Now Processed: Richard and Eunice Poethig Family Papers | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Now Processed: Richard and Eunice Poethig Family Papers

March 19, 2024
Group photograph at the wedding of Eunice Blanchard and Richard Poethig (left to right: Erna Poethig, Eunice Blanchard & Richard Poethig, Juliet Rumsey Stroh Blanchard, David Blanchard), June 7, 1952. Pearl ID: islandora:356169 [RG 545, Box 43, Folder 17]

The Richard and Eunice Poethig Family Papers have been processed as RG 545, and the guide to the papers is now available:

The processed collection totals 53 boxes and supplements the Eunice Blanchard Poethig Papers (RG 516), which was processed in 2019. Related to the processed collections, additional publications that belonged to Richard and Eunice are being added to the Poethig Library, which includes collected published materials on industrial mission, labor issues, the evolution of feminist theology, and the development of women's ordination and ministry.

RG 545's scope chiefly covers Richard's work in the field of urban and industrial mission, Eunice and Richard's work as missionaries in the Philippines, and other professional endeavors and the personal lives of the Poethig family. The materials are primarily in English with several items in Chinese, German, Finnish, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Thai.

Eunice Blanchard Poethig at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Presbytery of Western New York Leader Training, circa 1990. Pearl ID: islandora:356168 [RG 545, Box 40, Folder 10]

Reverend Richard Paul Poethig was born on July 13, 1925 into a German American family in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. His parents were Ernest and Henrietta Schölzel Poethig. Richard attended the College of Wooster (Ohio) from 1945 to 1949 and Union Theological Seminary (New York City) from 1949 to 1952.

While at Union Theological Seminary, he met Eunice Blanchard (please see the PHS blog post "Eunice Poethig, A Champion for Women" for more biographical information on Eunice Poethig). The two married on June 7, 1952 in Dayton, Ohio.

Richard was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) on June 27, 1952 at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church (Presbytery of New York). He served as the organizing pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church (Buffalo, New York) from 1952 to around 1956.

Front cover of an Ellinwood-Malate Church worship bulletin, which contains Richard Poethig's sermon "The Tower and the Wall," October 1963. Pearl ID: islandora:356150 [RG 545, Box 23, Folder 4]

In December 1956, Richard and Eunice were appointed to the PCUSA Board of Foreign Missions Philippines Mission. The Poethigs and their children arrived in Manila three months later in March 1957. Serving as fraternal workers under the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (COEMAR), they were assigned to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). Richard contributed to the new field of urban-industrial evangelism and mission, training church and lay leaders to advocate for industrial workers and to improve housing for the urban poor. He served as the director of the Inter-Seminary Urban-Industrial Institute in Manila from 1965 to 1972 and developed the UCCP's Committee on Industrial Life and Vocations (COILV). He also taught courses at seminaries and universities in the Philippines.

Richard Poethig (first from left) at the 8th Annual Baguio Religious Acculturation Conference in Baguio City, Philippines, December 1964. Pearl ID: islandora:356149 [RG 545, Box 14, Folder 19]

In 1972, the Poethigs moved to Chicago, where Richard served as director of the Institute on the Church in Urban-Industrial Society (ICUIS) and as dean of the Presbyterian Institute of Industrial Relations (PIIR) at McCormick Theological Seminary. As globalization began affecting manufacturing jobs, ICUIS reported on the economic dissolution in the Rust Belt around the Great Lakes. Richard also served as adjunct faculty at McCormick and as moderator of the Presbytery of Chicago's Church and Society Committee during this time. After ICUIS's closure in 1982, he served as interim pastor of Chicago Ridge Presbyterian Church. In 1986, Richard and Eunice moved to Buffalo, New York, where Eunice served as executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Western New York. Richard continued to work on writing and publishing, especially on articles for PHS.

Letter to Eunice Blanchard from Elizabeth Howell, Assistant Secretary, Office of Youth Work, informing Blanchard that she is one of the Alaska Pioneers in the Youth Caravan, April 1, 1948. Pearl ID: islandora:356165 [RG 545, Box 34, Folder 1]

In 1993, Eunice became director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Congregational Ministries Division (CMD) in Louisville, Kentucky. She was forced to leave her directorship after the CMD Committee did not renew her contract in 1998. Eunice and Richard then retired to Chicago. Eunice died on March 25, 2018, and Richard died on November 22, 2021.

The collection contains five series:

Series I, Richard P. Poethig Papers, 1851-2016, contains the professional papers of Richard Poethig. The papers are chiefly arranged in topical/subject-based groups, mirroring the original arrangement that Poethig used to organize his papers. The series includes bibliographies, correspondence, coursework and course materials, photographic materials, printed materials and publications, reports, research materials, subject files, writings, and other materials. Major topics, entities, and work in Richard's life documented include: the ICUIS and the PIIR; economic democracy and worker participation; economic dislocation, plant closings, and unemployment; metropolitan-urban mission and urban-industrial mission work and history, in the United States and globally; the Philippines, including the UCCP and Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO); religion and labor issues; coursework at Union Theological Seminary; and Richard's later career activities.

Series II, Eunice Blanchard Poethig Papers, circa 1865-2014, contains some personal and professional papers of Eunice Blanchard Poethig. The series includes conference and workshop materials, correspondence, photographic materials, writings, and other materials. Materials chiefly document Eunice's work in the CMD in Louisville, Kentucky; her early life; her life in the Philippines; and her sermon writing (please note that the majority of Eunice's professional papers are found in the Eunice Blanchard Poethig Papers (RG 516)).

Series III, Poethig Family Papers, 1821-2021, includes correspondence, genealogical materials, maps, photographic items, writings, and other materials compiled, collected, and created by the Poethig family. Materials are generally personal in nature. Included are materials pertaining to the Axtell and Stroh families (relatives of Eunice Poethig).

Series IV, Photograph Albums and Scrapbooks, circa 1930-2013, contains photograph albums and scrapbooks, chiefly compiled and prepared by Eunice Blanchard Poethig. Materials are both personal and professional in nature, documenting travel, Eunice's CMD work, and reunions. While the materials mostly pertain to the activities of Richard and Eunice Poethig, other family members are also represented.

Series V, Audiovisual Materials, circa 1970-2012, includes audiocassettes, compact discs (audio), and videotapes (VHS). Materials chiefly pertain to Richard Poethig's work in urban-industrial mission and research endeavors and include audio recordings of conferences and interviews. Some audiocassettes belonged to Eunice Poethig.

Click here to access the guide to the Richard and Eunice Poethig Family Papers and read more about the contents of the papers.