Thursday, July 16, 2009

Archives deemed a ‘treasure’ in book on conscientious objection.

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives has been called a "national treasure" by Steven J. Taylor, author of the new book "Acts of Conscience: World War II, Mental Institutions, and Religious Objectors" (Syracuse University Press, 2009). The archives are located at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill.

In the book’s acknowledgments, Taylor praises the Brethren Historical Library and Archives along with the Mennonite Church Archives in Goshen, Ind., and the Swarthmore (Pa.) College Peace Collection. The author did extensive research at each location, and says, "There are endless books to be written based on the rich historical documents maintained at these archives."

Taylor’s book documents how a group of young conscientious objectors who worked in mental hospitals as part of their Civilian Public Service (CPS) during World War II, attempted to reform the mental health system after the war. They made public the abuse and poor services endured by patients, and led a reform movement to improve conditions in mental institutions.

CPS was created and funded by Brethren, Mennonites, and Quakers as an alternative to military service during World War II. With the approval of the US government, young men who expressed conscientious objection to the war were assigned to work of national importance, such as fighting forest fires, serving as guinea pigs in scientific experiments, and working as attendants in mental hospitals.

"Acts of Conscience" is available from Brethren Press for $45 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712.

-- Ken Shaffer is the archivist at the Brethren Historical Library and Archives.

Source: 7/16/2009 Newsline

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