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Nurse, writer, activist
Author: Lea M. Williams

Ellen La Motte: nurse, writer, activist, is a biography of La Motte that traces the arc of her life, from her birth in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1873 to her death in Washington, D.C. in 1961. It integrates original unexamined sources such as diaries, unpublished manuscripts, and publishing contracts along with primary sources—letters, newspaper articles, health department reports, and public records—with an examination of her prolific published writings, about topics as diverse as tuberculosis nursing, women’s suffrage, nursing during the Great War, and the opium trade. It considers of how she developed as a nurse, writer, and activist once she entered the Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses in 1898 and grew into a potent force in the anti-tuberculosis campaign. Gaining experience speaking and writing on behalf of controversial causes, La Motte put her talents to use on behalf of the fight for the vote for women, nursing during World War I and the anti-opium campaign.

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The making of a nurse, writer, and activist
Lea M. Williams

In a 1951 alumni survey Ellen Newbold La Motte, a 1902 graduate of the Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses, provided this succinct response to the request that she evaluate her impressions and experiences as a student nurse: “Nothing to evaluate. Did not like it.” 1 In response to a second question, her assessment of her time as a graduate nurse was even terser: “Ditto.” 2 By the time La Motte completed the survey she had long ago left nursing behind and had forged an independent life for herself during

in Ellen N. La Motte
La Motte and nursing, 1898–1913
Lea M. Williams

The path La Motte traveled during the course of her life becomes visible just after she took her first step toward independence from her family and began developing a professional life for herself. That moment came in 1898 when she applied to the Johns Hopkins Training School for Nurses. Georgina Caird Ross, the second assistant in the training school at the time of La Motte’s application, observes in notes left in her student record, that La Motte was “most attractive, very handsome & ladylike.” 1 Johns Hopkins

in Ellen N. La Motte
Lea M. Williams

Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame provides more information: https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/welsh.html . Mary Bartlett Dixon Cullen (1873–1954) was a 1903 graduate of the Johns Hopkins Training Schools for Nurses and very involved in the suffrage movement. She later donated her suffrage materials to the Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College. Several letters in a private collection indicate Cullen and La Motte had contact as late as the 1950s; the two had been on friendly terms in the 1910s. Reba

in Ellen N. La Motte