Catherine Bancroft Haviland, nurse.

Catherine Haviland, ca. 1919.

Catherine Bancroft (1887–1966) was the daughter of William Amos Bancroft, who served as a general in the Spanish American War; as a representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives; and as mayor of Cambridge, MA. In 1905, she married Harvard graduate William David Haviland, whose father, Theodore Haviland, founded a china manufacturing firm in Limoges after a family heritage of involvement in china. They had three children. The 14 May 1916 Boston Globe characterized Catherine as “a wholesome, sensible type of girl, fond of outdoor life and of horseback riding” (70).

During World War I, Catherine served as a nurse in a small hospital situated in the Limoges home of her sister-in-law, Renee de Luze, and a nearby apartment, with room for 40 patients. She later founded Auxiliary Hospital no. 137 in France. An account in the 4 Mar 1916 Cambridge Chronicle provides a glimpse of her experiences:

I have a new man—a baby—poor thing. His left arm was torn off at the shoulder, two fingers of his right hand are gone, and he has a huge wound which goes almost to his elbow. His lips and face were burned. He can do nothing for himself. Two of my old soldiers have been reoperated, and I have another new one with a bad wound on his back.

I had thought of stopping the ambulance [hospital]. I cannot now. I must go on until the end. I have learned so much and we do so much good in this little ambulance.

We were talking over today our Christmas of last year at the ambulance. Out of the eighteen patients there four have since been killed, two officers and two soldiers.

You cannot know what it is to work calmly and to be perfectly sure of one’s self. There is much more order than last year. The badly wounded are all taken care of near the front. More than 5,000 wounded have arrived in Limoges recently, and they have put the very slight cases in the barracks. . . . .

Three soldiers from the north came today to see me. They are leaving for the third time. Just think what that means, twice wounded and returning, and I have seen some lately who have come with six days’ permission, who have been at the front since the beginning. (10)

In 1923, William was inducted into the Legion d’Honneur (included in the same honors list as Edith Wharton), as his family’s firm had hosted a hospital in one of its factories during the war, that William stated had cared for “1,200 French wounded . . . and we served over 200,000 meals” (Supplementary Report Twentieth Anniversary Celebration, Harvard College Class of 1902, 48). Catherine, reported the 29 Nov 1919 Cambridge Tribune (“Catherine Bancroft Haviland Comes to Spend Winter Here” 8), received the silver medal of the Reconnaissance Française (awarded to civilians for service to the injured and refugees). The citation for the medal, stated the newspaper, noted her “great devotion” as a nurse.