|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in 4 series: 1. General and alumni files; 2. Correspondence; 3. Riverside Church Sunday School; and 4. Dorothy Fahs Beck papers.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains a combination of papers from Sophia Lyon Fahs' UTS Alumni File as well as her personal files, including materials related to her husband Charles Fahs' writings; Sophia Lyon Fahs' correspondence with her biographer Edith Hunter as well as other general correspondence; Riverside Church Sunday School papers and religious education publications, and writings by Riverside's Rev. C. Ivar Hellstrom; and materials donated by Dorothy Beck Fahs, including articles about SLF, memorials, and correspondence, as well as drafts and correspondence related to Cobb and Dorothy Fahs' work on Old Tales for a New Day (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1981), the companion volume to Sophia Fahs' earlier books on mythic stories for children.
Burke Library record group:
Union Theological Seminary Archives: UTS 1, papers of faculty and students
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, UTS1: Sophia Lyon Fahs Papers, series #, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These papers were constructed from UTS alumni records and papers donated by Dorothy Fahs Beck in 1981, Emily Ellis in 1982, and Mary Hellstrom circa 1970-1979.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Metal clips and staples were removed from materials and folded items were flattened. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. Acidic items were photocopied on acid-free paper and/or separated from one another by interleaving with acid-free paper as needed. The finding aid was created by Alexis Waller in 2009, revised by Brigitte Kamsler in 2015 and by Rebecca Nieto in 2017 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2022.
2022-05-24 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Sophia Blanche Lyon Fahs (née Sophia Blanche Lyon) was born to Presbyterian missionaries in China on August 2, 1876 and died on April 14, 1978 in Hamilton, OH. The Lyon family returned from China when Sophia Lyon Fahs was three years old and raised their family of seven children in Wisconsin and Ohio. In 1897, SLF received her A.B. cum laude from College of Wooster, OH. Two years later she met Charles Harvey Fahs at a Christian Mission Conference, and they married in 1902. They moved to New York City soon afterwards, and Sophia Fahs was offered a scholarship to do her master's work at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she worked with Rev. Frank McMurry, head of the Elementary Education Department. It was at Teachers College, she recollected in 1966, "that I found out what I wanted to do in life, beyond being a wife and a mother—and that was to help in reconstructing the processes and the contents of the religious education of children in the light of mankind's growing understandings." McMurry encouraged the initiation of an experimental Sunday School program that would inspire Sophia Lyon Fahs' further educational work: they pioneered the use of contemporary history and extra-Biblical material in Sunday School education, and her master's thesis, "The Use of Missionary Biographies in Religious Education," resulted from this experience. She finished her MA in 1904, and, a year later, she and Harvey Fahs had their first child. Sophia Lyon Fahs' curiosity about the development of children's religious experiences informed her rearing of her five children, the Sunday School classes she taught in New York and New Jersey, teachers' study groups she led in Community Training Schools, and her directorship of religious education at the Methodist Church of Leonia, NJ. She enrolled at Union Theological Seminary and graduated with a B.D. in 1926. In 1927, Sophia Lyon Fahs and Mary Ely Lyman were the first women to be appointed to Union's faculty. Fahs would remain at Union until 1944 as a lecturer in Religious Education. From 1933 until 1942, she also began supervising and teaching in the Sunday School at the newly built Riverside Church. Rev. C. Ivar Hellstrom, Riverside's Minister of Education, had graduated from Union in 1917 and had been a lecturer at the seminary in religious education between 1926 and 1928. At Riverside, Sophia met and taught with Emily Ellis, Mary Hellstrom, and Alice Cobb. Much of Sophia's later writing drew on her experiences with those Riverside Church School classes. She was hired in 1936 by the American Unitarian Association as the editor of the New Beacon Press Series in Religious Education. Between 1936 and 1951, she wrote or co-wrote at least twenty books for the series. In 1951, Sophia Lyon Fahs transitioned to curriculum consultant, a position she held until she was 88 years old. At the age of 82, in 1959, she was ordained a minister in the Unitarian church.