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Ethel "Sandy" (Beach) Socolar Family Papers

Identifier: MA.00338

Scope and Contents

The Ethel "Sandy" Beach Socolar Family Papers contain correspondence, documents, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, and photographs related to the personal and professional lives of Sandy Socolar, Ruth Beach (Sandy’s mother), and Frances Bingham and Elizabeth Keller (Sandy’s sisters). The Beaches may be considered as a “missionary family” in China in the early 20th century, although the term is somewhat misleading as it doesn’t suggest the full extent of the education and professionalism of the Beaches. Two of the Beach daughters were born in China, and all three spent most of their youths there before finishing college in the United States. The papers document the Beach family together in China as well as the later lives of all three daughters. Frances and Elizabeth’s lives are well documented, especially Frances’s interest in Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament movement and her life with Brewster Bingham (himself from a family of missionaries to Hawaii), and Elizabeth’s college years at Oberlin and her later career as a biochemist. Sandy’s family life with Sidney J. Socolar and her half-century career in early child development are documented in copies of several newspaper articles as well as a lengthy course paper derived from interviews with Sandy by Alice Colby, a neighbor and – at the time – a student at Teachers College in New York. Colby’s work provides many biographical details about Sandy’s life as well as her views about the social and political events during her lifetime.


  • circa 1880-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1910 - 1950


Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the Ethel "Sandy" Beach Socolar Family Papers for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the Ethel "Sandy" Beach Socolar Family Papers should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

Ruth Porter Ward [Beach] was born on December 10, 1881, in Newton Center, Massachusetts, to Langdon and Laura Bliss Ward. Her father worked for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for 40 years, 30 of them as treasurer, and her mother was the daughter of Edwin and Isabella Bliss, missionaries in Turkey, and herself briefly a missionary. Ruth was one of 8 children. Langdon Ward died in 1895 when Ruth was 14, and the large, close-knit family soon moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, so that all the children could finish high school and then attend local colleges – Amherst College for the boys and Mt. Holyoke College for the girls. After graduating from Mt. Holyoke in 1903, Ruth studied teaching and music at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City. In late 1907 she sailed for the Foochow Mission in China, where she taught at the Wenshan Girls’ School and then at Fukien University. While in China she met and married Reverend Frederick Paul Beach, who had arrived as a missionary to China in 1910, started a boys’ school, and then helped establish Fukien University. Ruth and Frederick had three girls – Frances, Ethel (Sandy), and Elizabeth. In 1933 Ruth fell ill and died suddenly of meningitis on January 10.

Frances Helen Beach [Bingham] was born in China on May 19, 1912. She spent most of her youth in China, including boarding school in Shanghai. In 1929 Frances left China to attend school in the United States. She graduated from Mt. Holyoke College in 1933 and then studied sacred music at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. There, she met Brewster Bingham, whom she married in 1934. In 1935 the couple went to China as Congregational missionaries, where they worked until 1940, when events in China during World War II forced them to leave. Soon after their return to the United States, they met Frank N. Buchman, the founder of the Oxford Group, later known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA), “a Christian revolution for remaking the world” (Buchman, from his collected speeches titled “Remaking the World”), regarded by others as a religious cult (Frances addresses this issue in her letters in the collection). The Binghams dedicated themselves to working closely with Buchman and his group for the rest of their lives – the scrapbook in Box OS2 called “The Story of Frances Brewster Bingham” outlines their experience with the group.

Frances Bingham died on April 22, 2000.

Ethel Bliss Beach [Socolar] was born on May 31, 1916 in Oberlin, Ohio, while her parents were on furlough from their missionary work in China. Ethel – known since her undergraduate years as Sandy – spent her childhood in China: “Diongloh, then Fuzhou, then downriver on the campus of Fukien Christian University. Summers on Kuliang” (Sandy Socolar, for her Shanghai American School Reunion, Box 1, Folder 18). Her first year of college was at Yenching University; she then spent a year at Oberlin College before she transferred to Smith College, from which she graduated in 1937. Sandy received a Master’s degree in group work and worker education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and then worked for several years. In 1950 she began graduate work in pediatric medical social work at the University of Chicago, the start of a long career in early child development issues. While in Chicago she met Dr. Sidney J. Socolar, a biophysicist. The couple married in 1951 and had two children, Paul and Deborah. They moved to New York City in 1957 and have remained in the city and continued to work at their careers ever since – at 100 years old, Sandy was still working on issues of social justice.

The youngest of the Beach daughters, Elizabeth Waterbury Beach [Keller], was born in Foochow, China, on December 28, 1917. Her childhood was spent in China, and she graduated from Shanghai American School and then attended her first year of college at Fukien University. Like other members of her family, she studied for a time at Oberlin College and then finished her degree at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1940. In 1946 she received a Master’s from George Washington University, and in 1948 she received a Ph.D. from Cornell University Medical College in New York. She worked as a biochemist in several institutions, including at Cornell University, where she was a professor in molecular biology from 1965 to her retirement in 1988, after which she continued to do research throughout her retirement. Part of Keller’s work at Cornell included formulating a model – the “cloverleaf model” -- for the way amino acids transfer and link together into proteins.

Elizabeth Beach married Geoffrey Keller, an astronomer, in 1941. The couple divorced by 1950, although the circa 1940-1975 scrapbook in Box OS3 suggests that Elizabeth remained close to the Keller family. Keller died in 1997.


4.5 Linear feet (1 legal-size archives box and two oversize flat boxes )

Language of Materials



The Ethel "Sandy" Beach Socolar Family Papers (circa 1880-2015) contain correspondence, photographs, and scrapbooks related to the lives of Ethel "Sandy" Bliss Beach Socolar and her family, especially her mother, missionary-educator Ruth Porter Ward Beach, and sisters, Frances Helen Beach Bingham and Elizabeth Waterbury Beach Keller. The bulk of the material dates from about 1910-1950.


The papers are divided into three series:

  1. Series 1: Correspondence, 1904-1989
  2. Series 2: Biographical Materials, 1930-2016
  3. Series 3: Photographs and Scrapbooks; 1881-1980

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Ethel "Sandy" Beach Socolar Family Papers were donated by Sandy Socolar in 2016.

Related Materials

Related family collections in the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections:

  1. William Earl Dodge Ward (AC 1906) Family Papers
  2. Edwin and Isabella Bliss Correspondence Collection
  3. Dora Judd Mattoon Ward Papers
  4. Edwin St. John Ward (AC 1900) Papers
  5. Paul L. Ward (AC 1933) Papers
  6. Mark Hopkins Ward (AC 1906) Family Papers

Related materials at other institutions:

  1. The China Records Project at the Yale Divinity School Library
  2. Mary I. Ward Papers (Mt. Holyoke College)
  3. Charlotte Edwards Allen Ward Papers (Mt. Holyoke College)
  4. Edwin Munsell Bliss Papers (Yale University)
  5. Laura D. Ward Papers (Mt. Holyoke College)
  6. Madeline and Winthrop Goddard Hall Papers, 1907-1957 (UMass-Amherst)
  7. International Mission Photography Archive (University of Southern California)

Names of Women in the Collection

Women who figure regularly in the collection and whose marital histories are known are listed in two ways in order to clarify whether an item is relative to their lives before marriage or after:

Name form before marriage:

First name, maiden name, [married name]


Name form after marriage:

First name, maiden name, married name

As an example, Sandy Socolar's mother is Ruth P. Ward [Beach] before her marriage and Ruth P. Ward Beach after marriage. A letter she wrote before her marriage will be identified as written by Ruth P. Ward [Beach], while a letter written after her marriage will be identified as written by Ruth P. Ward Beach.

Processing Information

The Ethel "Sandy" Beach Socolar Family Papers were processed in 2017-2018 by Margaret R. Dakin, Archives and Special Collections Specialist.

Margaret R. Dakin, Archives and Special Collections Specialist
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299