Miss Breed was a mentor to the Nisei kids who visited the downtown San Diego library pre-WW II. During their forced removal and imprisonment, she corresponded and provided support to them, while attempting to draw attention to the injustice of the situation.
|Miss Clara Breed|
Clara Estelle Breed was born on March 19, 1906, at Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Reverend Reuben Leonard Breed and Estelle Marie Potter. She and her older sister spent their early childhood growing up in New York and Illinois. After her father, a Congregational minister, died in 1920, the family moved to San Diego. Miss Clara Breed graduated from San Diego High School in 1923. and graduated from Pomona College in 1927. She received a master's degree in Library Science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Miss Clara Breed was offered a position as a children's librarian in the East San Diego branch in 1928. The following year, she became the supervising librarian of the children's library at the San Diego Public Library. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the signing of Executive Order 9066, in February of 1942, Miss Breed was a witness to the heartbreaking time when the Japanese-American kids who regularly visited the downtown library turned in their library cards before they were forcibly removed out to the Santa Anita racetrack assembly center in April 1942. Miss Breed went with many of the library kids to the downtown San Diego Santa Fe railroad station and gave them self-addressed and stamped post cards to write to her while they were gone. A few months later, they were transported to the Arizona desert to the Poston internment camp with their families.
About two dozen of her library kids wrote to her from and described the life in the camp, the food, the weather, the dances, their parents, books they were reading, and the experiences of going to a new school. The kids sometimes requested items, such as shower caps, candy, clothing, hair curlers, or pencils. Over three years, Miss Breed she sent numerous childrens' books and letters to the kids.
Meanwhile in San Diego, Miss Breed wrote letters to government officials. She lobbied for the college-age students' release from the camps to attend universities in the Midwest. She wrote one article in the Library Journal and another article in the Horn Book, bringing attention to the injustice occurring to the young American citizens. Miss Breed wrote letters of support concerning their fathers who were viewed as "security risks" and being held separately from their families in the Department of Justice internment camps. During the four years of their imprisonment, Miss Breed was a dependable penpal to the kids, and sent them items they needed and stayed in contact with them from the outside world. One of Miss Breed's most cherished mementos was a carving of her name in Manzanita wood by one of the kids using a sharp end of a bed spring. In 1945, Miss Breed was named acting city librarian and was appointed San Diego's city librarian the following year, a position which she held for 25 years until she retired in 1970. In 1955, Miss Breed is named "San Diego Woman of the Year".
Miss Breed saved the cards and letters she received from the kids in camp and and in 1993, she gave her collection of more than 250 postcards and letters to one of the former students she exchanged letters from Poston. Elizabeth (Kikuchi) Yamada, a retired high school English teacher. The Poston era artifacts were later donated to the Japanese American National Museum.
Miss Breed was honored at the 1991 Poston camp III reunion held in San Diego. On September 8, 1994, Miss Breed died at the age of 88 in Spring Valley, California.
"Clara Estelle Breed; ‘library lady’ who guided city’s modern system" in San Diego Union-Tribune, September 10, 1994