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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project


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Mary Emily Lapham (1860-1936) was a doctor known for her research with tuberculosis patients. During WWI, she traveled to Europe on a Red Cross Medical Mission.


The collection consists primarily of letters written by Mary Lapham during her time with the Red Cross. The letters document Lapham's day-to-day activities from March 1918, when her ship sailed from New York City, until she returned to the United States in January 1920. The letters are posted from Paris, La Rochelle, and towns across Brittany in France; also, Prague, Petrovatz, Marienbad, and the Children's Camp at Nizni Smokovec in Czechoslovakia.

In addition to the letters from Lapham, there are several photographs and postcards. Reports Lapham wrote about the dispensary and the children's camp are included in her writings. There are also copies of articles concerning Dr. Alice Masaryk of Czechoslovakia and Countess Teleki of Budapest that Dr. Lapham tried to have published in the United States.

Also included in the collection are letters to Dr. Lapham and miscellaneous materials, newspapers clippings, and telegraphs relating to her time in Europe.

For a complete list of contents for this collection, visit:


Mary Emily Lapham (1860-1936) was born in Northfield, Michigan, to Jared S. and Martha Gregory Lapham. She worked at her father's bank until sometime in the early 1890s. After her father's death, she traveled to Highlands, North Carolina, where she stayed for four years before purchasing fifteen acres of land on nearby Satulah Mountain. There she built her home which came to be named "Faraway."

While in Highlands, Lapham observed the lack of medical attention received by the local population, especially women. Lapham's observations finalized her decision to study medicine. She left North Carolina to attend Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, from which she graduated in 1901. She then traveled to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland for advanced study.

After returning from Europe, Lapham settled at "Faraway" with her friends Caroline Barker and Edith Bloomer Dougall, along with Edith's adopted daughter, Valerie Ashton-Dougall. The ladies were especially interested in music, particularly opera, and would often travel to Europe for operatic festivals.

In 1908, Dr. Lapham built Highlands Camp Sanatorium, a facility for the treatment of tuberculosis, where she specialized in pneumotherapy. The hospital operated for ten years before it burned in January of 1918.

In March 1918, Dr. Lapham set sail for France on a Red Cross Medical Mission. She was station in La Rochelle, France, were she set up a dispensary and hospital for refugees. When the dispensary closed after the conclusion of WWI, Dr. Lapham was reassigned to another Red Cross mission. From January through March 1919, she traveled through Brittany, France, giving mother/baby health clinics. In April, Dr. Lapham was appointed physician to the Red Cross's Czecho-Slovakian Commission, and was assigned to Prague, then Petrovatz. From August through September 1919, she assisted the Red Cross in taking five hundred refugee children into the Tatra Mountains for a health camp. Dr. Lapham returned to the United States in early February of 1920.

Little is known of what Dr. Lapham did after her return. Per information in her letters, she may have taken a job with the G.W. Carnrick Company in New York City. Mary Lapham died at her winter home in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1936, at the age of 75.

Letter from Mary Lapham, 1918
Item # WV0418.4.001
From the Mary Emily Lapham Papers
Dr. Lapham inspecting a kitchen, circa 1919
Item # WV0418.6.001
From the Mary Emily Lapham Papers
Red Cross Mission team in Serbia, circa 1919
Item # WV0418.6.002
From the Mary Emily Lapham Papers