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Vivia B. Appleton papers

Identifier: A1979:045

The Vivia B. Appleton Papers have been organized into five series: 1) CV; Correspondence, 1920-1937; and Anthropometry Data, China and Hawaii; 2) Class Lecture Notes; 3) Manuscripts and Publications; 4) Artifact; and 5) Photographs. The collection has been kept in its original order, therefore the series and subseries are derived from the box and folder labels the materials were found in when they were donated to the University of Hawaiʻi Archives at Hamilton Library.

The contents of this collection generally document Dr. Appleton’s research, work and publications on health of mothers and children in China and Hawai‘i. The materials span from 1917 through 1976, with the bulk from between 1917 and 1931. These include documents created while she was the Director of the Division of Infancy and Maternity of the Territory of Hawai‘i’s Board of Health (1925 – 1927) and documents related to a course she taught at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) in the Spring of 1930 on Child Health and Care, and Hygiene in the Home Economics Department. The collection includes correspondence exchanged during her term as Director of the Division of Infancy and Maternity, and regarding her position as lecturer at UHM, her course and lecture notes from John Hopkins University, Dr. Appleton's Territory of Hawai'i Medical License, anthropometric data and health statistics from China and Hawai'i, Appleton's manuscripts, published book and articles, reports for the Territory of Hawai‘i’s Board of Health, newspaper clippings, B


  • 1917 - 1976
  • 1917 - 1931



Material with personal information may be redacted by the Archives staff. Some fragile items may need to be handled by the staff only. Use of audiovisual material may require the production of listening or viewing copies.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, their descendants, or the repository if copyright has been signed over, as stipulated by United States copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user to determine any copyright restrictions, obtain written permission, and pay any fees necessary for the reproductrion or proposed use of the materials.

Literary Right Notice

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Hawai‘i Library as the owner of the physcial items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must be obtained by the researcher.


3.0 Linear Feet

4 Photographic Prints


Dr. Appleton was a pediatric physician who practiced medicine in both Hawaiʻi and China, and was a member of the UH Faculty for a short period of time. The contents of this collection mainly document Dr. Vivia Appleton’s research, work, and publications on health of mothers and children in China and Hawai‘i. These include documents created while she was the Director of the Division of Infancy and Maternity of the Territory of Hawai‘i’s Board of Health (1925 – 1927) and documents related to a course she taught at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in the Spring of 1930 on Child Health and Care, and Hygiene in the Home Economics Department. The collection, by and large, is comprised of correspondence, notes, and statistical data amassed over the course of the doctor’s tenure.

Biographical Sketch

The second of three daughters of prominent physician, Richard Westcott Appleton, and his second wife, Cora A. Birdsell, Vivia Belle Appleton was born in Tama City, Iowa in 1879. By the time of her birth her father, Richard Appleton, had already left his life as a physician to pursue farming on his large holdings of six hundred and forty acres. After completing her early education in Tama, Dr. Appleton attended Rockford College in Illinois, then transferred to complete her studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Dr. Appleton received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell in 1901, and then studied medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where she received her doctor of medicine degree in 1906.

After completing an internship at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston, she later traveled to Europe to study at hospitals in London, Paris, and Berlin. Dr. Appleton developed a passion for the field of pediatrics and when she returned to the US, she undertook another internship at Babies Hospital in New York. In 1911, she moved to California where she became an assistant, then later instructor, in Pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco and also worked at the University Hospital. In 1918 and a few months before the end of World War I, Dr. Appleton was invited to work with the American Red Cross Bureau of Child Welfare in France on a humanitarian program whose mission it was to work toward offsetting the high infant mortality rate caused by the war.

In 1919, Dr. Appleton began a new assignment in Labrador, Canada, which is located on the northeastern coast. Sent there at the behest of the National Board of the Young Women’s Christian Association, Dr. Appleton was charged with supervising the several hospitals that had been established there by an earlier medical mission. Her first winter in Labrador, however, was quite grueling, and during this particular winter the district suffered an epidemic of beriberi, a vitamin deficiency which affects the nervous system. As a result of this experience, though, Dr. Appleton acquired an interest in the field of deficiency diseases and its effects on growth and development.

Commissioned by the Council of Health Education, in 1921, Dr. Appleton’s next position was a three-year assignment in Shanghai, China. The study of eugenics was popular during this period of time, and Dr. Appleton believed that its principals could be incorporated into treatments that could improve the quality of life and reduce the infant mortality incidences in developing countries like China. As evidenced by her copious notes on patient records in her collection of papers, Dr. Appleton detailed such information as weight and growth patterns for the infants and children in her practice, and deficiencies were treated through diet amendments. During her early stay in China, Dr. Appleton lived with a local family, and after a year had learned to speak Chinese. This allowed Dr. Appleton a degree of freedom to travel throughout the countryside; it is said that in the company of two female friends and a Chinese guide, Dr. Appleton had traveled on horseback as far as Mongolia.

In 1924, Dr. Appleton made a short visit to her mother who lived in Hawaiʻi, then a territory of the US, and here she lectured on her experiences in China. She formally moved to Hawaiʻi a year later and assumed the directorship of the newly created Division of Infancy and Maternity for the Territorial Board of Health. Dr. Appleton helped to establish sixty-six clinics throughout the islands that focused on pediatrics, which contributed to dramatically decreasing the number of infant and maternal mortality incidences; Hawaiʻi also became her home.

In 1929, Dr. Appleton received her master degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health; she also received the Medallion Award from the University in recognition of her contributions and service in 1956. She was active in several organizations, such as:

⦁ Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association – Hawaiʻi Chapter
⦁ American Medical Association
⦁ Iowa Medical Society
⦁ American Association of University Women
⦁ Women’s Association of Hawaiʻi

Dr. Appleton also taught courses on child care, health, and hygiene at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. In honor of her father, Dr. Appleton established the Richard Westcott Appleton Scholarship at the Johns Hopkins University which provides an annual award to help fund the education of a promising student in the field of medicine. On October 23, 1978, and at the age of 99, Dr. Vivia Belle Appleton died at her home in Honolulu.

Vivia B. Appleton Papers
Haupu Cortez and Karen Kadohiro and Julia Jennings
Jan 2015
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Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Libraries Repository