressley Memorial Institute (PMI), Asyut, Egypt, to missionary parents. One of three surviving children (brothers are John Willard Giffen and Williamson Martin Giffen) of Frances M. and the Reverend Eliott M. Giffen, Dora resided in Egypt until March, 1906, whereupon she, her siblings, and her parents returned to the United States to reside and for the children to attend school in New Concord, Ohio. In 1915 Dora and Willard began classes at Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio. Dora received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Muskingum, graduating with the Class of 1919.

In 1920 Dora returned to Egypt to continue six years of mission work previously done by her family, and to teach school in the various cities of Faggala, Shubra, Tanta, and Fayoum.

Dora began her American teaching career in 1926 in Robins, Ohio, and from there taught successively in Harrisburg and Butler County, Pennsylvania; in Zanesville, Ohio for a Works Progress Administration school during the Depression; in Weston, Ohio; in Panama City, Panama for two years during World War II (1939-1941); in Gibsonburg, Ohio; and finally, in Akron, Ohio at the David Hill School, the Lincoln School, the Seiberling School, and the Rankin School, from which Dora retired in 1964.

Dora's bent for travel began shortly after her birth, as she spent the first two years of her life "on the road" travelling some 15,000 miles. Her travelling/tourism days continued with her return trip to the United States in 1926 from Egypt via France and Britain. Since 1949 Dora averaged one trip per year up to 1971. In 1965 Dora bought an apartment in Hollywood, Florida, and resided there until her death in 1982.

Dora remained single throughout her life, but shared close relationships with her mother Franc Martin, her nephew and niece Jay (John) Giffen and Janet Smith (son and daughter of brother John Willard Giffen), and also with niece Martha Wright (daughter of brother Williamson Martin Giffen). Jay, with General Dynamics, now resides in Alta Loma, California; Janet Giffen Smith lives in Kershaw, South Carolina; and Martha Ann Giffen Wright, lives in Bowling Green, Ohio. Dora led a varied, active, and aware life right up until her death in 1982.

Scope and Content

The focal point of the Dora E. Giffen collections centers around the family correspondence, written primarily by Dora, during the period from 1920 to 1926. The correspondence of those years provides an interesting and detailed study of the life of a young 23 year-old female missionary in British-held Egypt. This influential basis of Dora's early adult life is recognized in the ensuing years through Dora's connection and strong commitment to Leon and Anna Loofbourow, pastor and wife of the Richmond Co-Operative Parish, California; through all the church-related literature; and through Dora's love of travel. A 1958 church-sponsored "Round the World" seminar attested to the religious influence on her life. The correspondence is greatly enhanced and further explained by the extensive corresponding photograph collection of that time period, 1920-1926. The look and feel of Egypt was vividly captured in those photographs. Artifacts, such as a child's porcelain-head doll and Egyptian leather slippers, both belonging to Dora, give the collection a three-dimensional quality.

The notable thing about the Giffen collection is that it not only provides sufficient material on Dora to use her as a research subject, but also contains so many unique subdivisions. The large collection of photographs not only chronicles the Giffen-Martin families from three generations back, but also shows the history of photography from tintypes to snapshots. These photographs include a section devoted to Dora's mother, Frances (Franc) Martin Giffen, whose ideas and accomplishments had a strong impact on Dora. A second subdivision, dealing with the academic files of both Dora and Franc, dates back to 1877 and provides a look at academic requirements, diplomas, and certificates. The travel section of the collection provides information on all the aspects of travel and tourism; prices, maps, photographs, postcards, and changes from the 1920's to the 1970's. The influence of travel on Dora's life is predominantly recognized in her diaries, especially the latest one which attests to Dora's on-going interest in world affairs.

Important to the collection are the genealogical files which document the maternal side (Martin) of the family back six generations and are very helpful in keeping track of names in the collection, most of which, from the turn of the century, can be matched to a photograph. A very unique book worth mentioning is Flowers of the Holy Land, a wood-bound book containing pressed arrangements of the flowers of Jerusalem.

The spirit of the Giffen collection is the essence of womanhood. The total independence used by Dora in all of her actions and deeds makes her more a contemporary woman than one normally thought of in the early or mid 20th century. It is very apparent throughout this collection that the greatest influence comes from the female members of the family.

Series Description


1897-1907, 1919-1926, 1931-1933, 1940-1946, 1973
Arranged chronologically
Family correspondence scattered throughout Dora's childhood; personal accounts of Dora crossing the Atlantic Ocean; her life as a young missionary in Egypt, and her family's responses to thos letters; various scattered letters to and from family members throughout Dora's later life. Most of the 1920's correspondence includes stamped and dated envelopes.

1950-1951, 1973
Arranged chronologically
Includes a letter of praise from the Superintendent of Akron Public Schools; a letter of sponsorship of an Alaskan schoolgirl; and a letter of inquiry to the Miami Christian University Library.

Arranged chronologically
Personal correspondence, primarily from Anna H. Loofbourow with some letters from her husband Rev. Leon L. Loofbourow. Rev. Loofbourow was the pastor of two churches in the Richmond California Co-Operative Parish of the Methodist Church. The letters emphasize Dora's on-going commitment to her religion.


1886-1965 (scattered)
Includes a history of the Erskine titled line; a general history of the Giffen coat-of-arms provided by Halberts of Bath, Ohio; an account of the Erskine Family as early settlers in Jefferson County, Ohio; an account, edited by Dora in 1946, of the Stevenson/Erskine/Martin family written by Dora's great-great uncle Josias Stevenson in 1886; genealogical charts of Dora Giffen's maternal line; and a history of the Logan Family compiled by Mabelle Logan Saviers (related to Dora's maternal uncle Samuel Erskine Martin, who married Margaret Logan). There are two address directories at the end of the file which provide more current locations of family members.

Includes an almost day-to-day account of baby Dora's much travelled first two years of life, by Franc Martin; a year to year account of major life events up to 1976; a Baby's Record Book indicating written birth records of Dora and her four siblings (two of whom did not survive); height, weight, and teething records of the infants Dora, her siblings, and her cousins.

Arranged chronologically
Includes an 1877 final "Pupil's Report" card for 12 year old Franc Martin; a Royal Primer, circa 1903, used by Dora as a child in Egypt; a 1907-1908 New Concord School report card for 10 year old Dora; and a 1910-1911 final Scholar's Monthly Report of Dora Giffen.

1880-1885, 1914-1945, 1958, 1969
Arranged chronologically
Includes Muskingum College grade transcripts of Franc Martin covering her first term in 1880 at age 15 to her last term in 1885 at age 20; a 1914-1915 school year Muskingum College statement of tuition for 17 year old Dora Giffen; a 1919 copy of the weekly Muskingum College newspaper, the Black and Magenta; two folders of art material from Dora's Muskingum College German class; three graded short-story assignments, circa 1930; grade transcripts produced in 1945 and 1958 of Dora's classes at Muskingum College for 1915-1920, 1926-1928, and 1938, Columbia University, New York City, 1939, and Ohio State University, 1941 and 1942; and a copy of the 50th Reunion program of Muskingum College Class of 1919.

Arranged chronologically
Includes personal and form letters to Dora Giffen; various handbooks for teachers; 1958-1964 group photographs of pupils and colleagues of Dora's in the Akron, Ohio Public School System.

Complete copy of Dora Giffen's master's thesis presented at Ohio State University.

Arranged chronologically
Includes a Guernsey County, Ohio teacher's certificate of Franc Martin (1880); Dora Giffen's diploma's from Muskingum College (1919); Dora's teaching certificates from Ohio and Pennsylvania; and various inservice training certificates. Encapsulated certificates located in oversize MS drawers.

Includes gift books/presentations to Franc Martin and Dora Giffen from students, family, and friends.


1883-1885, n.d.
Includes an pictorial autograph album belonging to Franc Martin and signed by friends and relatives; calling cards belonging to both Franc Martin and Dora Giffen.

1924, 1938, 1958, 1979-1981
Arranged chronologically
Dora Giffen's diaries. Diary of 1924 from Dora's fourth year of mission work in Egypt; 1938 volume from period of time she spent at Columbia University; 1958 diary describes around-the-world tour; and 1979-1981 volume is a collective day-to-day description of her routine-oriented later years.


1892, 1920-1926, 1949
Arranged chronologically
Includes an 1892 Soldiers' Christian Association membership card of Franc Giffen; Dora's 1920 British missionary permit; a petition of U.S. citizenship and Consular Certificate of Registration from 1921; Dora's cancelled passport of 1926; and a 1949 Board of Foreign Missions declaration of U.S. citizenship.

Arranged chronologically
Includes 1939 Panamanian identification card; cancelled passport of 1939 (Western Hemisphere only); a 1939 health survey of Dora; a 1941 Panama Canal employment application; a variety of immunization records; miscellaneous correspondence with the U.S. and Brazilian consulate and the U.S. State Department; and cancelled passport, issued in 1957 (which includes visa stamps from the Round-the-World tour).


1904-1905, 1922, 1936-1937, 1982
Mostly obituaries, providing excellent character descriptions of Martin/Giffen family members, including an article recounting a current Giffen family member's brush with death. A few church related articles.

1926, 1940, 1949-1959, 1971
Arranged chronologically
Tour information, itineries, photographs, postcards, handbooks, and cost sheets. Includes material from the return trip from Egypt in 1926 via France, England, and Scotland; a Costa Rican tour during her 1939-1941 employment by the Pan-American Institute in Panama; miscellaneous files of domestic and foreign trips; and specific files on the 1958 Round-the-World tour of 11 countries in 40 days.


Arranged chronologically
Includes the Union Parsonage Newsletter, Balboa, Canal Zone; Loofbourow Newsletter, Berkeley, California; Richmond Co-Operative Parish Newsletter, Richmond, California; and Tanta Tattlings, Tanta, Egypt.

1898-1961 (scattered)
Includes pamphlets of church description, church service and witness, committee reports, mission duties, and NBC broadcasts.

Includes pamphlets on Egyptian people and places, African Christian organization and evangelism, academic requirements and programs, and a confidential survey, "The missionary occupation of Egypt".

Pamphlets written by Rev. Leon Loofbourow on various people, places, and events.

Pamphlets regarding academics, athletics, and Christian and social endeavors in Panama.

1900-1964, n.d.
Arranged chronologically
A wide and interesting variety of playbills and programs of classical music concerts, Muskingum College events, and stage production playbills.

In Search of God's Gold, by Leon L. Loofbourow. A history of the Methodist Church in northern California.

1902, 1917, n.d.
Three books in Arabic, probably the Arabic Psalter and related books used by Dora in Egypt.

Tunes of the Arabic Psalter in staff notation. Music book used by Dora as she played the piano and organ; a companion to the Arabic Psalter and related books.

A Strange Detour, by Murden Woods. The story of Marion E. Childress, a missionary nurse.

The American Mission in Egypt, by Andrew Watson. Book handed down from Nancy J. Martin to J.W. Martin to Franc Martin Giffen to Dora E. Giffen.

circa 1906
Wild Flowers of the Holy Land, by Ferdinand Vester. A book of pressed, dried flowers, bought in Egypt by Rev. & Mrs. E.M. Giffen sometime before March 1906.

Jerusalem, by J.B. Walker. A religious touring guidebook.

Two Words, by Margaret Slattery.

July 1897
Our Day, a religious women's magazine.

Book in Arabic belonging to Franc Martin Giffen; possibly a religious text used as part of a study course in Islam.

Bible songs, consisting of selections from the Psalms set to music. Book belonging to Franc Martin Giffen.

Religions of mission fields, as viewed by Protestant missionaries.

circa 1840
Narratives of Little Henry and his bearer, by Mary Martha Sherwood. A religious children's book.

Holy Bible. Bible given to Franc Martin by her mother, passed down to Dora.

Helen and Her Cousin. A religious children's book.

Intellectual arithmetic by induction and analysis, by Joseph Ray. School book belonging to Franc Martin. Book two of Ray's Arithmetic, Eclectic Educational series.

Practical arithmetic by induction and analysis, by Joseph Ray. School book belonging to Franc Martin. Book three of Ray's Arithmetic, Eclectic Educational series.

Arabic-English dictionary, by William Thomson Wortabet. Dictionary belonging to Dora Giffen.


A collection of eight complementary folders of quality photographs depicting and identifying the Martin and Giffen family lines. Photographs of home in New Concord, Ohio and friends are also included.

Six folders of photographs showing Dora Giffen's ocean voyage to Egypt; the people, places and events of Egypt; and an accumulation of postcards depicting Cairo and the Middle East. Related to the correspondence of the 1920's. One oversize photograph of the Girls School in Fayoum, Egypt located in flat MS drawer with wrapped and encapsulated items.

Unidentified photographs and postcards of Panama during Dora's two-year teaching position in that country.


circa 1898
Doll with porcelain head and arms. Gift under Dora's first Christmas tree from Uncle John and Aunt Elizabeth. CAUTION: Doll broken, handle with care.

circa 1905
One pair of "Shib-shibs", Egyptian leather slippers worn by Dora as a child.

Hollow wooden egg, with removable spools for thread and compartment in spindle for needles.


Box 1


  1. Correspondence - Family, 1897-1907, 1919-1920
  2. Correspondence - Family, 1921
  3. Correspondence - Family, 1922-1926
  4. Correspondence - Family, 1931, 1933, 1940-1946, 1955, 1973
  5. Correspondence - General, 1950-1951, 1973
  6. Correspondence - Loofbourow, 1948-1968
  7. Giffen genealogy, 1886-1965
  8. Life history, 1897-1976

Box 2


  1. School files - Primary, 1877-1911
  2. School files - College, 1880-1885, 1914-1939
  3. School files - College, 1941-1945, 1958, 1969
  4. School files - Teaching, 1930-1964
  5. School files - Master's Thesis, 1932
  6. School files - Diplomas/Certificates, 1880-1955
  7. Gift books/presentations, 1892, 1905, 1921, n.d.

Box 3


  1. Autograph album/calling cards, 1883-1885, n.d.
  2. Diaries, 1924, 1938, 1958, 1979-1981
  3. Legal documents - Egypt, 1892, 1920-1926, 1949
  4. Legal documents - Central/South America, 1939-1957
  5. Newsclippings, 1904-1905, 1922, 1936-1937, 1982
  6. Travel/tourism - France, 1926
  7. Travel/tourism - England, 1926
  8. Travel/tourism - England, 1926

Box 4


  1. Travel/tourism - Scotland, 1926
  2. Travel/tourism - Costa Rica, 1940
  3. Travel/tourism - General, 1949-1959, 1971
  4. Travel/tourism - Miscellaneous, n.d.
  5. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (Intro.), 1958

Box 5


  1. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (England,France, Italy), July 19-27, 1958
  2. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (Greece,Turkey), July 27-31, 1958
  3. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (India), Aug 1-10, 1958
  4. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (Thailand, Malaya, Hong Kong), Aug 11-17, 1958
  5. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (Japan), Aug 18-22, 1958
  6. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (Honolulu), Aug 23-27, 1958
  7. Travel/tourism - Round-the-World (Hawaiian Islands), Aug 28-Sept 4, 1958

Box 6


  1. Newsletters, 1939-1963
  2. Pamphlets - Church related, 1898-1961 (scattered)
  3. Pamphlets - Egypt, 1920-1926
  4. Pamphlets - Loofbourow, 1933-1959, n.d.
  5. Pamphlets - Panama, 1939-1941
  6. Programs/playbills, 1900-1964, n.d.
  7. Book - In Search of God's Gold, 1950

Box 7


  1. Book - Arabic (soft-bound, black), 1917
  2. Book - Arabic (hard-bound, black), n.d.
  3. Book - Arabic (soft-bound, black), 1902
  4. Book - Tunes of the Arabic Psalter, 1920
  5. Book - A strange detour, 1964
  6. Book - The American Mission in Egypt, 1898

Box 8


  1. Book - Flowers of the Holy Land, circa 1906
  2. Book - Jerusalem, 1923
  3. Book - Two words, 1932
  4. Book - Our Day (magazine issue), July 1897
  5. Book - Arabic religious text, 1887?
  6. Book - Bible songs, 1890
  7. Book - Religions of mission fields, 1905

Box 9


  1. Book - Narratives of Little Henry, circa 1840
  2. Book - Holy Bible, 1875
  3. Book - Helen and Her Cousin, 1831
  4. Book - Intellectual arithmetic, 1860?
  5. Book - Practical arithmetic, 1860?
  6. Book - Arabic-English dictionary, 1913

Box 10


  1. Photographs - Franc Martin Giffen, 1860s-1925
  2. Photographs - Dora Giffen, 1897-1930s
  3. Photographs - Giffen family, 1800s-1970s
  4. Photographs - Martin family, 1800s-1920s

Box 11


  1. Photographs - Giffen/Martin families, 1800s-1930s
  2. Photographs - New Concord, Ohio, 1906-1920?
  3. Photographs - Friends, 1880s-1920s
  4. Photographs - Miscellaneous, 1906-1959
  5. Photographs - Ocean voyage/arrival in Egypt, 1920
  6. Photographs - Egypt, 1921-1924
  7. Photographs - Egypt, 1925
  8. Photographs - Egypt, 1920-1926

Box 12


  1. Photographs - Postcards of Cairo, 1921
  2. Photographs - Postcards of Middle East, 1923
  3. Photographs - Panama, 1939-1941

Box 13

  1. Doll with porcelain head and arms, circa 1898
  2. Egyptian leather slippers, circa 1905
  3. Hollow wooden darning egg, n.d.

Oversize Material
Located in Flat MS Drawer

  1. Photograph - Girls School, Fayoum Egypt 1926
  2. Certificate - Muskingum College diploma of Franc Martin Giffen, 1885
  3. Certificate - Muskingum Academy School diploma to Dora Giffen, 1915
  4. Certificate - Muskingum College diploma of Dora Giffen, 1920
  5. Certificate - Ohio State University diploma for Masters Degree to Dora Giffen 1932
  6. Certificate - Akron Public Schools Teacher Emeritus recognition to Dora Giffen, 1964

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