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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.