Dora E. Giffen papers

 Collection – Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0309

Collection Overview


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.


  • Creation: 1887-1981


5.77 Cubic Feet (12 legal archive boxes, 1 flat box)

6 Items (6 oversize items)


Scope and Contents

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.

Biographical / Historical

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.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers using this collection assume full responsibility for conforming to the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright, and are responsible for securing permissions necessary for publication or reproduction.

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

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.

Processing Information

The finding aid was prepared by Karen Roberts in 1985, and revised by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in March, 1991.

Guide to the Dora E. Giffen papers
Karen Roberts, Marilyn Levinson, archive staff
1983, May 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
  • Box: 1 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 2 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 3 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 4 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 5 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 6 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 7 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 8 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 9 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 10 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 11 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 12 (Mixed Materials)
  • Box: 13 (Realia)
  • Item: Oversize 1 (Graphic Materials)
  • Item: Oversize 2 (Text)
  • Item: Oversize 3 (Text)
  • Item: Oversize 4 (Text)
  • Item: Oversize 5 (Text)
  • Item: Oversize 6 (Text)