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Charlotte E. and Mary A.C. Ely papers

Identifier: MS 0631

Scope and Contents

The Charlotte Elizabeth and Mary Ann Caroline Ely Papers primarily document 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for Foreign Missions between 1914-1916; extensive biographical information concerning the Elys; published and unpublished material about events in Turkey in 1877 and between 1912-1917; and a small amount of memorabilia.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.


  • Creation: 1861-1917

Conditions Governing Access


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.


2 boxes (2 boxes (10 linear in.))

Language of Materials



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.


Arranged in eight series.

  1. Correspondence
  2. Writings
  3. Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Bitlis Records
  4. American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions Records
  5. Biographical Information
  6. Information about Turkey
  7. Memorabilia
  8. Photographs
Charlotte E. and Mary A.C. Ely Papers, 1861-1990 (bulk 1861-1917)
Edited Full Draft
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA