The Peace Corps tradition was arguably started by the Thomasites, a group of educators who got their name from the U.S. Army Transport Thomas, a converted cattle cruiser that brought 540 American teachers and some of their family members to initiate a new era of public education in the Philippines in August, 1901.  By 1902, the number of American teachers grew to 1,074.  The ship Thomas  was earlier named the Minnewaska (a Minnesota influence). 

Not all of the Thomasites easily assimilated into Filipino society, though.  On the other hand, Peace Corps Volunteers are well known for their ability to assimilate themselves into foreign cultures.  Interestingly, Wisconsin has the highest per capita output of U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers (three in my family).

The photo above was taken in the early 1900s, probably in Manila.  In it, we can see the good- intentioned, kind-hearted faces of some educators looking to make an international impact.  In a way, they were the prototypes for what would become the U.S. Peace Corps over six decades later.

As for the Wisconsin impact back then , I could see it when I spent several days at a retreat at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) campus in Laguna.  That campus reminded me a little of Madison  when I saw an old structure with the name of a Wisconsin Thomasite on it; he later went on to become an administrator in Madison. 

Visit the Thomasite Centennial Project for more information.
Visit this cite for information on Filipino dialects:

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