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Florence Billings papers, 1915-1959 (Bulk: 1919-1928)
2 boxes (1 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 17

Near East Relief worker, Turkey; World War I Relief worker. Correspondence, journal entries, reports, travel notes, articles, thesis, clippings, photographs, and memorabilia document the work of Florence Billings and her colleague Annie T. Allen with the Near East Relief in Turkey and Greece, 1920-22; Billings' travels in and writings about, the Middle East; and a small amount on relief work in World War I France and travels in Europe. Photographs include Turkish leaders such as Mustafa Kema (Ataturk), Refet Pasha, Prime Minister Fethy Bey, feminist Halidé Edib, and numerous scenes of Turkish villages and country side.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Permission to cite the papers for quotations or for publication beyond "fair use" must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property. The copyright owner is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Florence Frances Billings was born in Hatfield, Massachusetts on June 14, 1879, daughter of Frederick Dickinson and Frances Amelia (Hunt) Billings. She had three sisters: Charlotte, Emily, and Anna Hunt Billings (Smith Class of 1891). Her grandfather, Charles Morris Billings of Hatfield, was an abolitionist and member of the Underground Railroad and her grandmother, Charlotte White Billings, was a cousin of Sophia Smith (founder of Smith College). In 1893 her family moved to Redlands, California where she resided on and off for the next sixty years although she spent many of those years living in Europe and in the Middle East. Billings graduated from Redlands High School in 1899 and from Stanford University in 1903 with a B.A. in Latin. She taught school for several years during which time she traveled to Europe, including Russia in 1912. She went to Germany and taught English in a private school for a period. She was on vacation in Brittany when World War I broke out and she immediately volunteered with the American Ambulance Hospital in Paris. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, she returned home briefly and signed up with the American Red Cross, then went back to France as a canteen and relief worker. Working just behind the front lines in Chalons-sur-Marne earned her the Croix de Guerre.

After the war, Billings went home for a short time before returning to Paris where she lived at the American Women's Club and continued relief work until November 1919, when she took a position at the American School for Girls in Brousa, Turkey. After six months she volunteered for service in Brousa, Turkey with the Near East Relief (NER), an organization created in 1915 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. They created NER in response to the growing desperation of hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees in Turkey and the surrounding area resulting from massive deportations and massacres by the Turkish government in 1915 and 1916. In Brousa, Billings worked under Annie Allen, the NER representative in Brousa. Annie T. Allen, the daughter of pioneer missionary in the Middle East, the Reverand O.P. Allen, was born in Harpoot, Turkey, on December 21, 1868. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1890 and began her missionary work in Brousa for the Woman's Board of Missions in 1903. Allen was to become Florence Billings' close friend and colleague.

Billings and Allen were in Brousa when the Greek army took that city in July 1920. In 1921 they traveled into the interior of Turkey to Konea, where foreigners were seldom allowed, to relieve workers at a large center for Armenian refugees and orphans run by the NER. While they were in Konia, revolution broke out between the Turks and Nationalists and the women took refuge in the orphanage. Later they toured villages destroyed by the retreating Greeks and reported on conditions. In February 1922 Annie Allen died of typhoid, which she had contracted during their travels. Billings, now stationed at the American Hospital in Ankara, became the NER representative in charge. For a time she was the only foreign woman living in the city. In 1922 and 1923 Billings was sent to Greece to visit the Turkish prisoners interned there and to report on their conditions to the NER Commission. Billings was in Turkey during major social and political upheaval under the Nationalist leader Mustapha Kemal who Billings knew personally and with whom she had some influence. She also corresponded with expatriate Turk nationalist and feminist Halidé Edib Adivar, who ran an orphanage for 800 Armenian refugee children in Antoura. Billings was said to have been "instrumental in gathering together hundreds of Armenian and other war orphans and arranging for their transportation to Smyrna and other places of asylum." [see obituary, Redlands Daily Facts, Sept 10, 1959]

Billings left the NER in 1923 but returned to the area several times. She and her sisters traveled around the world in 1923, and between 1924 and 1928 she resided in Hatfield, Massachusetts, and sometimes in Europe. She continued to travel throughout the Middle East visiting old friends and meeting several important government leaders, including Prime Minister Reza Khan Pahlavi, the soon-to-be Shah of Iran. In 1927 she received her M.A. from Columbia University, completing her Masters thesis entitled "Causes of the Outbreak in Cilicia, Asia Minor, April 1909." In the early 1930s Billings had settled permanently in Redlands, California near her sisters, and became active in local affairs, the American Association of University Women, and the Contemporary Club. Florence Billings died on September 9, 1959.

Scope and contents of the collection

The Florence Billings Papers include correspondence, journal entries, reports for Near East Relief, travel notes, typescripts of articles and her thesis, clippings, photographs, and memorabilia. There is a small amount on her relief work in World War I France and her travels in Europe, but the collection focus is on the work of Florence Billings and her colleague Annie T. Allen with the Near East Relief in Turkey and Greece from 1920-22 and Billings' subsequent travels in, and writings concerning, the Middle East.

SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE includes letters from Turkish feminist Halidé Edib, and the American High Commissioner in Constantinople, Mark Bristol, to Billings. In her correspondence to her sisters Billings writes from a trip to Russia in 1912 and later work in Turkey for NER.

SERIES III. WRITINGS includes handwritten drafts and typescripts of reports, articles, notes, and journal entries that record the details of Billings' relief work as well as the political and social changes of Konea, Brousa, Constantinople, and other Turkish and Greek sites where Billings and Allen traveled. In a draft typescript entitled "Constantinople to Konia" (Sep 1920 - Jan 1921), Billings writes of being trapped with women and children in an orphanage in Konia at the outbreak of the Turkish revolution and having to make her way through the streets amidst gunfire to collect bread from the bakery. Her travel diary and notes outline Billings' journey through Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran between 1924 and 1928 and the meetings she had with high level officials. Billings' Masters thesis entitled "Causes of the Outbreak in Cilicia, Asia Minor, April 1909," examines the "real causes of the troubles between Moslems and non-Moslems in the Ottoman Empire," among them the "expansionist and protective policies of Europe." There are also drafts of articles she wrote on topics relating to the Middle East.

Writings and correspondence to and from Annie T. Allen are found in SERIES IV, including letters from Halidé Edib, a typescript of her diary of her trip through the interior of Turkey with Florence Billings, and descriptions of being in Konia during the outbreak of revolution and their meeting with nationalist leader Mustapha Kamal Pasha.

SERIES V. PHOTOGRAPHS includes portraits and group shots of Turkish officials and others in Turkey. Included are Mustafa Kemal, Halidé Edib (identified as Halidé Hanoum on photos), Refet Pasha, Prime Minister Fethy Bey, and various Near East Relief representatives. There are also numerous images of the Turkish country side, village scenes, and unidentified people. Many of the photographs are unlabeled and undated but most, if not all were probably taken by Florence Billings, circa 1919-22.

Organization of the collection

This collection is organized into five series:


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

Permission to cite the papers for quotations or for publication beyond "fair use" must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property. The copyright owner is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

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

Florence Billings Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The Florence Billings Papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by her cousins, Marion C. Billings (Smith class of 1901) and Louisa Billings (class of 1905) of Hatfield, Massachusetts, between 1960 and 1961.

Processing Information

Processed by Margaret Jessup, 2006

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886


Contents List

Contents: finding aid and NUCMC form

Box 1: folder 1
Clippings by and about Florence Billings,
1919-59, undated

Box 1: folder 2

Program of parade for Ataturk (in Turkish), signed by him (photostat copy; original at Hoover Library, Stanford U.) and related correspondence,
1960, undated

Box 1: folder 3
Watercolors by Persian artist,
circa 1925

Box 1: folder 3

Family (from Russia, Turkey, etc.),
1912, 1919-25

Box 1: folder 4
Friends and associates

[See also SERIES IV. ANNIE T. ALLEN - Correspondence]

General (includes Laura S. Crandall, William S. Dodd, Senator Borah, and Julian E. Gillespie),

Box 1: folder 5
Mark Bristol (American High Commissioner in Constantinople),

Box 1: folder 6
Halidé Edib Adivar,

[See also SERIES IV. ANNIE T. ALLEN - Correspondence]


Box 1: folder 7
Catharine Esserberg (American School for Girls, Damascus, Syria),

Box 1: folder 8
Henry Furst,

Box 1: folder 9
Edith Parsons (American School for Girls, Turkey),

Box 1: folder 10
Thomas Perkins,

Box 1: folder 11

Near East Relief

"Constantinople to Konia": typescript (incomplete),

Box 1: folder 12
Reports (by Billings and Annie T. Allen),

Box 1: folder 13-14
Turkish prisoners: translated telegrams and NER certificate,

Box 1: folder 15
Address by Mustafa Kemal Pasha,

Box 1
Unidentified notes and lists,
1921, undated

Box 1
Travel diary (Paris, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Iran, etc.),
Oct 1924-25, undated

Box 1: folder 16
Notes (chronology of events in Middle East),

Box 1: folder 17-18
"Causes of the Outbreak in Cilicia, Asia Minor, " (Masters thesis, Columbia University): typescript, 1927
April 1909

Box 1: folder 19
Articles: typescript drafts,
1920-25, undated

Box 1: folder 20
Manuscript fragments and notes (including "Autobio"),
circa 1921-28, undated

Box 1: folder 21

Biographical articles,

Box 1: folder 22

To Florence Billings, Admiral Mark Bristol, and others,

Box 1: folder 23
To Allen (includes letters from Halidé Edib, and letters of authorization to go to Konia),
1921-22, undated

Box 1: folder 24
To Florence Billings re: Allen, on her death (includes Halidé Edib),

Box 1: folder 25

Diary and notes ("Brusa - Konia - Angora, etc"): typescript,
1919-20, undated

Box 1: folder 26
"Mustafa Kemal Pasha and the Nationalist Movement at Close Range" (re: outbreak of revolution in Konia): typescripts and fragments,

Box 1: folder 27
"One Way of Making America Your Friend": typescript,

Box 1: folder 28

Individuals: includes Florence Billings, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Halidé Edib, Fethy Bey, and other Turkish and NER officials,


circa 1919-22

Box 2: folder 1
Groups: includes Florence Billings, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, Halidé Edib, Refet Pasha and others, Turkey,
circa 1919-22

Box 2: folder 2
Scenes of Turkey (most unidentified),
circa 1919-22

Box 2: folder 3-6
Album with photos of Konia and Broussa, Turkey, spring

Box 2: folder 7

Photographs: Mustafa Kemal Yusouf Kemal (1922), Refet Pasha (1928), and unidentified people

Flat file

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • Adivar, Halidé Edib, 1885-1964
  • Allen, Annie T., 1868-1922
  • Armenians--History--Sources
  • Ataturk, Kemal, 1881-1938
  • Billings, Florence, 1879-1959
  • Greco-Turkish War, 1921-1922
  • Iran--Description and travel--Sources
  • Middle East--Description and travel--Sources
  • Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, 1919-
  • Near East Relief (Organization)--History
  • Refugees--Armenia--History--Sources
  • Turkey--Description and travel--Sources
  • Turkey--History--Revolution, 1918-1923--Civilian relief
  • Women in charitable work--Turkey--History--Sources
  • World War, 1914-1918--Civilian relief--France

  • Allen, Annie T., 1868-1922

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