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Vail family. Papers of the Vail-Motter family, 1867-1969: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: 1589
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Vail family
Title: Papers of the Vail-Motter family, 1867-1969
Date(s): 1867-1969
Quantity: 3 linear feet (3 cartons)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, biographical data and photographs of the Vail and Motter families of Kansas.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 1589
This collection was given to the Schlesinger Library in March and April 1969 by Thomas Hubbard Vail Motter and Margaret Motter Miller, children of Ellen Sitgreaves Vail Motter.

Processing Information:

By: Jane S. Knowles, Adelaide Kennedy
Date: January 1982

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Vail-Motter family as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Vail-Motter family Papers, 1867-1969; item description, dates. 1589, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Thomas Hubbard Vail, 1812-1889, was the first Episcopal bishop of Kansas, and the first bishop to be consecrated west of the Mississippi River. In 1865 Thomas Hubbard Vail founded the Episcopal Seminary, the first institution for higher education of women west of the Mississippi, in Topeka, Kansas. Later renamed the College of the Sisters of Bethany, the school was absorbed into Washburn College in the 1930s. Thomas Hubbard Vail was one of seven bishops who in 1866 protested against the southern bishops' secession during the Civil War. Thomas Hubbard Vail was married twice: to Mrs. Frances Sophia Vose, and in 1867 to Ellen Ledlie (Bowman) with whom he founded Christ's Hospital in Topeka.
Ellen Ledlie (Bowman) Vail, 1828-1894, was the daughter of Samuel Bowman, assistant bishop of Pennsylvania, and of Susan (Sitgreaves); she was graduated from St. Mary's Hall, Burlington, New Jersey, in 1844. Ellen (Bowman) Vail served as Matron of the College of the Sisters of Bethany. The Vails had two children, Samuel Bowman Vail, 1868-1878, and Ellen Sitgreaves (Vail) Motter, 1870-1952. Ellen (Bowman) Vail became blind in 1879 at the age of fifty-one.
Ellen Sitgreaves (Vail) Motter, the daughter of Thomas Hubbard Vail and Ellen (Bowman) Vail, was graduated as valedictorian from Bethany College in 1890. She did graduate work at Radcliffe, 1894-1895, studied music at the Boston Conservatory, and traveled abroad before her marriage in 1897. She and her husband, Murrary Galt Motter, 1867-1926, physician and Chief Librarian of the United States Public Health Service, had three children: Thomas Hubbard Vail Motter, 1901-1970, James Taylor Motter, 1904-1948, and Margaret (Motter) Miller, 1898-1979. Ellen Sitgreaves (Vail) Motter was active in church and civic work, a founder of the National Library for the Blind (now part of the Library of Congress), and a member of the Board of Lady Managers of the Washington Ear, Eye, and Throat Hospital. A volume of her collected poems, From My Heart was published in 1949.


The collection is arranged in two series:


This collection consists of family correspondence, biographical data and photographs of two generations of the Vail-Motter family: Bishop Vail and his wife and family, 1866-1892, and Ellen Sitgreaves (Vail) Motter, 1873-1952. Correspondence of Ellen Sitgreaves (Vail) Motter's children concerning the collection is also included and there are diaries, poems, and other writings of Ellen Sitgreaves (Vail) Motter, and correspondence and clippings about them.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Church work
Family records
Kansas--Social life and customs
Manuscripts (for publication)
Parent and child
Spouses of clergy
Women--Education (Higher)
College of the Sisters of Bethany (Topeka, Kan.)
Episcopal Female Seminary (Topeka, Kan.)
Motter, Ellen Sitgreaves Vail, 1870-1952
Motter family
Motter, T. H. Vail
Tharp, Louise Hall, 1898-1992
Vail, Ellen Ledlie Bowman, 1828-1894
Vail, Samuel Bowman, 1868-1878
Vail, Thomas Hubbard, 1812-1889
Washburn University
Whitehill, Walter Muir, 1905-1978