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Jeannette Drews Koehnke letters, 1936-1967

Identifier: SC MS 0277


This collection of letters contains the experiences of ordinary people in wartime conditions. The correspondence covers a 20 year-time frame on either side of World War II. Of special interest is the correspondence regarding the Japanese invasion of China and Malaysia.


  • Creation: 1936 - 1967


Biographical / Historical

Jeanette Drews Koehnke was the donor’s (Muriel Pense) great aunt. She was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 20, 1889, the daughter of John (Johannis) Koehnke and Jeanette (Jannette) Drews. Among the family’s three other daughters was Regina, who was the donor’s grandmother. Sometime after Jeanette’s birth, they all returned to Vineland, New Jersey where they previously lived. She graduated from the “approved high school” in Vineland, New Jersey, in 1908 with a college entrance course. Her interest and gift was in music. Her academic training was at Thomas Normal school in Detroit, Michigan, 1909-10, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, Summer Sessions in 1914 and 1917, New York University, New York City getting a B.S.Ed. in 1926-27 and a M.A. in 1927-28. Her teaching experience was in the New Jersey public schools as superintendent of music from 1910-17, Abington Friends School, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania as superintendent of music and assistant Head Mistress from 1917-26 and Maplewood Jr. High School, Maplewood, New Jersey as teacher of music from 1928-29. The time between her studies in Detroit and Ithaca was spent in Heppner, Oregon filling out the year for a teacher who had left. In 1910, her older sister Regina’s husband died. Jeanette returned to Vineland and lived with her parents and Regina. During this time she taught in New Jersey schools. Following the time teaching at the Abington School, she went to New York City and returned to school and got a B.S. in Education and a M.S. at New York University. She taught music at Hunter College High School and spent her summers traveling apparently as a tour director. When Regina’s daughter, Ruth (mother of the donor) went to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Jeanette was teaching at Jenkintown. For the remainder of her life she remained in New York City residing at One Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. In the summer of 1930 she traveled to Europe with a group of people from Vineland including her sister, Regina. Between 1935 and 1938 she took at least two trips around the world with the Pacific & Orient Lines or the Swedish American Line. Apparently it was on these jaunts that she formed friendships with the correspondents represented by the letters in this collection. Her cousin, Laura Lachmund, also joined her on one of the global trips. Based on the correspondence, the voyage on the S.S. Rajputana was the main source of the friendships with Frank and Hilda Ahier, C. and Emma Dye, Hugh Farren, Cynthia Power, Lillian Reed, Aileen and Forbes Wallace The donor of the collection surmises that she met most of the correspondents during her first global voyage on the Pacific & Orient Steamship Line: Frank Ahier (eye-yeah), a ship’s office eventually a captain of a P & O ship; C. Dye was an engineer on the ship; Colonel Hugh Farren was a member of the British Military (Army); Cynthia Powers, a friend; Lillian Reed, a nurse on the P & O ships who also knew Cynthia; Aileen and Forbes Wallace, passengers on their way out to Malaya where Forbes served the British government in the police force (after the war Aileen divorces Forbes and marries Hugh Beech) and the Gherardi family owned a jewelry shop in Florence, Italy, where Jeanette purchased Italian jewelry. After retirement she continued traveling until her death in 1967. Long after the voyages, Jeanette maintained contact with her shipmates going to England to visit with some of them following World War II. Throughout the war and post war, she sent food and gift packages to her English friends and maintained a correspondence, in fact, even during the war some of the letters were inspected and censored. The correspondence presents the viewpoints of ordinary people living through the trauma and devastation of wartime and the adjustments in the following years.


.5 Linear Feet ; .5 linear foot

Language of Materials


Cultural context

Genre / Form

Finding Aid of Jeannette Drews Koehnke Letters
In Progress
Ilhan Citak
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Special Collections, Linderman Library, Lehigh University

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)