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Vashti Rebecca Bartlett was born in Maryland on November 15, 1873. Her father’s family had been active in business and civic affairs, and her grandfather had been a director of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. She was educated at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and completed her education while traveling with her family in Europe.

Bartlett graduated from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1906. Her nursing career took her around the world. She first combined nursing with travel in 1908 through her work as Chief Nurse at St. Anthony Hospital, part of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell’s Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen in Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada. From 1909 to 1914 she worked as a nurse in the United States, including as the Superintendent of Nurses at Watts Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, and at Church Home and Infirmary in Baltimore. She serviced with the American Red Cross during World War I. From March 1915 to January 1916, she was head nurse and supervisor of nurses at American Red Cross hospitals in Pau, France and La Panne, Belgium. After returning to the United States, she served as Clara Noyes’ assistant at Red Cross headquarters in Washington DC until August 1918. She then entered the Army Nursing Corps as Chief Nurse of Base Hospital Unit 71 in France and served until April 1919.

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In the aftermath of World War I and in the midst of the Russian Revolution, the United States sent military and humanitarian aid to Siberia. As part of that endeavor, Bartlett served with the American Red Cross Siberian Commission from June 1919 to February 1920. Shortly after arriving in Vladivostock, she was sent to Harbin, Manchuria, as Chief Nurse during a cholera epidemic. Bartlett returned to Vladivostock on November 12, 1919, just before the Gaida battle at the train station on Nov. 17-18. She helped establish an American Red Cross Hospital where many of the wounded were taken for treatment. To provide for continuing care of these patients after the departure of the American Red Cross, Bartlett instructed lay women in Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick from December 10, 1919 to February 2, 1920.

Bartlett was again called upon by the American Red Cross to serve as Superintendent of Nurses at the General Hospital at Port au Prince, Haiti from July 15, 1920 to October 14, 1921. She assumed responsibility for a school of nursing, which had been established by the US Navy, and increased enrollment and improved the quality of instruction with the assistance of three other American Red Cross nurses. Shortly after her arrival, a smallpox epidemic swept the island and she was in charge of the nursing care of these patients. In addition, she wrote and had published a French language Dietetic Handbook for distribution to the Haitian nurses.

Over the next few years, she spent most of her time caring for her family. She returned to nursing education when she assumed the position of Chief Nurse at Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma from August 27, 1928 to June 30, 1929. Thereafter she retired from active nursing and spent time with her family in Gaithersburg, Maryland and Pass-a-Grille, Florida, where she remained active in Women’s Clubs. On July 7, 1969, Vashti Bartlett died in Montgomery County, Maryland.

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Scope and Content

The Vashti Bartlett Collection focuses on her education and her nursing career. The collection includes biographical material, correspondence, diaries, student notebooks and teaching materials, publications, photographs, and material evidence. It includes student notebooks from her secondary education at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and from her nurses training at Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses. It documents her nursing service in the United States and around the world. During the course of her career she served for brief periods as a community and public health nurse, a disaster relief nurse, a superintendent at schools of nursing, a supervisor of nurses during wartime, and a nurse educator. During World War I, she wrote extensively to family members and friends about the conditions of the war and documented this further with an extensive photograph collection. Her journal and photographs from Siberia provide a first-hand view of the medical conditions, as well as the unstable political situation. This was a time of severe political instability with soldiers from Czechoslovakia, Japan, and the United States, as well as from various Russian factions, such as the Bolsheviks and White Russian Kolchak government, trying to maintain order and establish control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The resulting refugees and orphans required nursing and medical attention. Her journals, letters and photographs from Haiti document her struggle to improve the training of her nursing students in the midst of the smallpox epidemic.

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