Letter from Wilbur A. Sawyer to Peggy Sawyer Carroll
In January 1921, Sawyer met with Dr. Victor Heiser, the director of RF operations in the East. Heiser asked him to come along
on a three-month tour of the RF public health sites in southeast Asia, and Sawyer agreed, though it meant missing the birth
of his son (who arrived on March 23). His letters to his wife describe in detail the rigors of traveling and his reactions
to other cultures, as well as the activities of the hookworm control campaigns. His letters to the children, such as this
one to eldest daughter Peggy, provide a somewhat different perspective on his travels.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (119,805 Bytes)
1921-02-18 (February 18, 1921)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
Carroll, Peggy Sawyer
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From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
On board the good ship Montoro, approaching Surabaya, Java, February 18, 1921.
What do you suppose I saw from the boat when I got up in the morning a day or two ago and looked off across the sea? There
was a beautiful green land full of sharp steep hills and mountains, and one of the mountains seemed to think it was a smoke
stack or a stove or a bonfire or something hot and smoky. Right out of the top of the mountain came two streams of smoke
and they rose up until the wind blew them to one side in a long gray streak across the sky.
But there was more than smoke coming out of the mountain. Something hot was running out of the tip top of the mountain and
sliding and slithering down the steep sides and making hot white steam come up from the rocks, and nearest to the bottom there
was smoke from burning plants. Do you know the name of the kind of mountain that has fire inside and spits out hot melted
stones and ashes? If you don't, Mother does, and she will tell you all about it after you have undressed and crawled
into your downy beds to-night.
There are quite a number of young children on the boat and they seem to have a pretty good time most of the time; the rest
of the time they spend quarreling and making each other unhappy. Children are funny that way, aren't they? One little
boy has a coaster and likes to slide down the deck and see if the old men and fat ladies can get out of the way in time.
Another has a scooter made like an aeroplane, and he rolls around the deck and gets tangled tip with the scooter.
The grown up people play too, and some time they almost quarrel, but not often. The other evening they all dressed up to
look like other people than themselves. One man borrowed a sailor suit from one of the Malay sailors, and painted his nose
red. Another was dressed in a Chinaman's clothes. One of the young ladies made her own costume and won the first prize.
She didn't have to have much for her costume, because she dressed like a South Sea Islander. Two of the ladies blacked
themselves all up and wore coal sacks and old clothes and showed their white teeth and grinned the way they thought Australian
aborigines would do, and they did very well at that. One of them won the second prize. No, I don't know what the prizes
are like, not having won any as yet. Your lovely mother wasn't here to pin me up in a bath towel and turn me loose in
a brilliantly lighted ballroom to represent Moses in the bull rushes or the Knight of the Bath. So I had to let others take
all the prizes.
Now I want you to do something for me, Peggy dear; just kiss lovely Mother for me, and help her all you can, and take the
best care of her until I get back. Tell Gertrude and Ruthie that I think of them every day and wish I were home to play with
all three of you. I can just imagine the way you three will chase poor old Papa around the dining room until he falls over
a chair or breaks something or gets caught and tumbled over by his fierce little daughters,