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Monday, February 16, 2015

Anne Schneider, R.N. Part I: "The Roads Were Filled With the Tremendous Business of War"

Sometime after the World War Julia Stimson, Superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps, collected reminiscences from nurses who served at Base Hospitals during the conflict. They are now preserved among the records of the Army Nurse Corps at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland in Record Group 112.

Fortunately for us, the files contain a number of reminiscences and poems by nurses from Base Hospital 46. Some of these are included in Otis Wight et al, On Active Service with Base Hospital 46 but there are a good number that were not part of that volume, enabling us to expand our understanding of the experiences of the women of Base Hospital 46 and to preserve their voices.

Anne E. Schneider, 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.

Portland nurse Anne Schneider was one of the authors. From the Grace Phelps Papers at the Historical Collections & Archives at the Oregon Health & Science University we learn that Schneider was born in Portland in 1877 and was a 1907 graduate of the Providence Hospital Training School for Nurses in Oakland, California. Before the war she worked as a private duty nurse and as an anesthetist.

Portland newspapers let us know that Schneider worked with volunteer medical teams that provided needed surgeries in the community.
"29 Operations Performed," Oregonian, May 15, 1917,  4.
In May, 1917 Schneider was one of the anesthetists on a volunteer medical team that performed 29 operations at the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem to remove tonsils and adenoids. She did similar work at the St. Mary's Orphanage in Beaverton that September.

"Orphans Are Treated," Oregonian, September 5, 1917, 13.
 A year later, Schneider found herself on another traveling medical team, this one near the war front in France. On her third day at Base Hospital 46 in Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, supervisors assigned her to work with Mobile Surgical Team #77 near the fighting front. She was with the team from July 19 to August 19, 1918. Schneider wrote about her experiences in "Answering the Call of the Wounded: Bazoilles-sur-Meus to Soisson," part of the Base Hospitals of World War I collection at the National Archives.

The first part of her reminiscence tells us about the shock of receiving the new assignment even before her baggage had arrived, the task of cobbling supplies together, and then riding "up on the back of a five passenger car, one of twelve machines" in a convoy traveling to a field hospital close to the front.

It was also her first direct experience with the chaos of war. She contrasted the "tranquil scenes" in the villages she passed "where the fields were yellow and golden with the ripening grain" with the confusion of an air raid near the city of Joinville. "Out of their homes came the frightened people running hither and thither, children crying and screaming as they clung to their elders, seeking a place of shelter from these vultures of the sky, bent on their errands of misery and destruction."

Schneider provided a vivid image of the crowded and hectic route toward the battlefields: "The roads were filled with the tremendous business of war, an endless chain of motor trucks, automobiles, motorcycles with side cars and without, all with a single purpose, bent on fulfilling their bit." They regrouped after a pile-up left only six of their cars "fit for service," and drove around in the dark, lost in unfamiliar territory. "It seemed as if we were always going straight ahead and yet sometimes found ourselves running about the town in circles," she wrote, and they eventually found their way back to the road.

Anne E. Schneider, "Answering the Call of the Wounded: Bazoilles-sur-Meus to Soisson," pp. 1-2, Box 9, Base Hospitals, World War I, Historical Records of the Army Nurses Corps Historical Data File, 1898-1947, Entry 10, Record Group 112, Records of the Office of Surgeon General [Army], National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
More from Anne Schneider's reminiscence of her work with Mobile Surgical Team #77 in the summer of 1918 in the next post.