A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


Nora Saltonstall Papers and Photographs

Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall (1894-1919) wrote these letters home to her family describing her experiences as a volunteer in France during World War I.

Eleanor "Nora" Saltonstall was born in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the second of four children of Richard Middlecott Saltonstall (1859-1922) and Eleanor (Brooks) Saltonstall (1867-1961).  Her siblings were Leverett (1892-1979), Muriel Gurdon (later Lewis, 1896-1990), and Richard (1897-1979). Detail of photograph of Eleanor She attended Miss Winsor's School in Boston, graduating in 1911, and continued her education at Miss Ferris' School in Paris in the fall and winter of 1911-1912.

Saltonstall traveled overseas in October 1917 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 and, after the new year, to Mrs. Charles Daly's Auto-Chir No. 7, an American Red Cross hospital unit attached to the French army. Detail of Eleanor   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. Later, she was the chauffeur while the Auto-Chir served along the western front in France, the site of the German offensives in the spring of 1918.  It was for this service that she earned the Croix de Guerre.

In many of the letters in this series, such as her letter from 20 October 1918, Nora responded to her family's concerns for her safety and well-being. Nora, however, found her work to be fascinating, as the first lines in her  3 June 1918 letter make clear: "This is certainly a very interesting life -- I would not miss all the Experiences that we are having now for anything."

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. where she contracted typhoid fever in Portland, Oregon, and died tragically on 2 August 1919 at the age of 24.

Detail of Nora Saltonstall's signature from letter to her family, 13 November 1917Presented here are a selection of Nora’s letters written from November of 1917 through the end of 1918, her passport, and photographs taken by and of Nora, including one taken just weeks prior to her death in the summer of 1919. 

Nora’s letters were also published as “Out Here at the Front”: The World War I Letters of Nora Saltonstall, edited by Judith S. Graham (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004).

See also the collection guides to Nora’s papers and to her photographs in the Saltonstall-Brooks-Lewis-Campbell photograph collection.

Letters from Nora Saltonstall

Photographs from the Nora Saltonstall Papers

3 October 1917

Photograph by Eugene Pirou

4 July 1919
Photograph, 4 July 1919

Photograph by Holton, 1911

Photograph, 1901

Photograph, n.d.

February 1918
Photograph, February 1918

June 1918
Photograph, June 1918

Photograph, n.d.

Photo postcard

February 1918
Photograph, February 1918

circa 1917-1918
Photograph, circa 1917-1918

Bronze medal with green and red ribbon, one bronze star (regimental dispatch citation) and bar, 1918