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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting Base Hospital 46 Ready for Service -- Funding and Martha Randall

More on the women personnel of Base Hospital 46 in World War I -- Martha Randall, R.N.

In the summer and fall of 1917 personnel of Base Hospital 46 from the University of Oregon Medical School were faced with a fund-raising challenge. The national Red Cross required each base hospital to raise enough funds to equip the unit, initially estimated at $42,000 (about $1 million in today's dollars adjusted for inflation). This at a time when the nation was also asking residents to buy liberty bonds, contribute to the Red Cross and other organizations, and when prices were rising.

"Hospital Unit Seeks Fund," Oregonian, October 12, 1917, 7.
Base Hospital officials did something that may sound familiar to some of us -- they asked each person who had volunteered for service with the unit to raise money -- $5 per person, almost $100 in today's dollars.

"Woman's Clubs -- First Meeting of the Fortnightly Club," Oregonian, September 30, 1918, Section 3, 12.
At least one of the women of Base Hospital 46 used her networks to publicize the work of the base hospital, and almost certainly to help raise these funds. Within the week Martha Randall went to the Fortnightly Club (a women's service organization) to speak and likely to ask for support.

Martha Randall, Grace Phelps Papers, Binder 5 Box 3 Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU. 
Used with permission by Historical Collections & Archives, OHSU.
Martha Randall, R.N. was in the midst of a career in social medicine. She was an assistant to Lola Baldwin, Portland's first police matron in the Women's Protective Division, served as Eugene's policewoman in 1913, and returned to police work in Portland in 1916. After the war she took over as head of the Portland Woman's Protective Bureau when Lola Baldwin retired (first as interim, then as head).

"New Head Appointed for Women's Protective Division," Oregonian, April 30, 1918, Section 1, 16.
So, did Base Hospital unit volunteers get their crowdfunding to work??

"Hospital Gets Funds," Oregonian, October 12, 1917, 7.
In addition to whatever individual funds staff members like Randall were able to raise, the state Red Cross put in $20,000 and asked local chapters to match those dollars. The fraternal organization the Elks pledged from $30,000 to $60,000. Base Hospital 46 had the money. And it's why some sources refer to Base Hospital 46 as the Elks and Red Cross Base Hospital from Oregon.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Finding the Oregon Women of Base Hospital 46 in France during World War I

The centennial commemoration of the beginning of World War I in 1914 began world-wide this past summer and as we prepare for the centennial of the US preparation in the conflict (April 1917 to November 1918) we have many available resources. A most interesting group of Oregon women are the nurses and civilian personnel who served with Base Hospital 46 in Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France.

The most detailed source we've had for Base Hosptial 46 has been Otis Buckminster Wight, Donald Macomber, and Arthur S. Rosenfeld, eds., On Active Service with Base Hospital 46 U.S.A. March 20, 1918 to May 25, 1919 (Portland, Oregon: Arcady Press, 1920) available in digital format from the Library of Congress. This compilation details the personnel and history of various portions of the unit, with some important information about the experiences of nurses and civilian women.

But now we can investigate much more about the women on staff, thanks to materials from the wonderful Historical Collections & Archives at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland  the Grace Phelps Papers (Accession 2010-005); the Eleanor Donaldson Collection (Accession 2008-020), including personnel information and some correspondence. And materials from Record Group 112, Army Nurse Corps Historical Data File 1898-1947 at the U.S. National Archives contain narratives written by several women from Base Hospital 46 that did not make it into Otis Wight's On Active Service. We can now hear more of their voices and analyze their specific experiences in much more detail. I'll share some of this information with you in upcoming posts.
Some additional materials from HC&A at OHSU include the Base Hospital 46 Collection (Accession 2004-026 John Guy Strohm Scrapbook: Base Hospital 46); and the Otis B. Wight – Base Hospital 46 – Glass Plate Negative Collection (Accession 2006-012). Many thanks to Archivists Maija Anderson, Max Johnson and Archivist Emerita Karen Peterson for their support with my research in these collections. OHSU has a wonderful online exhibit about Grace Phelps, R.N., the chief nurse for Base Hospital 46 through January 1919: "Grace Phelps, R.N.--A Reverie in Sepia." Another published work is Colonel Joseph H. Ford, M.C., Administration, American Expeditionary Force, Vol. 2, The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War (Washington, D.C.L Government Printing Office, 1927) available in digital format from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Let's start with some context. Beginning in 1916, before the United States entered the war, doctors and nurses in the U.S. began to organize base hospital units associated with civilian hospital or schools of medicine to prepare for wartime medical service. Nurses enrolled as reserve nurses with the Red Cross. The idea, according to organizers George Crile, M.D. of Cleveland and William J. Mayo, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, was to capitalize on the working relationships already in place at these institutions, to create a full staff, and to practice and learn together (See Kimberly Jensen, Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008] 125-129.) 

In Oregon, faculty physicians at the University of Oregon Medical Department (now OHSU) in Portland began to organize in May 1917 and mobilized for service in May 1918. Dr. Robert C. Yenney was chief of medical services and Grace Phelps, R.N., Superintendent of Nurses at Multonomah Hospital, was chief nurse. The unit arrived at Bazoilles-sur-Meuse on July 2, 1918 and the unit served until the end of January 1919 (See Wight, On Active Service, Ford, Medical Department, 672-3, and "Reverie in Sepia").

Bazoilles-sur-Meuse is located in Northeastern France, as this Google Map shows:
Base Hospital 46 became part of an extensive, combined hospital center that included six other base hospital units (units 18, 42, 60, 79, 81, 116). For Base 46 alone hospital capacity was 1,000 beds in barracks and 1,000 in tents with some 300 more in tents possible in crisis shifts. The Bazoilles-sur-Meuse complex of hospitals had a crisis capacity over 13,000. Images from The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War give us a sense of the scope and environment the women of Base Hospital 46 experienced.

Outline Map of France Showing Fixed Hospital Center, Medical Department US Army WWI, Vol. 2, facing p 288.  
Two images gives us a sense of the massive complex, with both barracks and tents, of the hospital center of which Base Hospital 46 was a part.
View of Bazoilles Hospital Center, Medical Department US Army WWI, Vol 2, p 238
General Layout Hospital Center Bazoilles, Medical Department US Army WWI, Vol 2, p 261  

Two more images give us a sense of the specific spaces of Base Hospital 46, a "Type A" hospital.
General Layout of Hospital Unit Type A, Medical Department US Army WWI, Vol 2 p 242 

Nurses Quarters Type A Base Hospital, Medical Department US Army WWI, Vol 2 p 246
More on the women of Base Hospital 46 in upcoming postings.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Esther Lovejoy a Candidate for Oregon's Statuary Hall

Esther Pohl Lovejoy is one of the "worthy" historical figures in Oregon history to be considered for a place in the Oregon section of Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

The fourth grade students at The Madeleine School in Portland, directed by their teacher Ms. Slavik, created interviews with the candidates for Oregon's representatives to Statutory Hall. Students took he roles of interviewers and historical subjects for the filmed interviews, posted to a blog.

The student interview with Esther Pohl Lovejoy is well worth the visit:

Congratulations students and Ms. Slavik for your explorations of Oregon history!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Carolyn Shelton's Obituary: Some Thoughts on the Absence of information About Her Role as Oregon's Acting Governor

I've been writing about Carolyn Shelton, Oregon's acting governor for several days in 1909 and private secretary to former Oregon governor and U.S. senator George Chamberlain, whom she married in 1926. Chamberlain died in 1928.

Shelton died eight years later in Salem, Oregon on February 3, 1936. Her (Salem) Oregon Statesman obituary gives some additional details about her later life. But it does not note her historic role as acting governor of the state in 1909.

"Widow of Former State Chief Dies," Oregon Statesman, February 4, 1926, 1, 5.
We learn that Shelton returned to her home in Union, Oregon, apparently in 1933 from Washington, D.C. after George's death in 1928 and that she came to Salem in 1934.

We also learn that she was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The obituary spells her first name "Caralyn" and the image of her headstone on the Arlington National Cemetery website also uses "Caralyn."
George E. Chamberlain and Caralyn Shelton Chamberlain grave marker, Grave #3502, Arlington National Cemetery
The history of women is full of erasures like the silence about Carolyn (Caralyn) Shelton Chamberlain's role as Oregon's acting governor in 1909. It is also significant that the newspaper accounts here in this thread use several variants to spell her first name. Thanks to archivists and those who digitize newspapers we have more on Shelton's life and can restore her to her place in Oregon women's history with some additional detail.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Carolyn Shelton Marries Former Oregon Senator George Chamberlain in 1926

I've been posting information on Carolyn Shelton, Oregon's "acting governor" in 1909 and private secretary to Oregon senator and former governor George Earle Chamberlain.

When private secretary to Governor Chamberlain, Shelton took on the role of hosting many official state events. Sallie Newman Welch Chamberlain, George Chamberlain's wife, preferred to remain in Portland caring for the couple's children.

Shelton went to Washington, D.C. in 1909 after her three-day job as Oregon's acting governor to continue working with Chamberlain. District of Columbia death records on list Sallie Chamberlain's death at age 69 on May 26, 1925. Carolyn Shelton married George Chamberlain over a year later on July 12, 1926.

Press coverage in the Oregonian and Washington Post of the wedding of Shelton to her boss and former U.S. senator from Oregon provides interesting details. But only the Oregonian mentioned her role as Oregon's first female "acting governor."

The Oregonian provided much more coverage of Shelton than of her new husband in a front page story the day after the wedding.
"George Chamberlain Weds Mrs. Shelton," Oregonian, July 13, 1926, 1.

The Oregonian recounted Shelton's career and noted that she had "served as governor a few days" when Chamberlain had left to begin his job representing Oregon in the senate in 1909. The editors noted her accomplishments in Washington, D.C., including "responsible positions with leading senate committees under the direction of the senator." Shelton had "many friends in Portland." Chamberlain's son Charles, a physician in Portland, didn't yet have word of the marriage when reporters contacted him but "was not surprised as the event had been expected."

Coverage of the wedding in the Washington Post gives more detail about the event, but emphasized information about George Chamberlain's career. The Post gave no hint that Shelton had served as acting governor of Oregon.
"Chamberlain, Former Oregon Senator, Weds," Washington Post, July 13, 1926, 5.
We learn that Chamberlain obtained a marriage license "without any one being aware of his identity" and that the couple was married quietly with a honeymoon planned for Virginia Beach.

Some final information about Shelton coming in the next post.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Carolyn Shelton Notes Oregon Women's Political Accomplishments in 1914 and Gives Business Women a Motto: Be Willing to Work

In January 1914, Carolyn Shelton, former "acting governor" of Oregon in 1909 and woman suffrage supporter, granted an interview that was reprinted in the Magazine section of the Oregonian and syndicated elsewhere in the states. Here's a small image of the entire feature and larger sections posted below:

"Woman Who Was 'Acting Governor' of Oregon, Oregonian, January 11, 1914, Sec. 6, p. 2.

As with other reports, the interview contained information about Shelton's accomplishments and skills but also reflected fears about women in positions of political power. The interviewer noted that Shelton gained experience with commercial and then criminal law as George Chamberlain moved from private practice to the post of District Attorney of Multnomah County and served as "acting governor" of Oregon as his private secretary. As she continued in that post in Washington D.C. with Senator Chamberlain, her accomplishments were those of which "any man of middle age might be proud." Yet the interviewer also cautioned that if readers were worried that the former "acting governor" might be a woman who wore "square toed-boots," with "short hair" and "spectacles" they had nothing to fear. They could picture her "seated behind a tea table at a fashionable afternoon function."

Shelton provided a detailed answer to the question of women's political activism in Oregon. She discussed the "feminist movements" in the state "which have taken . . . more than the shape of 'votes for women,'" -- in other words, voting was a foundation for other political action by women.

"I was very glad that the women of Oregon were enfranchised," she noted, "because they worked long, seriously, and conscientiously for it." She noted the long career of suffrage activist Abigail Scott Duniway as an example of the long struggle. Shelton believed that Oregon women would use the vote wisely, in part because they had a strong record of accomplishment even before attaining the vote. She included Oregon's 1903 child labor law, and a maximum hour law for some women workers passed in 1905.

Shelton's suggested motto for women about to enter the business world? "A capacity for, and a willingness for work."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Carolyn Shelton: Oregon's Acting Governor and Woman Suffrage Supporter

Carolyn Shelton, Oregon's Acting Governor in 1909, left the state for Washington, D.C. to continue her employment with George Chamberlain after he became U.S. Senator from Oregon that same year.

This means that Shelton was not living in Oregon during the last two campaigns for woman suffrage in 1910 and 1912. But we do have evidence that she was a suffrage supporter. In May, 1913, the National Magazine, published in Washington D.C., reported that she had participated in a march on the national capitol building to present a petition favoring woman suffrage to the U.S. Congress on April 8, 1913.

"Affairs at Washington," National Magazine 38 (May 1913) 192-93. 

The National Magazine noted her participation, and added "Although the state of Oregon but recently adopted 'votes for women,' yet one of the gentler sex has already acted as its chief executive." We also learn that at the time of Woodrow Wilson's inauguration on March 3, 1913 (when suffragists mounted an extensive parade in the city and hundreds of spectators engaged in violence against them) women visiting her office "addressed her formally as 'Governor,' insisting that as she once held the office she should properly be addressed by that title." Perhaps referring to the 1909 editorial in the Eugene Register reprinted in the Oregonian, the reporter insisted that "no one made the fatal error of referring to her as 'governess.'"

Here's how the New York Times reported the suffrage march in which Shelton participated:

"Impressive March of Suffrage 531," New York Times, April 8, 1913, 7.
Shelton's work away from Oregon did not prevent her from interest in and support for women's activities there after gaining the right to vote. More on this in the next post.