Dr. Catherine Travis
"Your heart would be wrung with
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.
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
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
really don't know… I want to go back to Europe."
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
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,
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
from 1839, and a bible from 1817. Catherine died in 1948 having
outlived her immediate family.
Review, May 1892.
May 1918; March 1920;
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
14 December 1923.
The Living Message,
December 1925; March 1926; June
1930; October 1931.
From Her Collection