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. The notes and photographs from these travels indicate her interest in persons and places and suggest that she would become an educator and chronicler of activities that occurred outside her native Maryland.
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. She left the United States for service with the American Red Cross during World War I. From March 1915 to January 1916, she served as a head nurse and supervisor of nurses at American Red Cross hospitals in Pau, France and La Panne, Belgium. She wrote extensively to family members and friends about the conditions of the war and documented this further with an extensive photograph collection. 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.
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. Her journal and photographs provide a first-hand view of the medical conditions, as well as the unstable political situation in Siberia. 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. 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. Her journals, letters and photographs document her struggle to improve the training of her nursing students in the midst of the smallpox epidemic. 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.
Note about date of birth: Vashti Bartlett's death certificate lists her birth date as Nov. 15, 1873. Family notes indicate she was born in 1873. Her student application to Hopkins would indicate she was born in 1874. In January of 1903 she claimed to be 28. Official documents with the Red Cross during World War I indicate she was born in 1878. There is correspondence from the Civil Service Commission in 1928 raising a question about her date of birth as she had given both 1878 and 1879. Vashti Bartlett seems to have adjusted her birth date on numerous occasions to make herself appear younger so that she would not be barred from nursing service by age limits.
Nov. 15, 1873 - Vashti Bartlett, the oldest child of George Washington Burnap Bartlett and Amanda Sally Griffith Bartlett, is born.
Sept. 1887-June 1892 - Vashti Bartlett attends the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore as a member of the class of 1893, but withdraws before graduation.
1892-1894 - Vashti continues her education while travelling with her family in Europe.
Aug. 1903-Sept. 1906 - Vashti attends and graduates from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses.
May 13- Nov. 9, 1908 - Vashti serves as chief nurse at St. Anthony Hospital as part of the Grenfell Mission in Labrador and Newfoundland.
March 4, 1909 - Vashti volunteers with the Red Cross to serve at the inauguration of President Taft.
April 15, 1909- March 31, 1910 - Vashti serves as Assistant Superintendent of Nurses at Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C.
June-Sept. 1911 - Vashti serves as a district nurse with the Holman Association at Altapass, North Carolina.
March 30- April 13, 1913 - Vashti serves with the Red Cross providing disaster relief to flood victims in Dayton, Ohio.
1914 - Vashti serves as Superintendent of Nurses at Watts Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
March 22, 1915- Jan. 30, 1916 - Vashti serves with the American Red Cross in Pau, France and La Panne, Belgium during World War I, as part of Units A and B from the Mercy Ship operation.
March 1917- Aug. 13, 1918 - Vashti serves as Clara Noyes' assistant in the Department of Nursing, Bureau of Field Nursing Service at Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Aug. 1918- April 1919 - Vashti serves with the Army Nursing Corp as Chief Nurse of Base Hospital Unit 71 in France.
June 30, 1919- Feb. 18, 1920 - Vashti serves with the American Red Cross, Siberian Commission as Chief Nurse in Harbin, Manchuria during a cholera epidemic and in Vladivostok, Siberia as instructor of the course in Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick.
July 15, 1920- Oct 14, 1921 - Vashti serves with the American Red Cross as the Superintendent of Nurses at the General Hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti during a smallpox epidemic.
Aug. 27, 1928- June 30, 1929 - Vashti serves with the Office of Indian Affairs as the Chief Nurse at the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma.
July 7, 1969 - Vashti Bartlett dies in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Scope and Content:
The Vashti Bartlett Collection focuses on her education and her nursing career. 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. The collection includes biographical material, correspondence, diaries, student notebooks and teaching materials, publications, photographs, and material evidence.
Material are grouped in series which chronologically document Bartlett's family background, education and periods of nursing service.
Restrictions on Access: This collection may contain some restricted records. Materials pertaining to patients, students, employees, and human research subjects, as well as unprocessed collections and recent administrative records, carry restrictions on access. For more information about the policies and procedures for access, see the Archives Policy on Access and Use.
Restrictions on Use: When citing material from this collection, credit The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. For permission to reproduce images, contact the holder of the copyright.
Language: English, German, French
Acquisition Information: Collection was transferred from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing's library to the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives in 2001 when the bulk of the contents that had once been housed in the Nightingale Room of the Welch Medical Library were moved to the Archives.
Related material: Records of the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing, Vashti Bartlett student record, class of 1906.
Additional material related to Vashti Bartlett's service with the Red Cross can be found in the Records of the American Red Cross housed at the National Archives.
Notes: A web exhibit "Vashti Bartlett: A Hopkins Nurse on a Global Mission can be found at: