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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 446

Papers of Mary Frederika Farley, 1881-1987


Diary, travel documents, photographs, etc., of nurse Mary Frederika Farley.


  • Creation: 1881-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1914-1980


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 Frederika Farley is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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 ((½ file box) plus 1 folio+ folder, 11 photograph folders, 3 folio photograph folders)

Series I, World War I service with American Red Cross (#1-13), 1914-1916, consists of Mary Frederika Farley's diary; travel and other documents; photographs from Kiev and the trips there and home; and souvenir postcards. Most of the photographs were in two albums that were disassembled by the processor for preservation purposes. The album pages are extremely brittle and portions of photographs and captions have been lost; the pages were not in chronological order and some had been cut up. It is not known when Farley created the albums or who took the pictures; some were sent to her in 1944 (see #18).

Album pages containing a variety of items (e.g. clippings, tickets, certificates) were photocopied and are in #12. Pages containing only photographs were not copied and are filed with photographs.

Series II, Personal and family (#14-30), 1881-1987, is divided into two sections. The first includes a copy (1943) of Farley's baptismal certificate, a 1959 passport, her Connecticut nurse's license, certificates of recognition, and other papers about her Red Cross and nursing work, correspondence, and two articles by Farley. Of particular interest are four 1918 letters to Farley from a Belgian soldier in the trenches and her letter expressing her wish to be cremated, 1976 (see #18).

The second section (#21-30) consists of photographs of Farley, family, others, a friend's wedding, and three Red Cross dolls; some individuals are unidentified.

There is very little information about Farley's childhood and education, and there are only a few Red Cross documents pertaining to her service in New York City. Records of the American Red Cross (1881-1982) are at the National Archives.


Mary Frederika Farley, American Red Cross nurse, was born on January 17, 1884, in New York. She was the only child of Mary (Parnell) and Oliver Calot (spelled Callet on the copy of Farley's certificate of baptism) Farley. Farley attended public schools and spent many summers with her aunt Mary (Wells) Farley in Rowe, Massachusetts. It was her aunt Mary who encouraged Farley to become a nurse, despite the objections of her mother. Farley graduated from a combined degree program at Simmons College and Boston Children's Hospital in 1907.

Before the United States entered World War I, Farley joined the American Red Cross and volunteered to serve overseas. With a large group of American doctors and nurses she sailed from New York in 1914. After an arduous journey her small contingent arrived in Kiev, where together with the Russian Red Cross they set up a hospital in a polytechnic institute. The Americans were received by the Dowager Empress, presented to Czar Nicholas II, and awarded Russian medals for their work. The Czar suggested that it would be safer to return home by way of Siberia and so in mid April 1915 Farley and other nurses traveled on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok, on to China, by boat to Japan, and back to the United States. She arrived in New York City in mid June.

On her return Farley joined the New York State Commission for the Blind and spent two days a week at an eye clinic for prisoners at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. In 1916 she joined the New York chapter of the Red Cross and became director of the Teaching Center--later called the Home Nursing Service--a job she held until her retirement in 1949. Under her leadership, the service ran classes to train nurses' aides, introduced home nursing instruction into the city's high schools, and started Mother and Baby courses. Farley was also a charter member and president (1946-1948) of the Overseas Service League, on the board of Nurses House, a convalescent home, and president of the New York Counties Registered Nurses Association. After her retirement she continued to be active in these organizations and worked on the staff of the Floating Hospital of St. John's Guild. She enjoyed going to horse races and the theater, reading, parties, and perhaps most of all traveling. On one of her many trips (1959) she returned to Kiev.

Farley died on January 27, 1986, at the Mary Manning Walsh Home in New York City, and by some accounts was buried in her Red Cross uniform.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. World War I service with American Red Cross (#1-13), 1914-1916
  2. Series II. Personal and family (#14-30), 1881-1987 (scattered)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 95-M43, 95-M125

These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Rudolph L. Hoeltzel, a relative of Mary Frederika Farley, in April and August 1995.

Processing Information

Processed: July 1997

By: Bert Hartry

Farley, Mary Frederika, 1884-1986. Papers of Mary Frederika Farley, 1881-1987 (inclusive), 1914-1980 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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