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Gladys Oberlin papers

Identifier: Coll 050

Scope and Contents note

The collection consists of correspondence and material documenting her missionary work in Brazil. The correspondence contains both in-coming and out-going letters and is arranged chronologically from 1943 to 1979. This makes up the majority of this collection. Oberlin's correspondence includes letters from other missionaries, Peace Corps workers, Methodist missionary circles in the United States, and friends. Her own letters describe the problems and difficulties she faced as well as the living conditions and needs of local Brazilians.

The remainder of the collection contains materials that relate either directly or indirectly to Brazil. Included are loose diary pages, addresses, lecture materials, bibliographic sources for Latin America, a filmstrip on nutrition, educational material on nutrition and printed matter concerning the multi-purpose food program sponsored by Meals for Millions. Much of the material is written in Portuguese and many therefore present difficulties for the researcher. In spite of this and the fact that the material itself is not extensive, it does give the researcher an idea of the work undertaken by Oberlin while in Brazil. Posters that had been used for educational purposes are stored at the end of the collection, and the filmstrip has been separated from this collection into Special Collections Photographs collections.

There are approximately 50 photographic prints that primarily document the nutritional problems of Oberlin's Brazil clientele, and the children of the orphanage.


  • Creation: 1943-1980


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Gladys Oberlin (1908-1996) grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. In 1943, Oberlin traveled to Brazil as a Methodist Missionary where she taught home economics at Bennett College in Rio de Janeiro. Seeing more challenges in her work, Oberlin decided to leave Bennett College in 1948. She moved to the Rural Institute in Itapina, Espirito Santo, Brazil. There, she experimented with the available vegetation in an effort to increase the nutritional value of local foods. She continued with this work until her missionary furlough in 1954.

Following a year-long furlough in the United States, Oberlin accepted a new position as the director of the Instituto Ana Gonzago, an orphanage in Rio de Janeiro. As director of 175 children, Oberlin taught religious classes. She remained there until 1959 when she began teaching at the Instituto Central de Povo.

In 1960, Oberlin became involved in field work in Rio Grande do Sul. She returned to nutritional experiments and was instrumental in establishing a nutritional program at the Redife community center that provided multi-purpose food (MPF) in the form of a high-protein dietary supplement to the region's poor and undernourished. As educational counselor, she developed and implemented educational nutrition and hygiene projects. She and her assistants compiled several pamphlets and presentations, including a filmstrip, on nutrition. She remained in Recife and the surrounding area until her retirement in 1976. Within a year, however, she was called back to the Recife suburbs because of a need for nutritional and hygiene programs there. She remained there until her final retirement in 1981 when she returned to the United States.


2.5 linear feet (5 containers, 1 package)

Language of Materials

Multiple languages


Gladys Oberlin (1908-1996) was a Christian missionary who taught school and developed nutritional programs in Brazil from 1943 to 1981. The collection includes correspondence, diaries, publications, and photographs that reflect her work as a missionary.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. Correspondence; Series II. Miscellaneous material related to Brazil; Series III. Photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Gladys Oberlin in 1977.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Available in microfilm as part of: Women's lives. Series 3, American women missionaries and pioneers collection (MICROFILM BV3703 .W66 2006, reel 72-74); Primary Source Microfilm, 12 Lunar Dr., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525.

General Physical Description note

5 containers, 1 package

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Gladys Oberlin papers
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Finding aid prepared by Veta Schlimgen, Laci Day, and Sean McGuckin, Manuscripts Processors
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA