Ellen LaMotte

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Ellen Newbold La Motte (1873–1961) was an American nurse, journalist and author. She began her nursing career as a tuberculosis nurse in Baltimore, Maryland, and in 1915 volunteered as one of the first American war nurses to go to Europe and treat soldiers in World War I.[1] In Belgium she served in a French field hospital, keeping a bitter diary detailing the horrors that she witnessed daily. Back in America, she turned her diary into a book, The Backwash of War (1916), containing fourteen vignettes of typical scenes. The truth she told was unpalatable; the book was suppressed and not republished until 1934.

After the war, LaMotte travelled to Asia, where she witnessed the horrors of opium addiction. These travels provided her with material for six books, three of them explicitly dealing with the opium problem: Peking Dust (1919), Civilization: Tales of the Orient (1919), Opium Monopoly (1920), Ethics of Opium (1922), Snuffs and Butters (1925) and Opium in Geneva: Or How The Opium Problem is Handled by the League of Nations (1929). The Chinese Nationalist government awarded her the Lin Tse Hsu Memorial Medal in 1930.[2]


  1. ^ Higonnet, Margaret R. (2001). Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War. UPNE. pp. vii–xxxv. ISBN 978-1-55553-484-4.
  2. ^ "Ellen N. La Motte Collection". Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Retrieved 29 August 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hazel Hutchinson, The War That Used Up Words: American Writers and the First World War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.

External links[edit]