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Monday, July 27, 2015

Life After Base Hospital 46 Service in the First World War: Stasia Walsh Part II

As we saw in the last post, Base Hospital 46 nurse Stasia Walsh returned to Umatilla, Oregon after her wartime service and became involved in Red Cross community work, teaching classes in public health and home hygiene and helping victims of influenza.

She also identified herself as a veteran, a complicated thing for a woman following World War I.

The Pendleton East Oregonian featured a brief account titled "T[w]o Veterans Meet" in October 1919 that presented Walsh as a veteran of the war.

"T[w]o Veterans Meet," Pendleton East Oregonian, October 25, 1919, 1.
In the account, Walsh met Meyer Newman "on the Pendleton streets" and they greeted one another with their nicknames from Base Hospital 46, she was "Pat" and he "Horse." Otis Wight's On Active Service with Base Hospital 46 lists Newman, from Corvallis, as a private serving as a guard in the Detachment Office and also the coach of the unit's football team. The newspaper account suggests that they were comrades in a powerful time "when the two served in the Base Hospital 46 days in the days when the fighting was hottest during the world war." They had also found a way to return to life in the States, he as high school athletic director at The Dalles and she in public health nursing in Umatilla County.

"[I]s Member of Legion," Pendleton East Oregonian, January 12, 1920, 6.
In January 1920 the East Oregonian noted that Walsh had decided to join the veteran group the American Legion as the only woman member of the Pendleton post. We don't have a record of her thoughts on this, but she did choose to join the primarily male American Legion during her time in Umatilla county. When women who served overseas in the First World War created a parallel organization, the Women's Overseas Service League, Walsh joined the Oregon branch by 1925 (see the WOSL's magazine Carry Onvol. 4, no. 1 (February 1925): 35.

It is interesting to think about the implications of Walsh's decisions to identify as a veteran. Newspapers underscored her postwar professional life as stemming, in part, from her wartime service. Several of the articles I've posted here emphasized that Walsh was, as the article above stated, "the only Umatilla county woman who served in France as an Army nurse." And Walsh had lived through dangerous and difficult and sometimes enjoyable times in France as a member of Base Hospital 46, with male and female comrades. After the war women who had these experiences worked to be accepted as veterans, just as they had worked to be accepted in the male military.

Walsh had a new adventure on the horizon, as we'll see in the next post.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Life After Base Hospital 46 Service in the First World War: Stasia Walsh Part I

Following the story of Base Hospital 46 Nurse Stasia Walsh, R.N. after her First World War service reveals many compelling things about nursing, war service, and postwar medical humanitarian work. Over the next several posts I'll explore these issues and others such as citizenship, naturalization, and wartime and postwar service and how the Pendleton, Oregon newspaper the East Oregonian chronicled this "hometown" woman's service.

Stasia Walsh, Grace Phelps Papers, Box 3, Binder 5, Base Hospital 46 Staff Files, Historical Collections & Archives,
Oregon Health & Science University.  Courtesy Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.

From the records in the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, we learn that Walsh was born in Ireland in 1888 and trained at the Mercy Hospital Training School for Nurses in Marshalltown, Iowa, graduating in 1910. She came to Pendleton, Oregon before the war and worked in private duty nursing. Walsh served with Base Hospital 46 and then remained with some of the staff, including Chief Nurse Grace Phelps, to continue work at Base Hospital 81 in the spring of 1919.

"Miss Stasia Walsh Arrives Home Today," Pendleton East Oregonian, July 1, 1919, 1.

The editors of the Pendleton East Oregonian reported her return on the front page of the July 1, 1919 edition, noting with evident pride that she was the only Pendleton woman to serve overseas with a hospital unit. Friends and colleagues from St. Anthony's Hospital greeted her. The paper noted that she had visited Italy and her home country Ireland before her return.

Most members of the Army Nurse Corps in the First World War were first Red Cross nurses who then entered the Army as reserve nurses through the Red Cross. Walsh maintained her connection with the Red Cross upon her return to Eastern Oregon. That September, the Red Cross appointed her as a lecturer to cover Umatilla County "on home hygiene and the care of the sick."
"Miss Stasia Walsh is Appointed by R.C.," Pendleton East Oregonian, September 27, 1919, 1.
As the field of social work expanded, nurses were in high demand for work on the public health home front.

"Several Classes May be Conducted Here in Home Hygiene Course," Pendleton East Oregonian, October 4, 1919, Sec. 2:7
The East Oregonian described the lessons that Walsh taught to young women (high school students) and older women for home hygiene. The Red Cross built lesson content on the idea that scientific medical training would empower women to handle health care in their homes and communities, part of a public health revolution. But the lessons also reinforced the idea that women would primarily be operating as unpaid workers in the home. Interestingly, the lessons for the 1919-1920 year would be free. Students needed to invest one dollar for a textbook.

"Red Cross Workers Visit Ill in City and Help Nearby Towns," Pendleton East Oregonian, January 29, 1920, 1.
As a nurse working at Base Hospital 46 in France, Stasia Walsh did not contract influenza during the pandemic in the fall of 1918; she certainly dealt with patients and colleagues who had the disease. There were subsequent waves of influenza after the war, and Walsh and her Red Cross colleagues volunteered to assist Oregonians in Umatilla County who were suffering from influenza in January 1920. The Pendleton East Oregonian reported that Walsh went to the city of Hermiston, "where she will have charge of the Red Cross Relief Work in checking the epidemic." It's interesting to note that the Red Cross provided food trays to families affected by the epidemic, some hundred strong.

More on Stasia Walsh in the next post.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life After Base Hospital 46 Service in the First World War: Helen Krebs Boykin

Helen Krebs, R.N. expanded her First World War Base Hospital 46 service to postwar medical humanitarian nursing with the Red Cross in Eastern Europe. Her service demonstrates that rather than an "end" to the war, continuing conflicts and the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and orphans meant instead a "long war" of the twentieth century and beyond.

Helen Krebs, Grace Phelps Papers, Box 3, Binder 5, Base Hospital 46 Staff Files, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University.  Courtesy Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.

Krebs was born in 1983 in Woods, Oregon in Tillamook County and trained at the Multnomah County Hospital Training School for nurses in Portland. She was one of the seven nurses of Base Hospital 46 "borrowed" for service before the unit could be completed and ready to sail. The army assigned Krebs to service in the Presidio in San Francisco. She returned home with most of the rest of the Hospital 46 staff in the spring of 1919.

Newspaper coverage gives us some additional information about the rest of her story.

"Red Cross Nurse is Soon to Join Russian Unit," Oregonian, February 22, 1920, Sec. 1, p. 11.
 The Oregonian reported in February 1920 that the Red Cross had assigned Krebs to join a unit for service in Russia, which was in the midst of revolution and civil war. We also learn that Krebs worked with her brother-in-law, Dr. Dorwin L. Palmer [OHSU records confirm Dorwin, not Darwin), who had charge of X-ray or Roentgenology work for the unit.

Otis Wight et. al. on Active Service with Base Hospital 46 (1920): 20.
Palmer was a 1915 graduate of the University of Oregon Medical Department and conducted graduate study in Roentgenology at Cornell.

"War Blights Children," Oregonian, October 21, 1920, 9.

Krebs returned from her service in October 1920, and reported on her work in Bialystok, Poland in an orphanage with 700 children. The city had been invaded by the Germans, was part of the independent Polish state, and invaded by the Soviet Union during the Polish-Soviet War in 1919-1920 after which the city returned to Polish hands. Krebs saw firsthand the problems for refugees and children, and she joined other Oregonians like Esther Lovejoy and Marian Cruikshank who were engaged in medical humanitarian work with the American Women's Hospitals in this period.

On August 6, 1922, the Oregonian reported that Krebs had married Herbert C. Boykin, an orchardist from Husum, Washington. Dr. Dorwin Palmer and his wife, Helen's sister, served a bridal dinner with friends at Portland's University Club. ("Society News," Oregonian, August 6, 1922, Section 3, p. 4).

Monday, July 6, 2015

Overseas Nurses Guests of Honor

Oregon Base Hospital 46 nurses were frustrated with their lack of rank in the U.S. military and their return from France in the spring of 1919 provided the context for them to raise concerns about the second-class status of women nurses in the military. But they also returned to a profession strengthened by women's wartime service and the growth of social work and public health.

These currents came together when the Oregon Graduate Nurses Association hosted a dinner on June 18, 1919 at Portland's Central Library to honor the women nurses who had served overseas during the conflict, including Base Hospital 46 staff members. According to the Oregonian, each was asked to "give a short account of her experiences."

"Overseas Nurses Dined," Oregonian, June 20, 1919, 13.
Speakers emphasized the connections among nursing and social services and social work. Emma Grittinger, the former head of Portland's Visiting Nurse Association, spoke in her new job as director of the Bureau of Public Health Nursing for the Northwestern Division of the Red Cross.

I've noted in some of our previous posts that some Base Hospital 46 women explored careers after the war that encompassed social service work; in the next few posts we'll trace a few more of the women in their postwar careers.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Without the Dignity of Rank and the Respect Which It Insures, They Have Both Individually and Collectively Been . . . Misprized and Professionally Thwarted"

As we've seen in the last several posts, Oregon Base Hospital 46 Nurses joined nurses across the nation in protesting their second class status in the U.S. military. They had no official rank in an institution that was based on rank. From 1918 - 1920 nurses and their allies, including supporters of woman suffrage, worked to achieve rank for nurses. By 1919 most supported a middle ground proposal of "relative rank" that would give nurses a sort of official status but without the same pay and benefits as male officers (See my Mobilizing Minerva, pp. 123-141 for a discussion of this process). Congress passed the Jones-Raker Bill with "relative rank" for nurses as part of an army reorganization plan, and President Warren Harding signed it into law on June 4, 1920.

Many Oregon nurses supported action on rank for military nurses. The Oregon State Graduate Nurses Association, established in 1904 as an advocacy organization for nurses in the state, had Oregon Senator George Chamberlain, a member of the U.S. Senate's committee on Military Affairs, present a statement of support for rank from the association to the senate in 1919.

"Rank for Nurses Likely," Oregonian, May 23, 1919, 28.
Mary C. Campbell, R.N. of Milwaukie, Oregon, was secretary of the Oregon State Graduate Nurses' Association and presented the statement to Chamberlain, which read:

"Without the dignity of rank and its evidence of authority to give orders, the nurses have been forced throughout their service to see the efficiency of their professional labors impaired.
"Without the dignity of rank and the respect which it insures, they have both individually and collectively been personally discommoded, embarrassed, ignored and misprized and professionally thwarted.
"Hence, it is indeed to be hoped that the new congress will give this matter its specific attention and by the conferring of rank on nurses eliminate the causes of these unfortunate consequences."

The nurses chose strong language to emphasize the weight of the offenses and emphasized their claims to dignity and respect. We don't often use the term "misprized" today, but it means to hold in contempt, to despise. I have argued in Mobilizing Minerva that nurses worked for rank, in part, to address gender based hostility and discrimination in the wartime workplace. This statement by the Oregon State Graduate Nurses' Associaion certainly supports this idea. And we also know that rank, even full rank that came during World War II, did not resolve the problems of the military workplace. But it was an important part of women's claims to economic citizenship and access to military professionalism and service.

The graduate nurse association also threw a party for returning Base Hospital 46 nurses as we'll see in the next post.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Base Hospital 46 Women Come Home: "Nurses To File Protests"

As we've seen in the last two posts, Eleanor Donaldson, Acting Chief Nurse of Oregon's Base Hospital 46 in the spring of 1919, outlined nurses' poor treatment and second-class status in the military in "Our Trip Home." Newspaper coverage suggests that many of the Base Hospital 46 nurses agreed with her.

"Nurses Come Unheralded," Oregonian, April 28, 1919, 7.
In "Nurses Come Unheralded," the Oregonian reported their "unannounced and unexpected" arrival on the evening of April 27, 1919. "No reception committee greeted the nurses when they arrived. Miss Emily Loveridge, superintendent of the Good Samaritan hospital, was at the station to offer temporary homes to any of the girls who had no friends here." Evidently Loveridge had some advance notice of their arrival. And it appears that most had made arrangements to meet with friends and family.

"Nurses to File Protests," Oregonian, May 3, 1919, 4.
Five days later the Oregonian reported evidence of the discrimination the nurses experienced that echoed Eleanor Donaldson's "Our Trip Home" in specific detail, with anger and frustration apparent in the recounting. "They were treated like cattle on the transport which carried them across the Atlantic, being left to take the crumbs which fell from the officers' tables, according to some of their stories. Another complaint is that when they landed at New York they were left to make their own way up town, carrying their own luggage and equipment while officers on the boat were transferred to their hotels in taxis and limosines."

This report indicates that some other Base 46 nurses shared Donaldson's outrage and were determined to act. "A document of protest signed by many of the nurses is expected to reach the proper authorities in due course of time." But first, the women needed to leave the army to avoid negative consequences for the protest. As the Oregonian noted, "the sensation . . . will have to await the day when the nurses have shed their uniforms and are safely separated from the military establishment by official parchments acknowledging their faithful services and their honorable discharges." Like other nurses' stories of protest I covered in Mobilizing Minerva, they waited until the military could not retaliate against them as individuals.

At present I don't have a record of any "document of protest". But many nurses and their allies worked for rank for military nurses as a way to resolve what Eleanor Donaldson noted as a key lesson she learned: "a nurse has no standing in the army."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Eleanor Donaldson and "Our Trip Home" Part II: "And This is How B.H. 46 Came Home"

The last post focused on Base Hospital 46 Acting Chief Nurse Eleanor Donaldson's critique of U.S. Army policy and practice toward members of the Army Nurse Corps on their journey back home to the States from France. Here is the rest of her description and challenge to the discrimination she felt in the last section of "Our Trip Home".

Eleanor Donaldson, "Our Trip Home," Box 9, Base Hospitals, World War I, Historical Records of the Army Nurses Corps Historical Data File, 1898-1947, Entry 10, Record Group 112, Records of the Office of Surgeon General [Army], National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
On the ship in stormy seas, officers were first at each meal, "except breakfast, when disliking to get up early they changed with the nurses." Initially there was no curfew; Donaldson likely believed that a curfew would curb rowdiness and celebrations. When chief nurses complained "an 11 o'clock curfew order was indeed posted but not enforced." Some units, like Base Hospital 46 "were placed on their honor and were faithful." The Army prohibited social relationships between nurses and enlisted men, something many nursing leaders applauded as they felt nurses should be officers (see Jensen, Mobilizing Minerva). It's not clear here in her text whether Donaldson implied that the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) had loosened this rule or kept it for the return trip.

Donaldson also complained that she and her staff had tried to comply with Army Nurse Corps orders to "pack our few un-military belongings." But they were "in the minority. Gay sweaters, jeweled hands and civilian one-piece dresses were the rule even with some of the chief nurses. The nurses in charge resigned themselves to the inevitable and asked only that we wear strict uniform when leaving the boat." Donaldson evidently felt that preserving military dress and decorum would be the best way for nurses to return home safely and responsibly, and was angry that this didn't happen.

There was, in Donaldson's mind, a final indignity and double standard for male officers and nurses. "We were nine days crossing; on the morning of the tenth day we disembarked. Ambulances were in readiness for their officers and their hand bags. After waiting an hour we were asked to walk to the Polyclinic. It was not a long walk and we wouldn't have cared, only we did a little. And this is how B.H. 46 came home."

How did other Base Hospital 46 nurses react? More in the next post.