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Charlotte E. and Mary A.C. Ely Papers, 1861-1990 (Bulk: 1861-1917)
2 boxes (10 linear in.)
Collection number: MS 0631 (LD 7096.6 1861 Ely)

Ely, Charlotte Elizabeth, 1839-1915 and Mary Ann Caroline, 1841-1913; Teachers and missionaries. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary graduates, 1861. Papers consist of correspondence, writings, memorabilia, and photographs. Primarily secondary material documenting their work with Armenians in Turkey, with special interest in their travels, orphanages, and the social conditions of the country.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Charlotte Elizabeth Ely was born on July 2, 1839 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her sister, Mary Ann Caroline Ely (who usually called herself Annie) was born on June 2, 1841 in Wilmington, Delaware. They were the daughters of Judah Ely, a Presbyterian minister who died in 1843, and Caroline Coutier Ely, a native of England. After the death of their mother in about 1853, the Elys moved to Buffalo, N.Y., to live with an uncle, E. Sterling Ely. The sisters were educated at home and spent a year at Elmira College before entering Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. After graduating from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1861, the Elys spent two years teaching, then went on a tour of England and Europe in 1865-1866. An encounter with the Reverend and Mrs. George C. Knapp, the first missionaries in Bitlis, Turkey, convinced the Elys that they, too, should become missionaries in that area. The Elys arrived in Bitlis on October 3, 1868, and established the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary for Armenian girls. They remained at the school (except for rare furloughs to the United States) until Mary died on May 4, 1913, and Charlotte died on July 11, 1915.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Charlotte Elizabeth and Mary Ann Caroline Ely Papers consist of primary and secondary materials chiefly relating to their lives as missionaries and teachers in Turkey from 1868-1915. Of particular importance in this collection are letters written by the Elys between 1881-1915. These documents describe their work at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Bitlis, their travels in the region, the activities of other missionaries and social and political events in Turkey, including attacks on Armenians from the 1890s through the early years of World War I. An autobiographical sketch written by one or both of the Elys provides a summary of their lives through about 1902. These sources are complemented by a report concerning orphans in Bitlis, written by Charlotte Ely in 1899; letters and publications issued by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions between 1914-1916; extensive biographical information concerning the Elys; published and unpublished material about events in Turkey in 1877 and between 1912-1917; and a small amount of memorabilia. The collection also includes photographs of the Elys and of people, buildings, scenes and historic sites in Turkey, England and Europe. The writers of letters and articles in this collection include a number of Mount Holyoke alumnae: Anna C. Edwards, Class of 1859, Anna Hunt Knapp, Class of 1886 and Grace H. Knapp, Class of 1893. Charlotte Ely's association with Mount Holyoke is also reflected by a notebook that she kept for history, English composition and "stenography" (shorthand) courses in 1861. Other documents in the collection concern or were written by Edwin St. John Ward (husband of Charlotte Allen Ward, Class of 1903), George Perkins Knapp and, particularly, Mary D. Uline.

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Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Charlotte E. Ely and Mary A.C. Ely Papers, Mount Holyoke College, Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, Massachusetts

History of the Collection

Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

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