Chief Nurse of WW1 Expeditionary Forces, Red Cross Chief Nurse Harvard Unit, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Founder, National Association President and Pioneer of American Nursing: Nashua New Hampshire’s Carrie May Hall (1873-1963)

Carrie May Hall, Pioneer of American Nursing

Carrie May Hall, Pioneer of American Nursing. Photograph from her 1917 passport, wearing her Red Cross traveling clothes.

Carrie M. Hall’s career was long and varied. She was first an educator, then an organizer, and always a nurse. Because of her essential and important role in the American Red Cross, as Chief Nurse of the World War 1 Expeditionary Forces, I have decided to post her story here, with other military service stories.

She had been born in Nashua, New Hampshire, where her father worked as a station agent for the B&M Railroad. My own grandfather had the same job in Merrimack, a small town just to the north, so I can relate to his type of work. Carrie attended the local Nashua grammar school, Nashua high school for 3 years, followed by a boarding school in Amherst MA for one year. She then attended and graduated from Massachusetts General Hospital in September of 1904.

In 1900 there were 432 schools of nursing operating nationwide. Most were run in conjunction with a hospital, as the nursing programs of this time were more like apprenticeships rather than a college graduation. Nursing students provided much needed staffing for hospitals, and their education was considered secondary.

Old postcard of Margaret Pillsbury Hospital, Concord NH

Old postcard of Margaret Pillsbury Hospital, Concord NH, dedicated in 1891.

After graduation from nursing school, Carrie M. Hall worked for 8 months as the Head Nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, then was assistant matron at Quincy City Hospital in Quincy MA for 11 months. She spent almost five years working as a superintendent at Margaret Pillsbury Hospital in Concord, NH. That hospital building was fairly new, having been dedicated in 1891. Sensing the shortcomings of nursing education, from 1910-1911 she also attended Teachers College, Columbia University in New York.

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital circa 1918

Peter Bent Brigham Hospital circa 1918

Early in 1917 Carrie M. Hall was recruited to superintend and organize the nursing school and department of the newly opened Peter Bent Brigham hospital in Boston, MA, where she designed the curriculum, requiring incoming students to have acquired a high school diploma first, and included specialty courses in chemistry and other subjects previously not felt important to a nurse’s education. Carrie also designed and planned the nursing pin logo, uniform and cap. After World War 1 ended, Carrie Hall resumed her position at Peter Bent Brigham, and became increasingly active in nursing education.

School of Nurse from newspaper

School of Nursing, from 9 May 1913 newspaper

“My ideas,” she recollects, “Were considered radical, I suppose. First, I required that all students be high school graduates. Then, I got them to call it a school of nursing, instead of a training school for nurses, because I wanted to emphasize that this was education, not just apprenticeship. Finally, I actually outlined a curriculum of study and set it up on the basis of semesters. I saw to it that my students had special instruction in their field and in chemistry and biology, so that they would have an understanding of anatomy.” [ from Sunday, March 4, 1956 Boston Herald, Boston MA, page 28] She retired from the Brigham in 1937, after twenty-five years of service.

12 nurses of Base Hosp[ital] no. 5 in London May 1917, Carrie M. Hall seated in chair, from Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute, c/o Harvard Univeristy

12 nurses of Base Hosp[ital] no. 5 in London May 1917, Carrie M. Hall seated in chair, from Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute, c/o Harvard Univeristy

When World War I was declared, she was allowed a leave of absence from the hospital, and became a Red Cross volunteer, being assigned to Boulogne, France as Chief Nurse of Base Hospital Number 5 (aka the Harvard Unit) on 6 May 1917. During the summer of 1917 this hospital was bombed by German aviators. At that time she was cited for courage and efficiency under enemy fire by General Douglas Haig. The real danger was not in the firestorm of bombs.  The majority of Red Cross nurses who died during World War 1, did so of influenza, the horrific “Spanish flu.”

In May of 1918 General Alfred E. Bradley, chief surgeon of the American Expeditionary Force, requested Carrie M. Hall’s appointment to Chief A.R.C. in Great Britain. Her duties would include the assignment of nurses to the several hospitals in England caring for the American wounded. on 1 October 1918 she became chief nurse of the same organization in France. In 1919 Carrie Hall worked as Director of Nursing for the Paris Commission as well as the Red Cross representative in London where she formulated “recommendations that became the basis for future Red Cross nursing organizations overseas.” [from her official Red Cross obituary notice].

December 29, 1917 newspaper clipping, her work cited by British.

December 29, 1917 newspaper clipping, her work cited by British Commander.

-A W A R D S-
Her administrative ability in setting up hospitals and directing the work of Red Cross nurses won her a citation by Sir Douglas Haig, the Royal Red Cross of King George V (First Class) for “meritorious service rendered the allied cause” and an award of Medaille de Reconnaissance from the French government. In July of 1929 she was belatedly honored with the Medaille Florence Nightingale, a medal given by the International Committee of the Red Cross, for “heroic and distinguished service,” for the American Red Cross in France during World War 1. At the 50th anniversary celebration of Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in May 1963, she received a gold medal in recognition of her work (she died a few months later).

In addition to being a member of both the Massachusetts and New Hampshire State Nursing Associations, and the Massachusetts General Hospital Nurses Alumnae, Carrie Hall also served as president of the American Nurse’s Association and was president of the National League of Nursing from 1926 to 1928.Carrie M. Hall from Makers of Nursing History watermarked

After her retirement from Brigham Hospital in 1936, she spent four years surveying nursing homes in Greater Boston for the Hospital Council, visiting 265 and classifying them as to their convalescent care. This activity led to legislative action that gave the state public health department responsibility to inspect and license nursing homes.

Just before America entered, World War II, in December of 1942, Carrie was appointed to the Massachusetts Governor’s public safety committee, as Chief Deputy Nurse. While working on this committee, she organized an unofficial civilian nurses corp that later became part of the state’s civil defense plan.

Miss Carrie M. Hall of Boston, Chief Nurse for the ARC in Great Britain at her desk in RC Headquarters, 40 Grosvenor Gardens, London. She is in charge of all the ARC nurses in the British Isles. Miss Hall was one of the first American nurses to come Europe after the declaration of war by the United States, being in command of the so-called “Harvard unit” which arrived in London in May 1917 and was immediately transferred to take over a large base hospital in the British Army zone in France. She was formerly Superintendent and Principal of the Nurses’ Training School at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. She is a graduate of Columbia University. (Dates and notes from Red Cross caption card). Glass negative, 1918, England-London. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D.C.

In 1956 the Peter Bent Brigham nurses’ home was renamed “The Carrie M. Hall Nurse’s Residence,” and a bronze plaque was placed on the building. In 1962 this residence and land was sold to Harvard University, and was torn down for the Countway Medical Library. Nowadays the only visible vestige of Carrie’s life work at Peter Bent Brigham is the Carrie Hall Conference Room, located on the 2nd floor “Pike” of Brigham and Women’s Hospital near the 15 Francis Street entrance (Peter Bent Brigham building).

Carrie May Hall died at the age of 90 in Norwell MA.  She was brought home and buried next to her parents in Edgewood Cemetery, Nashua, New Hampshire.  Her genealogy is shown directly below.  Carrie was an amazing woman, who worked on behalf of nursing education and public safety well into her older years.  She should be noted as a significant role model for women, and especially those in the medical field.




Richard-1 Hall & Martha –.

Richard-2 Hall (1673-) & Mary Kimball

Nathan-3 Hall, son of Richard-2 & Mary Kimball Hall, b. 25 Dec 1715 in Bradford MA, d. 7 May 1807 in Mason NH, aged 91; m. abt 1742 to Mary Chapman of Boxford MA. She was b. 29 March 1723 and d. 27 Oct 1810 in Mason NH, age 87. He first moved to Dract MA, then in 1747 to Pepperell MA, and in 1751 to Mason NH where he was the secod settlers in the town. He was a carpenter and farmer, and built a house where he lived for fifty years, being the first person to die in in. He was a hardy man used to long hours of toils, and endured many hardships. On 29 Dec 1774 he was chosen Deacon of the church, and was a town treasurer from 1768 to 1776. [SEE book, “The Halls of New England“] [See book: History of the Town of Mason NH]
Children of Nathan & Mary (Chapman) Hall:
1. James Hall, b. 25 July 1743 Dracut NH [family 20]
2. Mary Hall, b. 9 March 1746 Dracut NH; m. abut 1775 John Swallow of Mason and d. 14 Aug 1822
3. Nathan Hall, b. 23 Aug 1748 Pepperell MA [family 21]
4. Mehitable Hall, b. 24 Dec 1750 Pepperell MA; m. 28 April 1779 Thomas Lawrence of Pepperell and d. Sept 1812
5. David Hall, b. 24 Jan 1754; m. 30 May 1783 Margaret Graham of Townsend MA. He d. 25 Aug 1824. farmer and soldier in Stephen Dearborn’s company, 1777, and served in the Battle of Bennington under Gen. Stark
6. Daniel Hall, b. 5 May 1756, Mason NH; died at White Plains NY in service of the US, blacksmith
7. Henry Hall, b. 26 Oct 1758 Mason NH [family 22]
8. Elizabeth Hall, b. 5 March 1765; m. 27 May 1788 Joseph Sanders of Mason NH. She d. 15 March 1836
9. Richard Hall, b. 12 Sep 1768 (Family 23)

Richard-4 Hall, son of Nathan & Mary (Chapman) Hall, was b. 12 Sep 1768 in Mason NH. He m. 2 Feb 1793 to Hannah Kendall of Mason. She was b. 29 Oct 1771 in Shirley MA. He was a carpenter. [SEE “The Halls of New England“]
Children of Richard & Hannah (Kendall) Hall:
1. Ira Hall, b. 5 Aug 1793 Mason NH [Family 44]
2. Hannah Hall, b. 3 May 1795 Mason NH; m. 1822 Reuben Gates of Acworth NH; a farmer he d. 5 July 1823.
3. Betsey Hall, b. 25 July 1801 Mason NH; m. 1819 Walker Gassett of Townsend MA, a carpenter. They lived in Marlow NH
4. Sophronia Hall, b. 20 July 1803; m. Minot Baldwin of Pepperell MA, a carpenter. She d. Nov 1868 in Townsend MA
5. +George Hall, b. 31 May 1806 Mason or Brookline NH [Family 45]
6. Susan Hall, b. 15 Feb 1809 Mason NH; m. Heman Gates of Acworth NH a farmer. She d. 1847 in Walpole VT.

George-5 Hall, son of Richard & Hannah (Kendall) Hall, b 31 May 1806 Brookline NH, d 3 November 1865 in Mason NH; m1st) 24 Dec 1826 in NH to Abigail Boynton, dau of Jeremiah & Elizabeth (Williams) Boynton. She b 11 Nov 1799 in Mason NH, d. 1 February 1827, aged 27 years. He m2d) 1830 to Rachel Boynton. She b 4 April 1811 Mason NH d 29 April 1855. They are buried in Pratt Cemetery, Mason NH. He married 3d) 11 Jan 1856 in Nashua NH to Harriett Newell Marden-Ober, dau of Jonathan & Sally (Foster) Marden. She was b. 29 Aug 1822 in New Boston NH, and d. 4 August 1903 in Milford NH. She had married 1st) 29 May 1845 to Frederic H. Ober. He was b. abt 1824 in NH and d. 19 May 1852 in Nashua NH. She had 2 children by her 1st husband: Charles F. Ober/Obear and Franklin H. Ober/Obear. He was a farmer in Mason NH, held office of captain in the town militia. The Hall Genealogy states “he was a kind husband, a good father, and was beloved by all who knew him.”
1860 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Mason
Geo Hall M 53 NH
Harriet Hall F 38 NH
John K. Hall M 13 NH
Christopher Hall M 16 NH
Charles Ober M 12 NH
Levina Barrett F 14 NH
Frank Obear M 7 NH
Children of George & Rachel (Boynton) Hall:
1. George Hall, b 1 Jan 1831 Mason NH, d. 15 Dec 1894 in Leominster, Suffolk Co. MA. He was a furniture manufacturer, and representative in the MA Legislature of 1875. He m. 10 March 1857 in New Boston NH to Harriet Campbell Marden, dau of Samuel & Phebe (Noyes) Marden. She was b 6 April 1832 in New Boston, NH. Children were: George, Harriet N., Arthur H (b Nashua NH 1858), Annie M., (b Leominster MA 1866). In 1880 US Census > Leominster MA [family 74 in Hall Genealogy]
2. Amos B. Hall, b. 3 Sep 1833; m. 5 June 1861 Mary Marden of Windham NH
3. William Hall, b. 11 Aug 1835 [Family 75]
4. Willis J. Hall, b. 1 June 1838, d. 1 May 1839 [or b. 1837, d. 9 May 1838.]
5. Elizabeth A. Hall, b. abt 1840 Mason NH; d. 30 January 1905 in Worcester NH; buried Mason NH; resided Nashua NH.
6. Alonzo B. Hall, b. 15 July 1842, d. 2 Aug 1842 [infant d. 8 July 1842]
7. Christopher C. Hall, b 26 Nov 1843 Mason NH; d. 27 February 1907 in Sutton MA; buried Howard Cemetery, Sutton NH; married. [family 76]
8. +John K. Hall, b. 7 July 1846 Mason NH [Family 77]
Child of George & Harriett N. (Marden) Hall:
1. Edward B. Hall, b. 21 Feb 1863 Brookline NH; in 1870 and 1880 living with with his mother in Milford NH. He m. 12 March 1892 in Milford NH to Nellie F. Rideout, dau of Charles G. & Rosa D. (Curtis) Rideout.

John K. Hall, son of George & Rachel (Boynton) Hall, b. 7 July 1846 Mason NH, d. 27 May 1913 ; m1) 19 September 1872 in Nashua NH to Caroline “Carrie” Rogers, daughter of Freeman & Lydia S. (Haskell) Rogers. She b. 9 August 1851 in Nashua NH, d. 2 Sep 1895 Nashua NH. RR Station Agent in Nashua NH. They are buried in Edgewood Cemetery, Nashua NH. He married 2d) 21 October 1897 in Nashua NH to Mary E. Blunt-Holt, dau of John G. & Caroline (Ball) Blunt. She was b 18 Feb 1853 in Nashua NH, and d. 30 June 1931 in Nashua NH. She m1st) George Holt, who d. 14 May 1894. Mary is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Nashua NH.
1900 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Nashua
John K. Hall Head M 54 NH NH NH July 1846
Mary E. Hall wife F 47 NH Feb 1853 0 ch 0 living
Carrie M. Hall dau F 27 NH b July 1873 NH
George F. Hall son M 24 NH Jan 1876 NH
Frederick R. Hall son M 13 NH Nov 1887 NH
Etta H. Warren servant F 20 Vermont Feb 1880 VT VT MA
1913 publication of Peter Bent Brigham Hospital
Nursing School Officers
Superintendent of Nurses and Principal of the School of Nursing
Carrie M. Hall, R.., Service began July 1, 1912 (1st)
For her work during the war, she received the British Royal Red Cross, 1st Class, and the Reconnaissance Francaise.
Carrie M. Hall who went overseas as Chief Nurse of Base Hospital No. 5, did the most conspicuous official service abroad of any of our graduates. She was made Chief Nurse of the American Red Cross in Great Britain, and was called from there to act as assistant to Julia C. Stimson in Paris while the latter was Chief of the American Red Cross in France. When Miss Stimson became Director of the Army Nurse Corps in France, Miss Hall succeeded her as Chief of the American Red Cross Nursing Service in France, and later she became Director of the Nursing Bureau of the American Red Cross in France, in addition to her other duties. –History of the Massachusetts general hospital training school for nurses, by Sarah E. Parsons, page 130
Saturday, December 29, 1917, Boston Herald, Boston MA
Five Women Members of Harvard Unit Cited as Worthy of Special Mention.
Five Boston nurses and several doctors connected with the medical corps of the Harvard unit in France have won especial commendation from Field Marshal Haig for bravery in the line of duty. Their names have been published in the London Gazette. The nurses are Misses Carrie M. Hall and Gertrude M. Gerrard, members of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital contribution to the Harvard Unit, and Sisters V. Allen, M. Glinch and G. Davidson….. Miss Hall is chief nurse of the unit and Miss Gerrard is Anesthetist. Both are graduates [Ed. note, this is incorrect, they were given honorary graduate degrees for their service, but they were not graduates of Peter Bent Brigham] of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and left May 6 with Dr. Harvey W. Cushing’s medical unit. Since then they have several times been reported as active at base hospital No. 5, which has been one of the most important of the British base hospitals and at one time under bomb fire from the Germans. These two nurses were recruited by Maj. Augustine G. Reynolds of 1384 Commonwealth avenue, who expected to go abroad with the Harvard Unit, of which the nurses were a section, but an officer of the regular army was detailed in his stead. Major. Reynolds is now commander of the second battalion of the 15th regiment of the State Guard…. Miss Hall has been attached to the Peter Bent Brigham staff since her graduation and is a New Hampshire girl. Miss Gerrard’s home is at Highland Street, East Gloucester.
Nashua Telegraph, Nashua NH 10 July 1957
Mont Vernon, July 10–The founder of the Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing in Boston who was seriously injured in a traffic accident here Monday is reportedly in good condition at the Hub hospital today.
Miss Carrie M. Hall, 84, of Mont Vernon and Boston, after whom the Carrie M. Hall nurse’s residence at Peter Bent Brigham hospital was named, is undergoing treatment for injuries to her right shoulder and left wrist, internal injuries and a facial laceration. The injuries were sustained at 2:30 PM Monday on Route 13 when the car Miss Hall was driving crashed into a tow truck parked at the side of the road, while the truck driver was repairing another automobile.
Miss Hall was removed to the Boston hospital by ambulance. Ralph Iles, the truck diver and Mrs. Ann Willard, owner of the vehicle under repair, were not injured, police said but both of their vehicles were damaged.
. Miss Hall founded the school of nursing in Boston in 1912 and was the original director of the school, and head of nursing service. She left for France with the American Red Cross in 1918 and returned to resume her duties at the Boston Hospital in 1920. She is now the subject of an oil painting now hanging in the lobby of the nurse’s residence.
Children of John K. & Caroline (Rogers) Hall:
1. **Carrie May Hall [the subject of this article, read earlier], b. 5 July 1873 Nashua NH; d. 17 November 1963 Norwell MA.
2. George Freeman Hall, b abt 1876 Nashua NH; m. 1 March 1906 in South Framingham MA to Abbie Reynolds Congdon, dau of Richard E. & Jeanette W. (Chapman) Congdon. Bank Teller at time of marriage
3. Frederick Rogers Hall, b. 13 Nov 1887 Nashua NH; he m. 20 Sep 1910 in Nashua NH to Louise M. Pierce, daughter of George R. & Lillie (Bettcher) Pierce

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7 Responses to Chief Nurse of WW1 Expeditionary Forces, Red Cross Chief Nurse Harvard Unit, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing Founder, National Association President and Pioneer of American Nursing: Nashua New Hampshire’s Carrie May Hall (1873-1963)

  1. Amy says:

    I love these posts about women who were such leaders. They were so ahead of their times, yet I’ve never heard of any of them. Thanks for telling HERstory!

  2. Michael Dyer says:

    What a fascinating life and well-written portrait. I thought it fitting that an academic building was named in her honor given her dedication to education in the field (and then bummed that it was torn down and a 2nd floor conference room now fills the bill … Thank goodness for your post, a more moving tribute).

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  7. Carol McGarigle says:

    This blog is so complete! I graduated from PBB SON but you have shared some details of which I had never been aware! Thank you for being so complete! CMH was indeed dedicated to the profession of nursing and we are all the better for it!

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