Clara Estelle Breed, beloved librarian for 42 years, created San Diego’s county-wide “Serra” lending system we all enjoy today. She is most notably remembered, however, for the impact she had upon children she dearly loved. During World War II, over 120,000 Japanese were forced from their homes and possessions and placed into internment camps; Breed was a children’s librarian. Outraged, she wrote in protest and sent books, clothing and candy to children in the Japanese internment camps. She handed children pre-addressed, stamped postcards as they were shepherded onto trains, asking them to write her. She corresponded with hundreds of children, saving over 250 letters from them.
She visited camps, wrote journals and articles, and retained mementoes of her moving Japanese-American friendships. “Dear Miss Breed,” all the letters to her began. Ted Hirasaki wrote her from Poston, Arizona, in 1942, “How are you? Thanks ever so much for the wonderful letter. (would you mind if I showed it to some friends?)… Life is beginning to settle down to the monotonous regularity that is truly depressing. People have gotten so that they don't leave their own block. Let alone leave their ‘home.’” In the 1990s Breed gave her historic collections to one of her former correspondents, who then donated them to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. There, and on the Museum’s website, we can witness first-hand how one woman built bridges and made a difference to so many during a dark chapter in U.S. history.