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Monday, May 25, 2015

The Women Civilian Employees of Base Hospital 46 Part I: Agatha Holloway and Vida Fatland, Laboratory Assistants, and Gertrude Palmer, Dietician

There were six women who served with Oregon's Base Hospital 46 in France during the First World War who were not nurses. In this post I'll introduce the three who had scientific technical training: Agatha Holloway and Vida Fatland, who served as laboratory assistants and Gertrude Palmer, who was the unit's dietician. They were civilian employees whose work was vital to the unit but who worked under contract rather than with in the military.

Agatha Holloway, Laboratory Assistant, 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 her file in the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University we learn that Agatha Holloway had two years at a hospital training school for nurses in Portland (the records don't specify which one) and four years as a private duty nurse without graduating with her nursing degree. For two years she worked as an office assistant and laboratory assistant with Dr. Lawrence Selling in Portland. Holloway had practical experience but not a nursing degree and was able to use that experience to sign on as a laboratory assistant.

Vida Fatland, whose image was not included in Phelps's file, was a 1915 biology graduate from Reed College in Portland.

Gertrude Palmer, Laboratory Assistant, Grace Phelps Papers, Box 3, Binder 5, Base Hospital 46 Staff Files, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University. Courtesy Historical Collections &Archives, OHSU.
Gertrude Palmer was the unit's dietician. She was a 1917 graduate of the Santa Barbara State Normal College (a two-year teacher preparation program) in home economics and worked as a home economics teacher and as a dietitian at the San Francisco Children's Hospital before sailing with Base Hospital Unit 46.





Monday, May 18, 2015

Nurse Marian Brehaut at Base Hospital 46: "We May Get Home for Christmas Dinner Yet"

With the approach of the November 11, 1918 Armistice and the passing of the worst of the influenza epidemic, staff at Base Hospital 46 continued their work but hoped for a return home by the winter holidays. The Oregon Journal published excerpts from Unit 46 nurse Marian Brehaut's letter home, apparently written just before the Armistice. Her letter reflects both the continuing work with wounded men and the hope of returning home. She gives details of what it was like to be on night duty in the face of air raids.

"Portland Nurse Writes of Duties in Camp Hospital," Oregon Journal, November 25, 1918, 3.

Marian Brehaut, who trained at Winnepeg General Hospital Training School for Nurses, wrote to her sister, Mrs. David Pattullo in Portland:

"Our hospital is full. As soon as the wounded men are able to be moved we ship them south and get new patients, some of whom are fresh from the battlefield, that is they have only been at the field dressing station before they come to us. Frequently we have them for only a day or two, when they are evacuated to make room for newly wounded men. A convoy came in tonight bringing men with the worst wounds we have yet had. It seems so barbarous to have these fine chaps all cut to pieces.

"The news looks extremely good and, if it is true, we may get home for Christmas dinner yet. The medical corps, as you know, is the last to leave the field.

"I am on night duty for the next two weeks. Night work is as hard as day duty in camp hospitals. We have been furnished stoves so we can keep warm. After the lights go out we can use coal oil lamps or lanterns except when there is an air raid, when, of course, we must extinguish all the lights. You can imagine what it means to take care of 50 patients in the dark. On rainy nights we are never troubled with air raids. The Germans prefer the bright moonlight nights.

"One of the boys of our unit, Dr. Coffey's son, has gone home on account of poor health. You will probably see him. You can ask him any questions you want to know about our work over here.

"We have had a lot of Oregon boys lately. Their division was pretty well shot to pieces, we hear, but you of course will have the word sooner than this.

"It rains about five days a week--very much like Oregon fall only colder.

"The best things the Red Cross gave us were our sleeping bags, which are wooly and warm. We night nurses sleep out in a tent. It is quiet out there and we all enjoy it."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bringing Home Bodies After World War I: The Case of Norene Royer

There was one death among the women of Base Hospital 46 in France during World War I. I've been posting information about the death of nurse Norene Royer and suggesting that the information about her death can tell us a great deal about the experience women and World War I.

The staff of Base Hospital 46 in Bazoiilles-sur-Meuse France held a funeral for and buried Royer's body on September 18, 1918. But like many family members of those who died in World War I, her family wanted to have her body returned and repatriated to the United States.

Lisa Budreau, author of Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919-1933 (New York University Press, 2011) notes that the return of the American war dead was "disorganized" and "unplanned for." Problems of transportation, labor, and mismanagement were the rule. Budreau notes that by "the close of 1921, the gruesome burial work was nearly complete after the American military had shipped close to 46,000 dead to the United States."

The army shipped Royer's body home in June, 1921, first to Portland and then to her home in Spokane. 
"Nurse's Body Due Today," Oregonian, June 2, 1921, 7.
The Oregonian noted that Stella Brown would represent Base Hospital 46 at this reburial.

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


Frances Estella Brown, R.N. was from Fossil, Oregon and trained at the Good Samaritan Hospital Training School for nurses. That the represented Base Hospital 46 at Royer's reburial in Spokane suggests suggesting a strong and continuing group identity for many of the women of the unit after the war.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Deaths in the Army Nurse Corps During World War I

I've been posting material about Norene Royer, a member of the Army Nurse Corps and staff of Oregon's Base Hospital 46 in Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France. Royer was the only female staff member who died during the conflict. How did this compare with the Army Nurse Corps in general?

In November 1918 there were 21, 480 nurses in the Army Nurse Corps, with over 10,000 serving with the American Expeditionary Force in France. (Julia Stimson, "The Army Nurse Corps," Part Two of Volume 13 The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1927), 290.) Stimson's records showed 134 deaths in the nurse corps in the United states, primarily from influenza. One hundred two women serving with the American Expeditionary Force died in service from 1917 to 1919. Norene Royer was among those who died due to the influenza epidemic (Stimson, 350).

"Gold Star Women 161," Oregonian, November 12, 1922, Sec. 1, 1.
The women's veteran organization the Women's Overseas Service League had a record of six women in the Northwest who died serving outside the U.S. in the World War. They listed Norene Royer at the address of her sister in Winchester, Idaho. And they also named Ima L. Ledford of Hillsboro. Ledford served with the Army Nurse Corps at Base Hospital 116, also at Bazoilles-sur-Meuse. She died on October 7, 1918. [Lavinia Dock, et al., History of American Red Cross Nursing (New York: MacMillan, 1922), 1482.]


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Norene Royer's Personal Effects in September 1918: "1 Cap, boudoir . . .1 Belt, money . . . 4 Stockings, pairs, 1 Diary"

In addition to the official papers Norene Royer left behind at her death, materials in the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University tell us just what Royer had with her when she died. This provides another window onto life for the women of Base Hospital 46 in France in World War I.

"Norene Royer," Box 1, Folder 8, Grace Phelps Papers, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University. Courtesy Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.
In the certified copy listing Royer's effects Chief Nurse Grace Phelps gave to Quartermaster Malcolm Black, we find some of the specific items that made up her life and work. Some of the items seem very familiar to travelers today -- a money belt, pajamas, a traveling case for toiletries. Other clothes and effects, like the boudoir cap, seem very far away from us.

1 Cap, Boudoir
Crocheted Boudoir Cap, Royal Society Crochet Lessons (New York: H.E. Verran, 1917), 2.


1 Mirror
1 Stamping Set [presumably for letter writing]
1 Scissors, pair
3 Collars
1 Box Writing Paper
2 Flash lights
Niagara Flashlight, 1918, Flashlight Museum
2 Hangers
2 Combinations, wool
1 Belt, money
1 Skirt, blue
5 Teddies
1 Shoes, pair
2 Skirts, white
4 Corsets
1 Basket (2 books enclosed)
4 Towels
1 Apron, large
4 Stockings, pairs
2 hypo sets
1 Toilet traveling case
This traveling case on the left was for the "soldier or traveler" but may have resembled Norene Royer's toilet traveling case. Oregonian, June 19, 1918, Section 5, p. 7.
1 Diary
1 Box letters
1 Manicure set
1 Bag, laundry
5 pajamas, pairs
2 Towels, hand
2 Waists, silk, blue
2 Kimonos
1 Uniform, White
World War I Nurse's Uniform, National Archives.
1 Skirt, satin
9 Brassieres
3 cloths, wash
5 vests

Thinking about this list of Norene Royer's effects underscores the challenges nurses had with laundry and makes me hope that someone still has the diary that was, presumably, sent to her mother.  I would love to know the titles of the two books in the basket and have the chance to read the letters in her box.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Identity Papers and Paperwork for Norene Royer at her Death

The last post noted that Base Hospital 46 Chief Nurse Grace Phelps sought guidance about how to deal with the possessions of nurse Norene Royer at her death in September 1918. Materials in the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University help us learn more about that process and also provide information about the effects of one woman in service with the Army Nurse Corps in World War I.

Phelps had to turn over Royer's military and employment papers and what were considered her valuables to Quartermaster Malcolm S. Black of Base Hospital 46. Royer, and presumably all base hospital nurses in France, had three separate papers or cards that they were required to have with them. One was her Appointment Card, the second was her Certificate of Identity, and the third was her Workers' Permit. She also had a purse with her watch and 285 francs inside it. Phelps described the purse as a "pocketbook with [Royer's] name on it." (Memorandum - Special, Base Hospital 46, Office of Chief Nurse, September 20, 1918, Box 1, Folder 7, Grace Phelps Papers, Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University.)

A look at the personnel of the Quartermaster Department at Base Hospital 46 suggests varied duties for the staff in this department that related directly to keeping the unit running.

Wight et al. On Active Service with Base Hospital 46, 39.
 In addition to those who worked at headquarters processing staff paperwork and working with supplies, four men were detailed to deal with patients' clothing, two were plumbers, and eight were carpenters.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Julia Stimson to Grace Phelps: "I Can Imagine Nothing Worse For a Chief Nurse Than the Death of One of Her Staff"

Materials relating to the September 1918 death of Base Hospital 46 nurse Norene Royer in the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University reveal a great deal about Rogers and expand our understanding of life for women on staff with the unit.

Chief nurse Grace Phelps received a letter from Julia Stimson, then the chief nurse of the American Red Cross in France, and soon to be the chief nurse of the American Expeditionary Force. The letter reveals some of the concerns chief nurses experienced, and also details about what Phelps should do with Royer's effects. It appears that Stimson wrote the letter in response to one from Phelps informing her of Royer's death. [For more on Stimson, see Jensen, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 136-141]

Julia Stimson, ca. 1919, Library of Congress.
"I am so sorry you have been through such a trying time," Stimson wrote to Phelps on September 30, almost two weeks after Royer's death. "I can imagine nothing worse for a Chief Nurse than the death of one of her staff, for not only is it often a personal loss, but the effect upon the whole group of nurses is so great, that the burden of the Chief Nurse is increased by the necessary efforts she must make to counteract and relieve the depression of the whole group. You have my deepest sympathy." (Julia Stimson to Grace Phelps, September 30, 1918, Box 1, Folder 7, Grace Phelps Papers, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University).

Stimson and Phelps took their leadership positions seriously and felt responsible for the nurses under their direction. Their writings and papers also suggest that both felt that nursing was on the world stage as a result of the war and wanted to make a strong showing for women's professionalism in wartime medicine.

Phelps had apparently written Stimson to ask what she should do with the equipment the Red Cross/Army Nurse Corps had issued to Royer. "Use Miss Roger's [sic] equipment as you think best. The only times when we want Red Cross equipment returned to us are on those occasions when its return is necessary in order to prevent the unworthy or unauthorized use of it." Stimson's comments suggest the pride with which she viewed the uniform and equipment of wartime nursing and also the logistical challenges of returning things from the war zone.