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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1200

Diary of Mary Johnstone Eastburn, 1916-1917, 2004


Diary of Mary Johnstone Eastburn kept while she was a governess to Ambassador Abram I. Elkus, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. The diary documents their travels in Europe and Turkey during World War I and the Armenian Genocide.


  • Creation: 1916-1917
  • Creation: 2004


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Johnstone Eastburn as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.21 linear feet (1/2 file box)

Collection includes a diary written by Mary Johnstone Eastburn while she was living with Ambassador Abram I. Elkus and his family in Turkey during World War I and the period of the Armenian genocide. Diary entries are dated August 17, 1916 through July 2, 1917, and contain detailed observations of people met, events attended, and places visited. Eastburn describes the ocean voyage to Copenhagen, a stop in Germany, and the train trip through Austria, Serbia, and Bulgaria. She shares observations of the train trip, including visiting a home for injured soldiers in Germany, observing officers and soldiers from different countries on the train, and seeing Romanian prisoners in Bulgaria. She describes Constantinople (now Istanbul), Turkish people and society, and the impressive American embassy; she also mentions the diplomats, Turkish government leaders, and Austrian and German solders she meets. Eastburn discusses relief efforts in Turkey, including efforts to aid Armenians and Jewish people. She was interested in the rights of women in Turkey and writes that she "planted the seeds of rebellion" and empowerment in group of women she met (11/5/1916). Eastburn records the tension which preceded the rupture of diplomatic relations upon the United States' entry into to war, Ambassador Elkus becoming ill with typhoid, and her reluctance to leave Turkey. Finally, the diary recounts the return train trip through Austria and Switzerland, her consideration of staying in France to do war work, and their return voyage to the United States. The diary is handwritten, but sections have been recopied or typed, possibly an attempt to prepare the diary for publication. The collection also contains the published book The Memoirs of Abram Elkus: Lawyer, Ambassador, Statesman by Abram Elkus (2004).

Folders were created by the archivist.


Mary "Mollie" Johnstone Eastburn was born in New York City on October 12, 1892. She attended the Horace Mann School, the Moses Brown School in Providence, and Smith College. In August 1916 Eastburn traveled to Turkey with Abram I. Elkus, United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. She served as tutor to his three children: Ethel, Katherine, and James ("Jimmie"). When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Elkus was recalled, and the family returned to the United States in July 1917. Eastburn met her husband, Hugh B. Eastburn, in France where he was serving with an American ambulance unit. On October 12, 1917, she married Eastburn in Cranford, New Jersey; Ethel Elkus, daughter of the ambassador, served as bridal attendant. Hugh B. Eastburn was an attorney, and they lived in the Philadelphia area; they had two daughters. Eastburn was active in the women's suffrage movement and was a founder and former president of the Bucks County League of Women Voters. She was instrumental in founding the preservation organization Historic Fallsington in 1953. In later years Eastburn lived in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and had a summer home in Sheffield, Massachusetts. She died August 29, 1981, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2022-M92

The diary of Mary Johnstone Eastburn was acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Michael Brown Rare Books in April 2022.

Processing Information

Processed: September 2022

By: Paula Aloisio

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by gifts from the Class of 1957 Schlesinger Library Fund and the Kim A. Bendheim Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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