A faculty member recently passed on some scanned pages taken from a copy of the Anderson Daily Mail from November 5, 1949. These pages featured a Who’s Who of Anderson College graduates and current leaders. The people listed are many of whom we can and should be proud: missionaries, educators, political leaders, musicians, and physicians, among others. One of the names stood out: Myra Anderson. Having the same name as the town and the university was intriguing. Who was she? Reading her brief biography only drew more interest and began a flurry of searching online; however, we still have questions about this woman and her life. If you can help us fill in the blanks, please let us know.
Myra Anderson was born in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1894 to Sally McPherson Browne and Joseph Anderson. Her mother died in 1898 when she was four years old. Her father remarried and was soon widowed again. At some point he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he died in 1924.
Ms. Anderson entered Anderson College and graduated with an A.B. in 1920 at the age of 26. Thanks to our digitized copies of the Sororian (the Anderson College yearbook) we know that she was very active while a student and was president of the Student Government Association during the 1919-1920 school year, served as Literary Society Editor for the Orion, and played in the Student Volunteer Band. She was also voted Most Popular and Most Dependable.
Anderson continued her education at Scarritt College in Nashville, Tennessee, and then went to Japan as a missionary in 1922 through the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. According to her memorial in the Seventeenth Annual Report of the Woman's Division of Christian Service of the Board of Missions of The Methodist Church (1956) she taught at Kobe, Hiroshima Girls School, and Frasier Institute. She came back to the United States at the onset of World War II and worked in a Japanese internment camp in Seagoville, Texas. In the transcripts of the Japanese American World War II Evacuation Oral History Project Dr. Amy Stannard (interviewed in 1978) mentions Myra Anderson’s service and help during that time:
“[We] were able to recruit an American missionary teacher who had not been able to get back to her post in Hiroshima after Pearl Harbor. She was an excellent interpreter of the Japanese language and culture and served as a highly satisfactory liaison between the Japanese group and the American administration… [Her] name was Myra Anderson. She went back to Japan just as soon as she possibly could after the war. She was so devoted to the Japanese people. She was required to take a whole year's supply of provisions with her before they [occupied Japan] would let her come back.”
We know from the brief biographical sketch in the newspaper that once the war was over she returned to Japan at the “invitation of the War Department as official escort for 4,500 Japanese who were being repatriated... [She] was the first civilian woman to enter the country after the surrender.” The Seventeenth Annual Report of the Woman's Division of Christian Service of the Board of Missions of The Methodist Church (1956) states that she was a faculty member at Hiroshima Jo Gakuin from 1946 until her return to the United States in 1955.
The memorial mentions that she died of a lingering illness and we know that she passed away in California in 1955, which raises many questions. Does her early entry back into Japan after the bombing have anything to do with the illness and her demise? Records state that her father died in North Carolina and not in Anderson in the 1920s, so did she still have family in this area? Is she buried in California or here in South Carolina? The search for more information on Myra Anderson has begun! If you know more about her or know of any family members still here in the Anderson area, please contact us as we would love to find out about this amazing alumna of Anderson College.
Anderson College. Sororian 1920 Yearbook. Anderson SC: Graduating Class of 1920, 1920. Anderson University Archives, Anderson University.
Clark, Paul F. Interview with Dr. Amy N. Stannard. November 30, 1978. California State University, Fullerton Oral History Program Japanese American Project . Department of Justice Internment Camps Administration Experience O.H. 1615. The Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton. Accessed via the Online Archive of California 7 November 2013.
“Leaders and Graduates of Anderson College,” Anderson Daily Mail, November 5, 1949.
Methodist Church (U.S.). 1956. Seventeenth Annual report of the Woman's Division of Christian Service of the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church. New York: The Division.