Army Nurses in Wartime

Although GPO’s 150th anniversary has been on my mind lately, March is also Women’s History Month. A couple of years ago, Answering the Call: The U.S. Army Nurse Corps, 1917-1919, an excellent photographic history published by the Office of the Surgeon General’s Office of Medical History was one of the American Library Association’s Notable Government Documents. Established in 1901, the Corps had sent nurses to Vera Cruz, Mexico during General Pershing’s Punitive Expedition, but World War I saw Corps nurses mobilized on a much larger scale.

 At first, Army nurses served in six British general hospital units while American troops were trained and mobilized for service in France. As American troops arrived, some nurses assigned to special teams wound up in the front lines, dealing with shock, surgical, gas, and orthopedic cases. Answering the Call is profusely illustrated by Signal Corps photographs of the grim reality of modern warfare, including truckloads of wounded soldiers and grim-faced stretcher bearers carrying casualties to the closest dressing stations. Nurses also served in field hospitals and mobile units that ferried the injured back from the front lines. Owing to accidents and the great influenza epidemic of 1918, some Army nurses  died while serving their country, as depicted in moving photos of military funerals and grave sites.

It wasn’t all, grim, though. Answering the Call also shows nurses relaxing as best they could, participating in patriotic plays, and enjoying whatever opportunities for distraction they could find. I’m not a historian of photography, but it does seem that this decade marks a departure from the predominance of unsmiling group photos – smiles make those photographed appear more contemporary and individual, despite the period uniforms and poses.

This book opens a window to an organization and a period seldom mentioned in histories of American involvement in World War I. Both the images and text work to conjure up yet another aspect of women’s history that should be better known. Answering the Call is available here or in a library.

Quite a few Notable Government Documents came our way in 2008. I’ve blogged about a few of them, but looking over the list reminded me that there are some really good ones I haven’t gotten to yet – so stay tuned!

8 Responses to Army Nurses in Wartime

  1. Mr Becker says:

    that’s a very great work by the army nurses


  2. Timothy says:

    Individual institutions also have policy manuals
    that describe the scope of practice for the different types of medical and nursing professionals that
    work there, which may be more restrictive than those of the state.
    There are hundreds of occupation directories that
    are dedicated to nurse jobs. Among the many career options that you will have available to
    you as a BSN are:.


  3. jkar says:

    I’ve seen photographs in WW1 about wounded soldiers in dump trucks and some of them are revived by nurses. It is so inspiring that the person who documented that was able to capture inspite of the situation.


  4. Gary Zaetz says:

    Among the 74000 Americans still missing from World War II are 21 American servicewomen, listed below. It is to America’s shame that the remains of these courageous women and of all the other American MIAs of World War II are still unrecovered after so many years, largely due to the grossly insufficient funds our Government allocates to our military’s remains recovery program. In honor of Women’s History Month (2011), please demand from our Congressional representatives that our Government start adequately funding this program.

    WASP Gertrude V. Tompkins-Silver of Jersey City, New Jersey

    2nd Lt. Eloise M. Richardson of Marseilles, Illinois

    2nd Lt. Thelma M. LaFave of Elmwood, Michigan

    PFC Rose Brohinsky of San Francisco, California

    Sgt. Doris Cooper of Champaign, Illinois

    PFC Flossie D. Flannery of Springport, Indiana

    PFC Frieda C. Friend of New York, New York

    PFC Mary M. Gollinger of Tacoma, Washington

    CPL Velma E. Holden of Asheville, North Carolina

    PFC Odessa Lou Hollingsworth of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    PFC Alice D. King of Oswego, Oregon

    PFC Wilma E. Liles of Dallas, Texas

    PFC Evelyn L. McBride of Inglewood, California

    PFC Alice Pauline McKinney of Big Bay, Michigan

    PFC Rose F. Puchalla of Minneapolis, Minnesota

    PFC Mildred E. Rice of Kansas City, Kansas

    PFC Pearl Roomsburg of Lomita, California

    PFC Helen F. Rozzelle of Washington, D.C.

    PFC Leona M. Seyfert of Chicago, Illinois

    PFC Ruth E. Warlick of Goldthwaite, Texas

    PFC Bonnie L. Williams of Glenda Springs, Kansas


  5. Edgardo Berraz says:

    Mourn for all these wonderful women who left behind maybe the full way of their lives,and in these times wher the feminismus were almost a worst word,run towards the war front and were the best relief by wounded men.


  6. […] here to read the rest:  Army Nurses in Wartime « Government Book Talk Posted in Uncategorized « Number of foreign NHS nurses doubles amid […]


  7. francis says:

    looking for ww 1 us army nurse bridget ann rogan records on ww1


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