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.
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).
The Massachusetts Historical Society hold the following collections that are related to the Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall papers:
Eleanor Saltonstall passport photographs. Photo. Coll. 9.2.
Saltonstall family papers, 1634-1967.
Saltonstall-Brooks-Lewis papers, 1863-1982.
Saltonstall-Brooks-Lewis family photographs. Photo. Coll. 33.
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.
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.
The collection is organized into the following series:
Eleanor Saltonstall papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
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.
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.
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