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COLLECTION Identifier: 2004.7.1

Janet Elliot Wulsin papers


This collection consists of letters written by Janet Elliott Wulsin to her family while she lived in Paris and China


  • 1918-1924:

Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Because the original letters are fragile, researchers must use copies of the letters located in Box 2. The copies are numbered identically to the originals and noted. Copying: unrestricted


2 linear feet
This collection consists of letters written by Janet Elliott Wulsin to her family while she lived in Paris and China. Janet Wulsin chronicles her experiences as a Red Cross nurse in Paris during World War I, including daily life, details about her job, and excursions outside of the city. As a newlywed, she writes of her marriage and future plans. A gap exists in the correspondence during the time she and Frederick returned to America (1920). However, her correspondence resumes when Frederick's work took them to Peking.

The Peking correspondence records Janet's daily life in the city, including social activities and Peking "society" that centered on close friends such as Julia and Fritz Deane. She also writes about Americans involved in activities such as the Rockefeller Foundation Hospital, international business ventures, and exploration (Roy Chapman Andrews). Additionally, she describes going to "tiffins" (lunches), playing mah-jongg, taking Chinese language lessons, housekeeping, entertaining, and visiting temples outside the city.

Janet Wulsin also describes the logistics of traveling by train, in a caravan of camels, hunting and specimen collecting, meeting local folk, photography, and other activities related to their exploration. Especially of interest are her observations of isolated monasteries and lamaseries rarely seen by Westerners at that time. Also included in this collection are Mabel Cabot's research notes for her book, Vanished Kingdoms: A Woman Explorer in Tibet, China, and Mongolia 1921-1925.

Biographical Sketch

Janet January Elliott was reared in an affluent family in Boston and New York, the daughter of railroad executive, Howard Elliott. Anxious to explore, Janet was tired of the "the superficial social life of her world in New York," and, in 1918, at age 24, she joined the Red Cross as a nurse in France to help out the war effort and to be near her fiancé, Frederick Roelker Wulsin, whom she married in 1919. Frederick was a lieutenant in the Army and, prior to his graduation from Harvard in 1913, spent time in East Africa collecting specimens for the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Frederick intended to become an explorer and scientist, and in 1921, the couple left New York for China.

The young couple spent the next four years on expeditions, using their Peking (now Beijing) house as a home base. In 1921, they traveled for several weeks to Shansi Province. The next trip, the "great trek" of 1923, was funded by the National Geographic Society and took them through the Alashan desert to Kansu Province (Gansu), to several monasteries (Labrang, Kumbum, and Choni), to Lanchow, and then back to Peking for several months. Janet became pregnant and left China in 1924, giving birth to Frederick Jr. the following spring. In the meantime, Frederick completed another expedition and returned to America in December of 1924. Janet and Frederick had two more children: Howard Elliott Wulsin and Janet January Wulsin; the couple divorced in 1929. Frederick married Susanne Emery in 1930, who, along with her husband Harry, had traveled in China with the Wulsins. Frederick had a long and distinguished career teaching anthropology at Tufts University; he died in 1961. Janet married Richard Hobart in 1932, and had one daughter, Mabel "Muffie" Hobart (Cabot); Janet died in 1963.

Source: Cabot, Mabel H. Vanished Kingdoms: A Woman Explorer in Tibet, China, and Mongolia 1921-1925. New York: Aperture, 2003.


  1. Series I includes Janet Wulsin's original correspondence(when available) 1918-1919, 1921-1924
  2. SeriesII includes research copies of Series I.
  3. Series III includes additional duplicatecopies of correspondence and Mabel Cabot's research notes.

Physical Location

Peabody Museum Archives

Immediate Source of Acquisition


These papers are a gift of Mabel H. "Muffie" Cabot, Dr. Howard E. Wulsin


Related Peabody Museum Collections

  1. Janet Elliott Wulsin photograph collection, 2004.7.2
  2. Frederick R. Wulsin photograph collection, 56-55
  3. Mabel H. Cabot: Research and Production Materials relating toVanished Kingdoms book and exhibition, 2004.8
Other Related Collections at Harvard
  1. Wulsin Family Papers atHoughton Library, 1869-1933,(inclusive), 1905-1933,(bulk)
  2. Frederick Roelker Wulsin papers at Houghton Library, 1914-1932
  3. Frederick Roelker Wulsin papers at TozzerLibrary, 1927-1940
  4. Frederick Roelker Wulsin diaries atthe Museum of Comparative Zoology Library

General note

Collections records may contain language, reflecting past collecting practices and methods of analysis, that is no longer acceptable. The Peabody Museum is committed to addressing the problem of offensive and discriminatory language present in its database. Our museum staff are continually updating these records, adding to and improving content. We welcome your feedback and any questions or concerns you may want to share.

Processing Information

Processed by: Beth Bayley,Simmons College archives intern; edited by India Spartz, Senior Archivist

November 2004
Link to catalog
Wulsin, Janet E. (Janet Elliott). Janet E. Wulsin Collection, 1918-1924: A Finding Aid
Peabody Museum Archives

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Museum Archives Repository

The Peabody Museum Archives contains primary source materials that reflect the Museum’s archaeological and ethnographic research and fieldwork since its founding in 1866. Archival collections contain photographs, documents, papers, and records of enduring value that were created or collected by the Museum, its individual affiliates, or other related entities. The collections also document the history or provenience, as well as the creation of many of the Museum’s artifact collections. To learn more about research visits at the Peabody Museum, please see

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