Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall, kept mostly while serving with the American Red Cross in France during World War I.

Biographical Sketch

Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall (NS) was born in Chestnut Hill, Mass., 19 Oct. 1894, the second of four children of Eleanor (Brooks) and Richard Middlecott Saltonstall. Her siblings were Leverett, born 1892, Muriel Gurdon (later Lewis), born 1896, and Richard, born 1897. She attended Miss Winsor's school, graduating in 1911, and continued her education at Miss Ferris' School in Paris in the fall and winter of 1911-1912. Nora was chosen secretary of her Sewing Circle the year she "came out" and president of the Junior League at age 22.

When World War I began, she organized the Active Corps of the Special Aid Society in Boston, and earned a First Aid Certificate in June 1917. In Oct. 1917 she went overseas to work in Paris with the Bureau of Refugees and Relief, a division of the American Red Cross, which provided lodging for refugees. In November she transferred to an American Red Cross dispensary in Paris. A desire to see more action and to be of more use to the war effort impelled her to seek a transfer after the new year to Mrs. Charles Daly's Auto-Chir No. 7, an American Red Cross hospital unit attached to the French army. The Auto-Chir was a mobile hospital which followed the troops, serving as the primary medical unit after the first aid station. Nora served as Mrs. Daly's assistant, as the unit's secretary and housekeeper in charge of supplies and accounts, and later as the chauffeur, while the Auto-Chir served along the western front in France, east/northeast of Paris, the site of the German offensives in Mar. and Apr. 1918.

At the end of the war Nora spent some time traveling in the south of France, returning home in March of 1919. She then set off on a trip with friends to the west coast of the U.S. She contracted typhoid fever in Portland, Oregon, and died on Aug. 2, 1919, at the age of 24.

In her honor, the Winsor School founded a Nora Saltonstall Memorial Scholarship. Given to a recent graduate for eight months of study in France, the scholarship continues today.

Collection Description

The collection consists of letters, diaries, and miscellaneous papers, most generated while Nora served in France during 1917-1919. There are three large bound volumes containing Nora's letters written home from Europe, Oct. 1917 to March 1919, and from the western U.S. in June and July 1919. There are two sets of typed transcriptions of Nora's letters, one by Marjorie Gutheim of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and one (identified here as "alternate") by an unknown transcriber. There are two diaries kept by Nora, 1911-1915 and 1916-15 July 1919, with a photocopy of each included. Finally, there is one narrow box of miscellaneous loose papers, documents, and ephemera, mostly pertaining to her work in France, and one volume, The Bride's Gift Book, that belonged to Muriel Gurdon (Saltonstall) Lewis, listing wedding gifts, 25 Sep. 1926.

Four passport photographs (copies) of Nora Saltonstall were removed from the collection and catalogued as Photo Collection 9.2. Also removed and catalogued separately were a number of museum objects (see Appendix for details).

Other Formats

Most letters in the collection published in "Out here at the front" : the World War I Letters of Nora Saltonstall, edited by Judith S. Graham, Boston: Northeastern Press, 2004.

Acquisition Information

The three volumes of letters were previously deposited at the MHS as part of the Saltonstall Family Papers. The balance of the collection was deposited by Eleanor (Lewis) Campbell in 1999; the collection was a gift of Eleanor (Lewis) Campbell, September 2000.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Letters, 1911-1919

The collection consists mainly of letters written home by Nora Saltonstall to family and friends from France, Oct. 1917 to Mar. 1919, describing her activities and work with the Red Cross in Paris and on the western front of France with Mrs. Daly's Auto-Chir No. 7. There are also letters written home from the western United States, June-July 1919; and letters (transcripts only, Box 1) written 1911-1912 from Paris and other parts of Europe. The original letters have been organized and housed chronologically in three bound volumes with some additional material appended to Volume III. This material includes: photographic postcards written by Nora to family members, envelopes, newspaper clippings, letters written about Nora while she was in France, a few letters written to Nora by acquaintances in France, and two letters written in 1914 to Nora and her sister Muriel concerning family silver, probably from their grandmother Sarah L. Brooks.

There are two sets of typed transcripts of the letters located in Boxes 1 and 2. The first set was compiled by Marjorie Gutheim of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and includes all letters 1917-1919, transcriptions of all appended material from Volume III, as well as transcriptions of letters written by Nora Saltonstall during a sojourn abroad at Miss Ferris's School in Paris, and traveling around Europe, Sep. 1911 to July 1912 (the originals of which are not in this collection). The second set of transcripts (identified here as "alternate"), was done by an unknown transcriber, and includes letters Oct. 1917-Mar. 1919, letters written from her camping trip, June-July 1919 (as part of the appendix), and some other appended material: a Chicago Daily News clipping, a letter from Alexander Lambert to Mrs. R. M. Saltonstall (4 June 1918), and obituaries of NS (Aug. 1919).

Vol. I
Letters written by NS, Oct. 1917-11 Mar. 1918.
Vol. II
Letters written by NS, 16 Mar. - 17 Sep. 1918.
Vol. III
Letters written by NS, 28 Sep. 1918 - 2 Mar. 1919,June - July 1919.
Box 1Folder 1-8
Transcriptions of letters by Marjorie Gutheim, Sep. 1911- July 1912.
Box 1Folder 9-26
Transcriptions of letters by Marjorie Gutheim, Oct. 1917 - July 1919.
Box 1Folder 27-28
Transcriptions of appended material (Vol. III) by Marjorie Gutheim.
Box 2Folder 1-12
Alternate transcriptions of letters, Oct. 1917 - Mar. 1919.
Box 2Folder 13-15
Alternate transcriptions of appended material.

II. Diaries, 1911-1919

There are two small, five-year diaries (a brief paragraph per day) in the collection. Nora kept the first diary daily from 1911 to 1915. This diary includes her time spent at Miss Ferris's School in Paris and traveling around Europe, 1911-1912. The second diary begins 1 Jan. 1916 and includes her time in France during the war and afterwards on her camping trip to the western United States. The last entry is 15 July 1919, also the date of the last letter she wrote home. There is a photocopy of each diary.

Vol. IV
Diary, 1911-1915.
Vol. V
Diary, 1916 - 15 July 1919.
Box 3
Photocopy of Vol. IV, diary, 1911-1915.
Box 3
Photocopy of Vol. V, diary, 1916-1919.

III. Miscellaneous Papers, 1917-1919

This series, arranged chronologically, relates primarily to Nora's time in France, and includes such items as passports, permits, safe-conducts, identity cards, instructions, a citation from Maréchal Petain, acknowledgment from the Red Cross of her service, checkbooks, and ephemera. There is also a volume, The Bride's Gift Book, that belonged to Nora's sister Muriel Gurdon (Saltonstall) Lewis, and is a record of her wedding gifts, 25 Sep. 1926.

Box 4Folder 1
Miscellaneous papers, n.d.

Includes: Carte d'identité, list of French authors and books, mimeographed poem "Pourquoi Pleurer" and ms. note.

Box 4Folder 2
Miscellaneous papers, 1917.

Includes: Birth certificate, passports, steamer instructions, carte d'identité application, "Programme de Soirée," postcard NS to Muriel Saltonstall.

Box 4Folder 3
Miscellaneous papers, 1918.

Includes: Carnet D'Étranger, Livret de Dame Infirmière Militaire, Red-Cross identification card, French driver's permit for NS, citation from Maréchal Petain, receipt from Dr. Hally-Smith.

Box 4Folder 4
Miscellaneous papers, 1918.

Includes: Transport order, clothing store packing slip, passport, travel permits, Red Cross letter of appreciation, Liberty & Co. receipt, postcard from NS to Muriel Saltonstall, obituary of NS, list of Nora Saltonstall Fund subscribers.

Box 4Folder 5
3 checkbooks on Messieurs Hottinguer & Cie., Paris.
Box 4Folder 6
Franc and centime notes, most cancelled.
Box 4Folder 7
Six blank postcard sets from the Ligue Fraternelle des Enfants de France.
Box 4Folder 8
The Bride's Gift Book of Muriel G. (Saltonstall) Lewis, 25 Sep. 1926.

Preferred Citation

Eleanor Saltonstall papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Daly, Mary Noe.
Saltonstall family.
Lewis, Muriel Gurdon Saltonstall, 1896-1990.
Gutheim, Marjorie.


American Red Cross.
Bureau of Refugees and Relief.


Family history--1900-1949.
Mobile hospitals.
Women and war.
Women travelers--Diaries.
World War, 1914-1918--Civilian relief.
World War, 1914-1918--Hospitals.
World War, 1914-1918--Participation, Female.
World War, 1914-1918--War work, Red Cross.
World War, 1914-1918--Women--France.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918.
West (U.S.)--Description and travel.
Women's diaries.

Museum Objects Removed from the Collection

Stained and inlaid wooden box that contained relics of Nora Saltonstall's WWI experiences: wooden box with hinged lid, stained blue with inlaid ribbon in natural birch along front, lid, and back sides. MHS Artifact # 1288.

Three brass buttons from the Red Cross uniform worn by NS in France: brass dome buttons with round brass shanks set into slightly domed backs; raised design of cross on fronts. MHS Artifact # 1289.01-03

Collar insignia from the Red Cross uniform worn by NS in France: brass initials "U.S." with straight pin/hook clasp. MHS Artifact # 1290.

Red cross uniform insignia worn by NS in France: brass cross with red enamel inlay and straight pin/hook clasp. MHS Artifact # 1291.

Engraved identification bracelet worn by NS in France: gold link chain bracelet with slightly convex oval plate and spring slide clasp. MHS Artifact # 1292.

Pair of US 30 caliber hollow core bullets, relics of Nora Saltonstall's WWI experience: brass hollow core bullets with sharply pointed heads, lead cores melted out; bullets crudely soldered together with lead. MHS Artifact # 1293.01-02.

Silver case and pencil owned by NS: sterling silver flattened oval tube with separate pressure fitted cap at one end and suspension lop at the other, engraved initials N.S.; tube contains pencil of the same shape, marked JOHANN FABER. MHS Artifact # 1294.

Leather shoulder bag of NS, possibly used while in France: leather bag, single compartment with envelope type flap and chrome lock and clasp; single narrow leather strap attached to back of bag by brass spring cleats hooked to metal D rings in leather tabs. MHS Artifact # 1295.

Lock of hair, presumably of NS: tied with grosgrain ribbon and cut clean across; wrapped in brown paper wrapper. MHS Artifact # 1296.

Two pieces of stained glass "from Notre Dame," presumably collected by NS while in France: irregularly shaped; larger of red class with opaque backing; smaller of red glass with etching revealing red fleur de lis. In an envelope with note in ms. of Muriel G. Saltonstall Lewis "Glass from Notre Dame." MHS Artifact # 1297.01-02.

Croix-de-Guerre awarded to Eleanor Saltonstall, 1918 Bronze with ribbon of 6 broad green stripes and 7 narrow crimson stripes, 1 bronze star, 37 x 99 mm.