Dear Miss Breed: Letters from Camp

JAPANESE AMERICAN
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Clara Breed
 
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An image of Clara 
Breed
Collection of The Rafu Shimpo (NRC.1997.57.1)
Clara Estelle Breed, also known as "Miss Breed," was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library from 1929 to 1945. Miss Breed was fond of all children, including the many Japanese American children and teenagers who used to frequent the East San Diego branch library where she worked. Before World War II, Miss Breed was a mentor to many Nisei children who visited the library.

As the United states entered the war, these young Nisei were removed from their homes and placed in concentration camps. Shocked and outraged, Miss Breed helped her young friends by becoming a lifeline to the outside world. She handed out stamped and addressed postcards at the railroad station on the day of their departure and encouraged them to write.

 
Upon receiving their letters, Miss Breed responded with books, care packages, and immeasurable emotional support. Yet, her commitment to her Japanese American friends did not end with the letters and packages she regularly sent. Recognizing the injustice that the United States had committed against the Japanese American community and seeing the need for others to speak out on their behalf, Miss Breed wrote various articles about the internment both during and after the war. Her actions, like those of the many people who reached out and helped Japanese Americans during this time, were all the more remarkable because of the widespread fear and hatred that was associated with anything Japanese.
 
After the war, Japanese Americans were allowed to return to their homes on the West Coast. Although Miss Breed no longer worked at the Children's Library, having been appointed to the postion of Head Librarian in 1945, she continued to exchange letters with many of her Japanese American friends until her death at the age of 88 in 1994. She is remembered by all of her correspondents, now in their 60s and 70s, as a woman who restored their faith in themselves and in others during a time when this faith was sorely tested.
 
 


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