Search This Blog

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Portland Branch of the Women's Overseas Service League Organized 1922, With Eleanor Ewing, R.N. as President

Women who served overseas in the First World War from Portland, including the women of Base Hospital 46, were eligible to join the new Portland Branch of the Women's Overseas Service League, organized on April 17, 1922.

"Women's Activities," Oregonian, April 19, 1922, 12.
The first president of the League was Base Hospital 46 nurse Eleanor Ewing.

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

According to the files in the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University, Ewing was born in 1891 and graduated from Portland's Good Samaritan Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1914. She worked as a radiographer at the Portland X-Ray Laboratory before her Base Hospital 46 service. Ewing married physician and First World War veteran Ralph Sharkey in October 1922 and the couple lived in Portland. She died in Portland after having three children in March, 1929 ("Society," Oregonian, October 8, 1922, Sec. 3:2 and obituary for March 1, 1929 in Grace Phelps files.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Grace Phelps and Women Veterans: Some Men Were Nervous About an All Female Veteran Organization in Portland

Grace Phelps, who had served as chief nurse of Base Hospital 46 in France and then in the same capacity for Base Hospital 81 after the close of the war, was a leader of women veterans in Portland.

Grace Phelps. from "Grace Phelps, R.N.: A Portrait in Sepia," online exhibit from the Historical Collections & Archives, OSHU
As we've seen, some Base Hospital 46 nurses joined the mostly male American Legion veteran organization after their service, Phelps included. But many women who had served overseas during the war began to work for an all-female organization that would represent women veterans. Significantly, many wished to organize a group that would represent not just women who had served with the armed forces abroad, but women who had worked with voluntary organizations like the Red Cross and the Jewish Welfare League.

In 1921, women organized a national Women's Overseas Service League to fulfill this need. Portland women, led by Grace Phelps, took steps to organize a local branch in the spring of 1922.

"The Citizen Veteran," Oregonian, February 12, 1922, Section 2: 22.
In an Oregonian column dedicated to veteran affairs titled "The Citizen Veteran" for February 12, 1922, we learn that Base Hospital 46 nurses met in Portland that month "as the guests of Miss Grace Phelps" and at that meeting they talked about forming a Portland branch of the Women's Overseas Service League (WOSL), which would also include women from voluntary branches.

The column suggests that there were tensions and opposition from some male veterans about the formation of an all female  group. "Most of the women who are back of the organization already are members of the American Legion, so it is not an attempt on their part to form a veteran organization not in harmony with those already in existence." Local American Legion leaders "declared that the clubrooms [of the Legion] should be thrown open to the women for their meetings."

Grace Phelps addressed the opposition head on:  "We are not attempting to break away from the American Legion," she insisted. "With the nurses and other women war workers in an organization of their own we will probably be able to render valuable assistance to the legion."

The column listed those "aiding Miss Phelps in plans for the local organization" as Miss Jane Doyle, Miss Marjorie MacEwan, Miss Ann Steward and Mrs. Merle Campbell. More on these plans in the next posts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

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

Base Hospital 46 Nurse Stasia Walsh, R. N., worked with the Red Cross in Serbia for four years after World War I. Her 1920 passport application provides some interesting clues about her status and service.

Walsh was an Irish national when she immigrated to the United States and studied nursing in Iowa and worked as a private duty nurse in Pendleton, Oregon. She served with Base Hospital 46 as an Irish citizen. And when the Red Cross called her for postwar duty in East Europe in early 1920 she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Stasia Walsh, U.S. Passport Application 1920, p. 1, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925,
The first page of Walsh's 1920 passport application tells us that she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in Pendleton, Oregon on January 10, 1920. Her application was dated February 13, 1920. Nurses who served with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during the war had to either be a citizen or "must before appointment make a declaration to become such, and, if she wishes to continue in the Nurse Corps must at the proper time take our final naturalization papers." (Stimson, Army Nurse Corps, 288). I'm trying to find out what the American Red Cross required for citizenship of its workers in the aftermath of World War I or whether this was Walsh's choice. The timing coincides with her application for and assignment to nursing in Poland and Serbia. Her passport application indicates that Walsh was still in the planning stages for her new employment -- she had not made her travel reservations (or the Red Cross had not yet made them for her). She also evidently hoped to travel back to her home in Ireland and to other European nations in addition to her work in Poland.

Stasia Walsh, U.S. Passport Application 1920, p. 2, U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925,
 The second page of Walsh's passport application suggests that she was in a hurry -- instead of having the passport mailed to her in Pendleton she indicated that she would call for it, perhaps in Portland.

"Miss Stasia Walsh," Carry On, 4, no. 1 (February 1925): 35.
The Women's Overseas Service League bulletin Carry On, announced in February 1925 that Walsh had recently returned from four years of Red Cross service in Serbia. She was going to marry T. G. Dunn in March 1920 and would move with him to St. Anthony, Iowa. Marriage license records indicate that he was a 44 year old farmer. I would love to hear from Iowans or others who know more about her journey after her marriage.

Monday, August 3, 2015

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

Stasia Walsh, R.N. who served on the nursing staff of Oregon's Base Hospital 46 in France during the First World War, returned to Umatilla to work with the Red Cross and identified as a veteran with the American Legion and Women's Overseas Service League. In February 1920 she received an assignment to go to Eastern Europe for service with the Red Cross in the aftermath of war, revolution, and refugee crises.

"Miss Walsh in Serbia," Pendleton East Oregonian, May 1, 1920, 3.
During the war, as we've seen, newspapers reprinted letters home from local women and men in service. And newspaper editors continued the practice as local residents continued overseas service. On May 1, 1920, the Pendleton East Oregonian reprinted a letter from Stasia Walsh that her "Pendleton friends" shared with the paper. Walsh reported that she was in Belgrade "placed in charge of a clinic for Serbian children and examines from 55 yo 80 children each day." The clinic brought a foreign aid worker like Walsh together with a young Serbian woman with little English and a Serbian who spoke only Serbian and a "Bulgarian prisoner of war" to administer the clinic for the children. Belgrade was a "queer mixture of East and West."

"Pendleton Nurse in Poland Finds Much Poverty and Care," Pendleton East Oregonian, December 8, 1920, 1.
The Pendleton paper printed parts of another letter from Walsh, this one to Mrs. M. J Cronin, in December 1920. Walsh wrote that after she left Serbia she went to her native Ireland for two weeks. The country was in the midst of a war for independence with fierce fighting. Without giving specifics she felt that "it is a very sad country now. I hope that things will be brighter for them later on."

Walsh was now in Red Cross service in Poland, again an independent country after World War I but where there was still conflict on its borders. Walsh gave information about where to send mail and information about her travels. And she gave a brief but informative description of her living quarters in the city of Kracow. "There is an immense castle just across the street from us. We are living in an old monastery. It is a find bring building but cold as a barn and no coal to heat it. We have one room with a storve and we sit there and write, and so forth, during the day."

Walsh's letter also reported on local and US women whom she had see and met in her travels to Paris, Belgrade, and Kracow. Several women were from California "and the western states" and "a number of them have been to the Pendleton Round-Up." Pendleton was becoming famous for its early fall Round-Up, ten years old in 1920. It became one common touchstone for Americans abroad who had visited Pendleton's attraction and a point of pride for Pendletonians abroad and at home.

Walsh also told her friend that she had seen Eglantine Moussu "in Paris several times." Moussu was a Pendleton woman who had served in the Signal Corps during the war. Walsh's letter suggests the importance of networking among those Oregonians and Pendletonians serving abroad.
"Miss Eglantine Moussu," Pendleton East Oregonian, August 30, 1918, 1.

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).