I think we have about 600 small-pox patients. —V.B.

Vashti Bartlett's last mission for the American Red Cross was to Haiti. In July 1920 she sailed for Port-au-Prince to assume directorship of a nursing school that the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps had initiated at the City General Hospital. The mission of the American Red Cross was to train a group of local women to become a force for nursing service on this beautiful but impoverished island.


A miniature watercolor of a Haitian harbor.


Shortly after classes began, a smallpox epidemic pressed Bartlett and her students into emergency service. Once again Bartlett took charge of infection control and directed nursing services to the hundreds of patients who had contracted the disease. After helping to halt the epidemic, Bartlett was able to devote her attention to improving the operation of the school. In October, 1921 Bartlett resigned and returned to the United States. She later continued her career as chief nurse and instructor at an American Indian reservation school in Oklahoma.



A patient with smallpox.

Bartlett with Haitian graduates
and a young girl.

Bartlett enroute in the
Service d'Hygiene

Such rags, poverty and sores I am sure can be found nowhere else, not even in China. Syphilis is everywhere and the cases are so advanced that often the fingers, toes, hand or foot will be gone. We have two cases of leprosy and one woman with abdominal glands so infected that they have ruptured the skin in five places and she is as if she had five long incisions. I think we have five children in the hospital now under ten years each with one eye out and the ophthalmia amongst the children is terrible.


I am discouraged about the school…the small pox has almost disrupted the hospital…from 60 to 70 patients are admitted each day and so many nurses are needed that the other branches of nursing are neglected…we do no operating except emergency cases because the patient may break with small-pox the next day…In one ward two days ago where our sickest cases are we had 14 deaths in 24 hours. I think we have about 600 small-pox patients and with 14 nurses leaving it a question how to give them the care they need…


On Friday the 14th [January 1921] we had our graduation, ...we gave three of the nurses Hypos in appreciation of the work they did in the small-pox compound. They were the ones who offered to nurse the patients before their own vaccinations had taken and they did such good work until they were taken ill that we were glad to surprise them with a little address of thanks and the little gift. —V.B.





Banana leaves are used for every-thing,
dish cloths and surgical dressings.—V.B.

Hospital tent at the smallpox compound.


Market Place Petit Goave.

In other towns I am told the sick and old
lie in the market place until death comes.

Native Nurses with statue of
Joan d'Arc.