Saturday, January 28, 2017

Answering the Call: The Army Nurse Corps

Oh, they are fine! One need never tell me that women can’t do as much, stand as much, and be as brave as men. 

Four hundred nurses were already serving in Europe when the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917. By war's end over 22,000 nurses had served in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. Their service was indispensable and continued beyond Armistice as the world battled the influenza pandemic of 1918. Nurses in the American Expeditionary Forces served in France, Belgium, England, Siberia, Italy, Serbia, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. They worked in 58 field hospitals, mobile units, evacuation camps and convalescent hospitals; on troop trains and transport ships; and helped staff 47 ambulance companies which operated on the Western Front.

Of the nurses who served during World War I, nearly 300 died while in service. Many were themselves victims of influenza, as well as tuberculosis and pneumonia. Three Navy nurses were awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for their service during the epidemic. Three members of the Army Nurse Corps were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and 23 received the Distinguished Service Medal. Numerous nurses also received meritorious awards from the allied nations where they served including the French Croix de Guerre  and the Military Medal from Great Britain.

The Progressive Era brought about a rise in professionalization for many occupations including nursing. Recruitment posters called for graduate nurses to fill the ranks, women who had received formal training at a nursing school with a curriculum that included theoretical and practical nursing. Initially nurses were required to be U.S. citizens, unmarried Caucasian women between 25 and 35 years of age.

"War service was hard, uncomfortable and heartbreaking. Overseas the nurses faced raw, cold weather and shortages of water for bathing and laundry, long hours at work and little privacy or time off. They treated shrapnel wounds, infections, mustard gas burns, exposure and medical and emotional trauma." (Military Nurses in World War I)

Even with the recruitment of thousands of nurses, the number of patients far exceeded the 10:1 ratio initially planned. Base hospitals built to house 800-1000 beds routinely had double the number of patients. Base Hospital 50 was initially expected to be 500 beds but was quickly expanded to 1,000, with a staff of 250 and 100 nurses. Shifts of 14-18 hours were common at Base Hospital 50 as nurses cared for surgical patients and mustard gas cases. Overwork and fatigue was a common theme in the unit's history.

It is important to remember "the women who served in the Army Nurse Corps "rendered service ‘beyond expectations' at a time when women were not even allowed to vote" in the U.S. (Vane)  Nurses could have no expectation of a military rank or commission and still they served tirelessly. (As did equally disenfranchised women physicians.) Many extended their service after the war to go to war-torn areas of Serbia, Montenegro and Albania to help rebuild communities. By World War II  because of 'Rosie's Mom' and the groundwork laid by thousands of women who served during World War I – women's wartime roles would be expanded even more.

Read more about nursing service during World War I:

  1. Brown, Carrie. Rosie's Mom: Forgotten Women Workers of the First World War. Northeastern University Press, 2002.
  2. Budreau, Lisa M. and Richard A Prior. Answering The Call: The U.S. Army Nurse Corps, 1917-1919: A Commemorative Tribute to Military Nursing in World War I. Washington, DC : Office of the Surgeon General, Borden Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 2008.
  3. Feller, Carolyn M., and Cox, Debora R. Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 2000. 
  4. Gavin, Lettie. American Women In World War: They Also Served. University Press of Colorado, 2006. 
  5. Jensen, Kimberly. Mobilizing Minerva: American Women in the First World War. University of Illinois Press, 2008. 
  6. Sarnecky, Mary T. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. 
  7. Stimson, Julia C. The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War. Volume XIII, Part Two, The Army Nurse Corps. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1927.
  8. Vane, Colonel Elizabeth A. P. Contributions of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War I. Soins: La revue de référence infirmière, June 2014.

Learn more about women and the Progressive Era:

Kimberly Jensen, PhD, recommended the following reading in her 2011 interview discussing her book Mobilizing Minerva:
  1. Kennedy, Kathleen. Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens: Women and Subversion during World War I. Indiana University Press, 1999.
  2. Nielsen, Kim J. Un-American Womanhood: Antiradicalism, Antifeminism, and the First Red Scare. Ohio State University Press, 2001.
  3. Steinson, Barbara J. American Women's Activism. New York : Garland Publishing, 1981. 
  4. Zeiger, Susan. In Uncle Sam's Service: Women Workers with the American Expeditionary Force, 1917-1919. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pvt. Samuel N. Parker (1897-1918)

Tyee, 1919, pg. 41.
By September, 1918, the overwork was beginning to show on the men, and this, along with bad drinking water, put a large number of our own men in the hospital. … It was at this time that the unit lost its first man, Sam Parker, who died the evening of September 7, just as taps was sounded. He was run down from overwork and contracted diphtheria.”1

Private Samuel N. Parker was just twenty-one when he succumbed to exhaustion and diphtheria while serving with Base Hospital 50 in France. 

The only child of John William Parker and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Nichols, Sam's parents were married in Chicago on June 23, 1896.2 Sam's exact date and place of birth are unknown, but the 1900 census indicates he was born in August of 1896, although 1897 is more likely.3 At the time of the 1900 federal census, Sam, his parents and maternal grandmother Edna Johnson Nichols Mitchell were living in Hampton Township, located in Rock Island County, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa. By the 1910 census the family had relocated to West Seattle and were living on Alki Avenue.4 Their move had likely been a recent one as a biographical sketch of Sam's father was published in a Rock Island County history in 1908.5

News story written by Sam Parker.
Thursday, June 28, 1917, Morning Olympian
(Olympia, WA), pg 1. 
Sam graduated with honors from West Seattle School – later West Seattle High School – in 1915 and enrolled at the University of Washington with the class of 1919. While at the UW, Sam was a member of Pi Tau Upsilon Fraternity. He worked as a writer and editor for The Daily, the UW's student newspaper, and was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, a national honorary journalism fraternity.

A few months before he enlisted, Sam left college to take a position on the news staff of Seattle's Post-Intelligencer, where his work was highly esteemed. After having "tried in vain to enlist in a dozen different fighting units", Sam "did the next best thing and applied for a place in Base Hospital Unit No. 50."6

"He was not a man of robust health and for months he made futile efforts to enlist in the service of his country. Finally Dr. Eagleson, impressed with the young man's lofty patriotism and persistent attempts to serve, accepted him for the hospital corps, and on the day of his induction into service Parker bade his associates on the staff of the Post-Intelligencer goodbye."7

Original grave of Sam Parker.
The History of Base Hospital Fifty, 1922.
Sam enlisted early in the summer of 1918, traveling to Camp Merritt, New Jersey, for training and then deployed on July 14, 1918, for service overseas under the command of Major Eagleson. His death was a blow to the optimism and morale of the staff of Base Hospital 50 who lost two additional men not long after. Originally buried at the cemetery located outside the hospital complex, Sam was later reinterred at nearby St. Mihiel American Cemetery.8

His mother, Sarah, who lost her only child, participated in the Gold Star pilgrimages sponsored by the U.S. government and visited her son's final resting place in July of 1930.9

  1. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922. Page 69.
  2. Illinois, Cook County Marriages, 1871-1920. John W. Parker and Sarah E. Nichols. 23 Jun 1896. Chicago, Cook, Illinois.
  3. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Hampton, Rock Island, Illinois. Enumeration District 93, sheet 16A, John Parker household; National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 338; digital image,, (Accessed 20 January 2017).
  4. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Seattle Ward 14, King, Washington. Enumeration district 218, sheet 10A, J.W. Parker household; National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1661; digital image,, (Accessed 20 January 2017).
  5. Historic Rock Island County: History of the Settlement of Rock Island County from the Earliest Known Period to the Present Time... . Kramer & Company, 1908. Volume 2, pg. 153.
  6. University of Washington. Tyee, 1919, Sam Parker, War Memorial, page 41.
  7. Sam Parker Dies in Country's Service. The Washington Newspaper. 4(1) Oct 1918, pg 12.
  8. Pilgrimage for the mothers and widows of soldiers, sailors, and marines of the American forces now interred in the cemeteries of Europe as provided by the Act of Congress of March 2, 1929... Washington, U.S. G.P.O., 1930. Sarah Parker, Pacific Palisades, California, page 23.
  9. Pvt. Samuel N. Parker. Find a Grave,, Memorial #56341596. (Accessed 23 January 2017.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Minnie Andrews, RN, ANC, 1894-1981

Minnie Andrews was born on July 30, 1894 to John Carnabau Andrews and Louisa Caroline Brown. Minnie joined a growing family featuring Charlotte (b. 1886), twins Bessie and Jessie (b. 1888), Pearl (b.1890), and Frank (b.1892). The final member of the family, Lucy joined the family in mid-1898. John and Louisa were married in Garfield County in 1886, where Louisa lived. Land records for John C. Andrews show that the young couple obtained land near the city of Pampa, Washington in 1891 under the Homestead Act of 1862. Pampa, founded around 1883, was a small town in Whitman County that was a railroad stop for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company and featured rolling hills of rich grass, which led to successful sheep and cattle ranches.In one publication, John is listed as a farmer and stock dealer. No birth records for the Andrews children have been found but based on land and census records it is likely that Minnie was born in or near Pampa, Washington.

Around 1905-1906, John and Louisa moved their family from small town Pampa to Bellingham, Washington. The family did not stay long in Bellingham, moving to the rural farm land outside of Ferndale, Washington by 1910. On January 6, 1914, Louisa suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 53 years old. Minnie remained at home until a year later when she decided to pursue nursing training at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bellingham. In early April 1918, Minnie along with 10 other nurses graduated from the nursing program.

Twelve days after the United States entered World War I, the Andrews family got devastating news that John had stomach cancer. He battled the disease for only ten days and on April 28, 1917, he passed away. He is buried next to his wife in Bayview Cemetery. Minnie answered the call for nurses to aid in war efforts and enlisted on May 27, 1918. She spent just short of a year in service, including time at Base Hospital 50, and returned home to Bellingham in late May 1919.

For several years, Minnie’s oldest sister Pearl had been working at Kulshan Hospital in nearby Sumas, Washington. After her return from the war, Minnie found work with her sister at the hospital as a nurse. Their younger sister Lucy also found work at the hospital around 1919. The 1920 census shows the three sisters living at the hospital; with Pearl as the matron of the hospital and Minnie and Lucy working as nurses. On Christmas Eve 1921, Kulshan Hospital was destroyed in a fire. The local newspaper reported that no patients were in the hospital but several nurses were sleeping there.

Minnie found love and married Dean Kjoeller West on July 7, 1921. Dean had been born and raised in Sumas and worked as a manager for West Grocery & Hardware, his father Peter’s general merchandise store in Sumas. According to census records and city directories, it appears Minnie left nursing behind after her wedding.

Minnie’s youngest sister Lucy contracted tuberculosis in late 1922. Despite the illness, she married Belmont Hendrickson on Feb. 4, 1923. Tragically, Lucy's honeymoon was cut short when the infection in her lungs took her life just ten months later on December 14, 1923.

On December 10, 1924 Minnie and Dean welcomed their first child Robert Frank West. A little over 3 years later, the couple welcomed a daughter Marjorie Louise West. By 1930, Dean had taken over West Grocery which he would run for at least the next ten years. The couple remained in Whatcom County, likely in Sumas, for the remainder of their lives. Dean passed away on September 15, 1977. Four years later, Minnie passed away on March 16, 1981 in Sumas. The couple is buried beside each other in Sumas Cemetery.


  1. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Census Place: Pampa, Whitman, Washington; Roll: 1754; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0102; FHL microfilm: 1241754.
  2. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Census Place: Ferndale, Whatcom, Washington; Roll: T624_1674; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 0346; FHL microfilm: 1375687.
  3. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Census Place: Surnas, Whatcom, Washington; Roll: T625_1944; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 266; Image: 491.
  4. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002. Census Place: Sumas, Whatcom, Washington; Roll: 2522; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0052; Image: 903.0; FHL microfilm: 2342256.
  5. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Census Place: Nooksack, Whatcom, Washington; Roll: T627_4369; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 37-62.
  6. Minnie Andrews & Dean R. West Marriage Record. Document No. 8795. Yakima County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1896-2008, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives,