From Prairie To Palestine: The Eva Marshall Totah Story Lyla Ann May Author
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This three-part work presents a comprehensive look at a unique woman whose life spanned almost the full 20th Century. Educated well beyond her peers in the 1920’s, never satisfied with less than the high standards her upbringing had trained her to value and expect, Eva Marshall Totah struck out across the world to pursue her calling. She sought to pass on her prairie-bred character to those around her, to create beauty and to uplift her surrounding environment. Readers interested in the history of the American Midwest and the history of American Quakers will be drawn to her story, which begins with her birth in the claim shanty of her parents’ homestead in the new State of South Dakota. Genealogy buffs will enjoy the well-documented family genealogical histories of Eva’s eight great grandparents. Students of the history of the modern Middle East will be fascinated by her first-person accounts of life in Palestine during the waning years of the British Mandate, before the creation of Israel. Part I – The Autobiography of Eva Marshall Totah From the South Dakota prairie, a young Quaker woman was recruited in 1927 to teach for a year in the Holy Land. Well-prepared by her college and graduate studies, as well as two years as a Bible teacher in a Chicago after-school religious education program, she ventures overseas. Not realizing there were Arabs in Palestine, Eva Rae Marshall was expecting to teach Jewish children at the Friends’ Girls School in Ramallah. Discovering the varied religious landscape in Jerusalem’s environs was only one of many surprises in store for her! In Eva’s autobiography, she recounts her childhood in Wessington Springs, South Dakota and the choices she made that took her across the world at a time when most women did not even finish high school. Always supported and guided by her loving parents, Eva describes how she found her life’s purpose at the Quaker school in Palestine among the varied and colorful religious groups that called the country their home, and recounts her travels throughout the surrounding Levantine region during the British Mandate period. Eva found love and purpose in Palestine, eventually marrying a Palestinian Quaker, Dr. Khalil Totah. She spent 17 years in Palestine before she and Dr. Totah moved their family to America, sailing on a Liberty Ship through the mine-strewn Mediterranean waters during World War II. After several years on the East Coast, Eva lived the rest of her years in California. Part II – Eva’s Letters Home from Palestine (1927 - 1944) The second section contains Eva’s letters to her family in South Dakota from Palestine. The letters are the only ones known to remain from a correspondence that was carried on weekly for 17 years. They span from her arrival in 1927 to the family’s departure from Palestine in 1944, and include remarkable observations of the colorful life of the Middle East of that period. Part III – Genealogy of Eva Marshall Totah The third portion of the book contains well researched genealogy and family history narratives of eight of Eva’s ancestral families: Jesse Marshall, Mary Pickering, William Owen Lancaster, Olive Ruddick, Phillip Strahl, Rhoda Ann French, Arthur Ginn and Mary Eliza Barton. Since Eva was of almost completely Quaker stock, the research benefits from the volume of rich sources of information available on members of the Society of Friends. Eva Rae Marshall was also a direct descendant of Mayflower pilgrim Stephen Hopkins.


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