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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Marian Perry Cruikshank and Service with the American Women's Hospitals in Serbia

More in this blog post on Portland surgical nurse Marian Perry Cruikshank, who worked with Esther Pohl Lovejoy at the Coffey Clinic group in Portland prior to the First World War and with the American Women's Hospitals from 1921-1924. One of the main primary sources we have about Cruikshank's service was her report to the American Women's Hospitals and the Medical Women's National Association (which sponsored the AWH) at the conclusion of four years of service in 1921, published as "American Women's Hospitals," Medical Woman's Journal 32, no. 2 (February 1925): 47-

Cruikshank went first to Serbia in 1921, serving with the feminist medical humanitarian relief organization the American Women's Hospitals, directed by Esther Lovejoy. "During my first year overseas," she wrote in her report, "I was in Serbia and worked under Dr. Eta Gray as her first assistant, and had charge of the surgical wards of her hospital. Three weeks after my arrival Dr. Gray sent me to Salonika to obtain supplies which had been given to us by the Red Cross people in Washington. The local Red Cross at Salonika not only gave me the supplies that had been ordered from Washington, which amounted to about one carload, but an additional two carloads, and I came home to Veles with three carloads of supplies, which pleased Dr. Gray very much." Cruikshank evidently had a strong knack with bureaucracies of all kinds, as an upcoming post will suggest.

The American Women's Hospitals Records are located at the wonderful Archives and Special Collections on the History of Women at the Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. An incredible image of Cruikshank and Dr. Etta Gray in their surgical scrubs in Veles, Serbia, is part of their online digital collections.

In her report of her work Cruikshank wrote with great feeling about the importance of the American Women's Hospitals and the meaning of her work with the organization to her own sense of identity, purpose and membership in a transnational group of women activists.

"The feeling of loyalty is a very strange thing. It is like being an American citizen. Here in the United States (she wrote, now home from 4 years of service) I thought nothing of it at all, but when Uncle Sam gave me a passport and said that he would back me up through thick and thin in any part of the world and I went forth, it suddenly became one of the greatest things in life to be an American citizen."

"I have had exactly the same experience with being a member of the American Women's Hospitals," she continued. "I went overseas fairly proud of the organization, but all through my first year, when there was no particular opposition and no danger to our organization, I still felt in a lukewarm way that it was a fine thing, but as soon as I got into the place where I realized that it was a matter of life and death to the organization that had given me my passport and had backed me up, I became 100 percent American Women's Hospitals."