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Ellen N. La Motte was born in Louisville, Kentucky. After graduation from the Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses in 1902, she served as supervising nurse for the Johns Hopkins Hospital. From 1904 to 1905 she was assistant superintendent at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis. From 1905 to 1910 she was a tuberculosis nurse with the Instructive Visiting Nurses Association in Baltimore. She was then Superintendent of the Tuberculosis Division of the Baltimore Health Department until 1913. From 1914 to 1916, she served with the American Ambulance Service in Paris and as a nurse at a French Army field hospital in Belgium. She described her experiences in Backwash of War. She was the author of numerous books and articles on her nursing and wartime experiences.

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She became an authority on the problem of opium trafficking, and counseled the League of Nations. In 1930 she was awarded the Lin Tse Hsu Memorial Medal by the Chinese Nationalist government for her work. She also received the Order of Merit from the Japanese Red Cross, of which she was a special member. She remained active in the Johns Hopkins Nurses Alumnae Association as well as the Hugenot Society of America, the Author’s League, Society of Women Geographers and the Women’s National Republican Club in New York.

Her publications include:

The Tuberculosis Nurse (1914)
Backwash of War (1916)
Peking Dust (1919)
Civilization (1919)
The Opium Monopoly (1920)
The Ethics of Opium (1924)
Snuffs and Butters (1925)
Opium at Geneva (1929)

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Scope and Content

The Ellen N. La Motte Collection consists of 16 letters written by La Motte between December 1911 and August 1916 to Amy Wesselhoeft von Erdberg, a close friend and confidante living in Germany. Letters follow La Motte through Europe and have datelines: Baltimore, Paris, London, and Chicago. The letters touch on her literary activities, as she wrote and published The Tuberculosis Nurse (1914) and her anti-war book Backwash of War (1916). She discusses her interest in the suffrage movement, noting William Osler’s anti-suffrage views and visits with friends, including Gertrude Stein and Claribel Cone. She discusses British militant suffragette Mary Richardson who slashed a portrait in the National Gallery in London, to draw attention to the suffrage cause. Also included are articles written by La Motte published in The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Magazine.

Catalog Record

Additional Links

Hopkins and the Great War exhibit featuring Ellen La Motte

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