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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Marjorie MacEwan, R.N. Part II: From Nurse to Veteran to University of Oregon Medical School Staff Member

Thanks to the incredible newspaper digitization projects associated with the Library of Congress Chronicling America program, including Oregon and Washington newspapers, we have a glimpse of Base Hospital 46 nurse and poet Marjorie MacEwan as an advocate for veterans in the aftermath of World War I.

Some base hospital nurses, including Winifred Franklin and Kathryn Leverman and Chief Nurse Grace Phelps joined the all-female Women's Overseas Service League veteran organization. Some focused their work for veterans by joining the American Legion. And some participated in both organizations. Marjorie MacEwan joined the American Legion when she returned to Washington after the war. In August 1919 she was the first woman on Gray's Harbor to be accepted into the American Legion.

"Hoquiam Woman in Legion," Oregonian, August 20, 1919 13.

MacEwan made the front page of the Seattle Star in October 1919 as a delegate to the Washington state American Legion convention.

"Prominent Figures at Convention," Seattle Star, October 9, 1919, 1.
My sincere thanks to the editor of the Seattle Star who decided to interview Marjorie MacEwan for that same day's edition. In the interview we learn more about MacEwan's personality, her postwar goals, and her continuing work in medicine.

"Girl Veteran of World War at Convention," Seattle Star, October 9, 1919, 2.
In the fall of 1919, we learn, MacEwan was working as bacteriologist at Hoquiam General Hospital and the general manager of the Medical Building, likely a suite of medical offices near the hospital. We learn from the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at OHSU that MacEwan had trained as a nurse and also worked as a private secretary -- she was putting the combination to good use in her postwar work. We also learn that she received a standing ovation when she was accepted for membership in the Hoquiam, Washington post.

She sent a note for the reporter with the photograph she had taken for the interview: "In this publicitiy stuff, Mrs. Editor, please bear in mind that I'm just plain every-day Marje, and don't weave fairy tales about me. I'm not 'copy'-I'm me. Lots of other girls figured in the thick of it [the First World War] more strenuously than I. I'm no heroine." She was, she said, boosting the proposal for her hometown of Hoquiam, Washington to hose the next state convention for the legion.

Portland City Directories for 1921 and 1923, and the University of Oregon Catalog 1921-1922 list Marjorie McEwen as secretary to Richard B. Dillehunt. Dillehunt had served as a medical officer with Base Hospital 46 and had become Dean of the University of Oregon School of Medicine in 1920.

University of Oregon Catalog, 1921-1922 (Eugene: University of Oregon, 1922), 215.
Here she is, listed with Lucy Davis, Bertha Hallam, and Valentine Prichard on the U of O Medical School staff roster. MacEwan again combined her office skills with her medical training in this position. Perhaps someone out there knows more about her tenure at the U of O Medical School and these Portland years. Please share what you know with us. I will keep searching, too.

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