Monday, 6 June 2016

Dr. Mary Lapham (1860 – 1936) – American WW1 doctor

Information posted by Elena Branca who works for the Red Cross on the Facebook Page Women of the Great War.

Mary Emily Lapham (1860-1936) was born in Northfield, Michigan, America.  Her parents were Jared S. and Martha Gregory Lapham.    Mary worked in her father's bank until sometime in the early 1890s. After her father's death, she travelled to Highlands, North Carolina, where she stayed for four years before purchasing fifteen acres of land on nearby Satulah Mountain. There she built her home which she named "Faraway."

While in Highlands, Lapham observed the lack of medical attention received by the local population, especially women. Lapham's observations finalized her decision to study medicine. She left North Carolina to attend Women's Medical College of Philadelphia, from which she graduated in 1901. She then travelled to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland to advanced her medical studies.

After returning from Europe, Dr. Lapham settled at "Faraway" with her friends Caroline Barker and Edith Bloomer Dougall, along with Edith's adopted daughter, Valerie Ashton-Dougall. The ladies were especially interested in music, particularly opera, and would often travel to Europe for operatic festivals.

In 1908, Dr. Lapham built Highlands Camp Sanatorium, a facility for the treatment of tuberculosis, where she specialized in pneumotherapy. The hospital operated for ten years before it burned down in January of 1918.

In March 1918, Dr. Lapham set sail for France on a Red Cross Medical Mission. She was stationed at La Rochelle, France, were she set up a dispensary and a hospital for refugees. When the dispensary closed after the end of the First World War, Dr. Lapham was reassigned to another Red Cross mission.

From January to March 1919, Dr. Lapham travelled throughout Brittany, France, holding mother/baby health clinics. In April of that year, she was appointed physician to the Red Cross's Czecho-Slovakian Commission, and was assigned to Prague, then Petrovatz. From August to September 1919, she assisted the Red Cross in taking five hundred refugee children into the Tatra Mountains to a health camp. 
Dr. Lapham returned to the United States in early February of 1920.  Little is known of what Dr. Lapham did after her return. Through the information contained in her letters, she may have taken a job with the G.W. Carnrick Company in New York City.

Dr. Mary Lapham died at her winter home in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1936, at the age of 75.

With many thanks to Elena.

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