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Times-Globe, February 1948

Dr. Catherine Travis

"Your heart would be wrung with pity…"


Dr. Catherine H. Travis




Catherine Travis's "brilliant record" at McGill University in the 1890s followed a dazzling performance in the public schools of Hampton and Saint John, New Brunswick. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, the daughter of Mary Bartlett and Allan Travis went on to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, receiving her M.D. in 1905 and practicing medicine in Connecticut for the next ten years.



Our Mission World, May 1918

Dr. Catherine Travis and Serbian Refugees, 1918

When in her early forties, Dr. Travis traveled with the United States Red Cross to war-menaced Serbia, determined to open a baby hospital, which she did with the help of several colleagues. But when Germans to the north and Bulgarians to the east pushed at Serbia's borders, "the awful squeeze began." Catherine's medical services were soon required at the front, where she treated hundreds of wounded men before retreating with the army. Forced to avoid the German and Austrian lines, her return trip to New Brunswick in 1916 followed a very roundabout route: from Serbia she traveled to Bulgaria, then on to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and England! Each stop was an experience in the anguish of war: monetary depreciation and shortage, harsh baggage searches at national borders, black-outs, Zeppelin raids, destruction, and neglect. Yet when asked upon her return what her future plans were, Dr. Travis replied "I really don't know… I want to go back to Europe." 


"Poor China…"


In fact, Dr. Travis remained scarcely a year in her home province before setting out for more distant shores, this time as a medical missionary to China under Church of England auspices. Touched by the wretched living conditions of poor peasants, the devastation of floods, the insecurities of civil war, and the sufferings of Chinese women, she wrote vivid accounts to churches in Canada. Sometimes these reports reveal her inability to accept certain Chinese practices and her mission to "break down the age-old superstitions." But while Catherine maintained a certain cultural distance as an outsider in China, she also took great personal risks, demonstrated remarkable courage, and acted with unbounded compassion for the people she served.


Dr. Catherine Travis never married. While on one occasion she nearly resigned from her missionary work, citing a family member's ill health, she returned to Honan, China in 1929, as soon as circumstances permitted. After her retirement in the late 1930s, Catherine threw herself into Church of England projects, devoting her "time and talents to every good work in the community in which she lived": befriending needy families, working with the unique "Sunday School by post and caravan," and serving as a member of the Hampton War Guild and the Hampton Red Cross during the Second World War.


Dr. Travis donated over 200 items to the New Brunswick Museum over her lifetime. Most of these were Chinese items, including 148 silver finger rings, two embroidered bridal capes, three-rank Mandarin badges and several utilitarian items, among them a rolling pin, ruler, and steelyard. She also donated Travis family heirlooms and religious texts: her sister Minnie's christening dress, a beaded purse belonging to her grandmother, her mother's calling card case, a copy of Pilgrim's Progress from 1839, and a bible from 1817. Catherine died in 1948 having outlived her immediate family. 





Educational Review, May 1892.


Mission World, May 1918; March 1920; October 1923.


New Brunswick, Journals of the House of the Assembly, 1892: Annual Report on Schools for 1891.


New Brunswick Museum scrapbooks, "Catherine Travis." Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Microfilm F11133.


New Brunswick Museum accessions database.


Saint John Globe, 14 December 1923.


Saint John Times-Globe, February 1948.


The Living Message, December 1925; March 1926; June 1930; October 1931.


  From Her Collection