Helen “Peg” <I>Foster</I> Snow

Helen “Peg” Foster Snow

Birth
Cedar City, Iron County, Utah, USA
Death 11 Jan 1997 (aged 89)
Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA
Burial North Madison, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA
Plot Grave 107 B
Memorial ID 26840417 · View Source
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Copyright Charles C. Chaney. All rights reserved.
Helen "Peg" Foster, a descendant of Capt. John Damron and Anna Ladd, was born in Sept. 21, 1907 in Cedar City, Iron Co, Utah and died Jan. 11, 1997 in Guiford, New Haven Co, Connecticut. She was the daughter of John Moody Foster and Hannah Davis of Emery County, Utah. (Not tied to any conventional religious faith, she often voiced her respect of the early New England Puritans). She went to Shanghai, China, in 1931 to do secretarial work. She met and married Edgar Snow, a young, little-known journalist. Together they began to observe and write as both came to sympathize with the ordinary people of China.

In Beijing they became backers of the December 1935 Chinese student movement that helped spark resistance to the threat of the Japanese conquest of China. Edgar made a journalistic visit to China's then small Communist-led areas that resulted in his famous book, "Red Star Over China." Helen followed on her solo journey that resulted in her account reflecting the belief that they had seen the nucleus of China's future. Her book was entitled "Inside Red China."

Helen, Edgar, and Rewi Alley worked to initiate the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives that during the war years (1937-1945) helped keep China's economy going in spite of Japanese occupation. Helen is credited with the idea of combining wartime work-relief with cooperative organization. Because of her writing, the term "Gung Ho," meaning "work together" was to enter the American lexicon when it became the battle-cry of the United States Marine Raider Battalion of World War II under the command of Evans F. Carlson. Her interest in industrial cooperatives in China was lifelong of which she wrote about in her book, "My China Years," published in 1984. She wrote in Chinese and these works were published in China under her pseudonym Nym Wales. She remained in China until World War II erupted.

She returned to the United States to live in 1941. She continued to be involved with the Chinese cooperatives and the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy, which opposed the U.S. government's backing of Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese civil war and later advocated early U.S. recognition of the new People's Republic of China.

The Snow marriage was a troubled one fueled by the ambitions of the two writers. Their relationship deteriorated as the world drifted towards disaster. They formally separated in 1945 and negotiations over divorce became bitterly antagonistic. The divorce was finally decreed in May 1948. Edgar was to marry again. Helen Foster Snow remained single.

She was active in genealogy writing a how-to book as well as several publications not only about the Dameron-Damron family, but also the Gershom Jennings, Foster, Minor-Miner, John Durand, Moody, and Smith-Chaffee families.

In the 1990s, she was in a nursing home, bedridden and down to 90 pounds, but she was mentally alert. She refused pain-killing drugs.

Following her death, a commemoration of Helen Snow, held in Beijing in the Great Hall of the People, was arranged by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the China Society for People's Friendship Studies. Friends and members of her family were in attendance.

First to speak was People's Association for Friendship, Chairman Huang Hua, formerly China's Minister of Foreign Affairs. His friendship with Helen dated back 60 years. Cheril Bishop (sic; Sheril Bischoff), her niece and literary executor, traced many of Helen's traits to her Utah pioneer roots. Senator Orrin G. Hatch sent a message praising her. Senator Joseph Lieberman and several members of Congress sent similar greetings.

In 1998, Brigham Young University acquired Helen's archive including over 2000 photographs taken during her years in China (1931-1940). Other papers are housed at the Hoover Library on the campus of Stanford University.

In January 2001, KBYU-TV (Brigham Young University's television station) presented "Helen Foster Snow: My China Years" (although the title of the program is "Helen Foster Snow: Witness to Revolution") locally in conjunction with the official premier. National distribution was being sought via a PBS series. The film was to be sent to topical film festivals focusing on the Pacific Rim, ethnographic, historical, and social science themes. This appears to be, or include, a film made by Combat Films and Research about her experiences in China. "Helen Foster Snow: My China Years," was shot on location in China and Utah. The film also uses Helen's photographs and historical footage from the National Archives. It premiered at the China 2000 Conference sponsored by Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library, the Kennedy Center for International Studies, and the Women's Research Institute. In addition, premiers were planned for New York, Beijing, Xi'an, and Yan'an, China.

Written by Charles C. Chaney for "The Dameron-Damron Family Newsletter," Vol. 32, Spring 2001, pages 1065-1066; self-published by the Dameron-Damron Family Association. Reprinted with permission.

Sources:
Contemporary Authors, Detroit: Gale Research, 1976, vols. 67-60 (sic).

"Celebrating Helen Foster Snow," by Israel Epstein: Click here.

Farnsworth, Robert W. From Vagabond to Journalist: Edgar Snow in China, 1928-1941. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

The Combat Films and Research web site: https://combatfilms.com/helen-foster-snow.html

Brigham Young University Television web site: Click here

More about Helen Foster Snow on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Foster_Snow

Or a general Internet search: "helen foster snow"


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  • Created by: Cheri Mello
  • Added: 15 May 2008
  • Find a Grave Memorial 26840417
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Helen “Peg” Foster Snow (21 Sep 1907–11 Jan 1997), Find a Grave Memorial no. 26840417, citing North Madison West Side Cemetery, North Madison, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Cheri Mello (contributor 46911365) .