100 Years Ago: “Gold Star Women” Nurses of World War I

Lithograph Poster. “Hold up your end!” War fund week poster; 1917, W.B. King, artist. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington D.C.

Nurses run in my family. My 2nd great-grandfather Aaron Webster was a nurse during America’s Civil War. My father’s sister, Anna (Webster) Watkins was a nurse, as was my sister, Kathi Webster. Close and dear first cousins also followed that selfless profession. None of them died in war time.

Many of the American nurses of World War I worked under the auspices of the American Red Cross, while still others were considered members of the U.S. army. They did not hold rank, nor did they receive any military benefits when the war ended.

They put themselves in the direct line of both danger from the bombs and poison gas, but also cared for highly contagious military patients. Their sacrifice cannot be stressed enough, and yet they received little or no recognition.

National Nurses Week is celebrated this year from May 6-12 2017. To honor nurses everywhere, one must start with those who lost their lives practicing their profession.  The following newspaper article, in the  Asbury Park Evening Press of Friday, November 10, 1922, mentions by name those nurses who died during World War I.

Sheet Music Cover: I never believed in angels until I met you girl of the cross; 1918 monographic. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington D.C.

MEMORIAL LIST SHOWS 161 “GOLD STAR WOMEN” GAVE LIVES IN WORLD WAR.CHICAGO, Nov. 10 (AP)–One hundred and sixty-one names of “gold star women”–American girls who gave their lives in the World war–are found on the list made public today by the Women’s Overseas Service league, compiled as a feature to Armistice day. Most of them rest under French soil, some in far-off Siberia, Armenia, China and Manila, and others in England.”

Plans for a perpetual testimonial to the former service women of the American Expeditionary Forces were announced in connection with the list, which will be presented at the league’s convention here in June, next year, Chicago headquarters of the league said in the announcement.

“There is a handsome bronze tablet in the army and navy building in Washington, memorializing the mules and horses who died in the war, but nowhere in Washington is there found a record of the women who died–except army nurses–until we compiled it,” declared Miss Helen C. Courtenay, originator of the memorial movement.

Jane A. Delano, beloved head of the Red Cross nursing service, who died at Savenay, April 15, 1919; Marion Crandell, Y.M.C.A. canteener killed by a German shell at Chalons-sur-Marne, March 26, 1917; Winona C. Martin, killed in a Paris hospital by a bomb from a German air raider and Ruth Landon, by a shell in St. Gervais church, in Paris; the Cromwell sisters, Dorothea and Gladys of New York, who came to a tragic end at sea Jan. 19, 1919, as they were about to set sail for home, and two other sisters, Viola and Ruch Lundholm of Petaluma, Calif., both army nurses, who died within six days of each other in October 1917, in different hospitals in France, are among the outstanding names.

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 University

Nettie Grace McBride and Edith Barnett are buried in Tumen and Tombsk Siberia, and Edith Winchester in Erivan, Armenia. Their home addresses and those of Nina Louise Seymour, who died in Toule, France, and Alice A. Ireland, in Base Hospital No. 101, and information of other women who died in the service is being sought by Miss Irene Givenwilson, curator of the American Red Cross museum in Washington, chairman of the memorial committee.


Following is the list of “gold star women.” Cities named are those given as emergency addresses when the women sailed for France.

San Francisco–Thelma Eisfeldt; Nellie G. Galliher.
Hollywood–Pauline H. Field; Mary Agnes Moore
Petaluma–Viola E. Lundholm; Ruth W. Lundholm.
Fort Jones–Maud Evans.
Altaville–Elizabeth F. Lee.
Des Palos–Ida Henrietta Vietmeier.

Denver–Hattie M. Raithel.
Leadville–Clara M. Orgren.

Waterbury–Alice J. Knight.
Plattsville–Irene Mercedes Flynn.

Wilmington–Ruth MacGregor.

Jacksonville–Bessie O’Brien.

Decatur–Camille O’Brien.

Nampa–Genevra Robinson.
Winchester–Norene Mary Royer

Chicago–Lucille Pepson; Carmelita O’Connor; Antoinette W. Lippold.
Evanston–Helen Burnet Wood.
Virginia–Nellie Robertson.
Beecher City–Geneva Gastevens.
Decatur–Florence A. Hinton.    [U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 12, Europe]

Frankton–May Berry.
Roanoke–Grace G. Buell.
Lebanon–Grace Copeland.
Washington–Crystal E. McCord.
Jeffersonville–H. Mary Rapp.

Carroll–Kathleen C. Kennebeck.
Council Bluffs–Ruby Smith.
Edgewood–Ruth Cutler; Elsie May Hatch.
Fort Madison–Dorothy E. Koellner.

Abilene–Grace W. Hershey.

Eddyville–Katherine P. Irwin*.

Andover–Frances E. Bartlett.

Baltimore–Daisy Adams, Charlotte A. Cox and Grace Belle Micheau.

Detroit–Mabel A. Ragan; Charlotte Schonheit.
Blanchard–Hazel E. Babcock.
Battle Creek–Alice V. Murphy.
Buchanan–Gladys N. Lyon.

Boston–Anna Walker.
Roxbury–Anna K. Welsh; Evelyn Jane De Mers.
Cambridge–Helen M. Burrage.
Springfield–Margaret Bailey.
Chelsea–Mary C. Burke.
Somerville–Katherine V. Golden; Gertrude O’Connor.
Sheffield–Maud Victoria Kells.
Dorchester–Grace L. Malloch.
Needham–Mrs. Charles McDonald.
Amherst–Elizabeth Stearns Tyler.
Truro–Blanche Newton Small  [U.S. Army Base Hospital, Camp Lee, Petersburg, Virginia] *Not found on original list, editor has added*

Duluth–Lydia V. Whiteside.
St. Hilaire–Nora E. Anderson.
Montevideo–Esther Amundsen.

Biloxi–Katherine Dent.
Carollton–Margaret Eleanor Kerin.

Queen City–Katherine Hoffman.

Omaha–Maude Mae Butler; Marion G. Crandell.

–New Jersey.–
Newark–Esther Slocum; Florence L. Athay.
Jersey City–Catherine McGurty.
Creeskill–Margaret Worth.
Haddon Heights–Elizabeth H. Weimann.
Madison–Annabel S. Roberts [U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 2 British Expeditionary Forces, France]
Summerville–Emma E. Menn; Elizabeth McWilliam.

–New York.–
Fredonia–Asnia Williams.
Onconta–Fannie Scatchard.
Holland–Florence H. Trank.
Buffalo–Magdalena M. Volland.
Albany–Gertrude Valentine.
Clyde–Marjorie R. Vrooman.
New Rochelle–Lorraine Ransome.
Brooklyn.–Alive Cunningham Rogers; Winifred L. Heath.
New York City–Edith White; Frances Moeschen; Edna McCauley; Sophia Haarman; Dorothy Hamlin; Dorothea Gay; Ruth Landon; Dorothea Cromwell; Gladys Cromwell; Anna McBreen; Edith Barnett.
Norwich–Mary K. Cairns.
Suffern–Florence W. Campbell.
Rockville Center–Winona Caroline Martin.
Rochester–Blanche A. Rowley.
Elmira–Mabel R. Morey.
Canadaigua–Marsha D. McKechnie.
Palmer Falls–Alice Hagadorn.
Philmont–Katheryne E. Greene

–New Hampshire.–
Concord–Lucy N. Fletcher*

–North Carolina.–
Charlotte–Felicita W. Hecht.

–North Dakota.–
Golden Valley–Sabra Regina Hardy.
Lisbon–Florence Kimball.

Attica–Edith Ayres.
Dayton–Jeannette Bellman.
Springfield–Helen J. Courtney.
Cincinnati–Ella Maescher.
East Liverpool–Elizabeth L. Russell.

Hillsboro–Ima L. Ledford.

Allentown–Mary Ellen Appel; Anna Marie McCullen.
Philadelphia–Marion H. White; Nellie J. Ward.
Pittsburgh–Kathryn M. Joyce.
Summerville–Jessie P. Baldwin.
Sewickley–Virginia Branum.
Watsontown–Helen Fairchild.  [U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 10, Casualty Clearing Station, Europe]
Scranton–Eugenia C. Hosie.
Yardley–Mirian Knowles.
Pottstown–Harriet L. Kulp.
Ridgeway–Claire Ledden.
Shreveport–Julia Lide.
Landsdowne–Mary C. Stevens.
Bellevue–Alice L. Thompson.
Schickshinny–Gladys Watkins.
McKeesport–Esther Yochelson.
York–Jeanette Zinn.

–Rhode Island.–
Providence–Caroline H. Christman.
Pawtucket—Henrietta I. Drummond.
Manville–Teresa M. Murphy* [credited to New Hampshire]

Burlington–Luella M. Wheeler.

Achilles–Cornelia E. Thornton.
Charlottesville–Anna D. Reveley.

–West Virginia.–
Clarksburg–Lucinda L. Rose.

Seattle–Tilda A. Thorkelson; Mrs. Jessie Chisholm; Alice Stevens Drisk.

–Washington, D.C.–
Erma L. Shaw; Jane Minor Hendricks; Jane A. Delano.

Ashland–Nellie M. Dingley.
Gilmanton–Eileen L. Forrest.
Lodi–Elma Groves.
Lake Geneva–ELizabeth L. McDonald.
Richland Center–Dorothy Beth Millman.
Alma–Orma A. Schreiber.”
[end of news article]

Memorial photograph from The Pean, the 1919 graduate yearbook of Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter New Hampshire.

I have linked to 3 of the above nurses, i.e. Lucy N. Fletcher, Katherine P. Irwin, and Teresa M. Murphy, who all had ties to New Hampshire and about whom I wrote detailed stories. Other noted WWI nurses are shown directly below.

New Hampshire WWI Military: U.S. Army Nurse Lucy Nettie Fletcher of Concord NH (1886-1918)

New Hampshire WWI Military: Army Nurse Corps Teresa Margaret Murphy of Concord NH (1891-1918)

New Hampshire WWI Military: Phillips Exeter Academy Infirmary Nurse Katherine Patterson Irwin (1870-1918)

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)

New Hampshire WWI Military: The Nurses of Base Hospital No. 6 aka “The Bordeaux Belles”

Manchester New Hampshire Teacher, WW1 Red Cross Nurse, Public Health Nurse, Women’s Rights Advocate, Civic Leader, Clubwoman: Elena Mae (Crough) Lockwood (1884-1962)

Please note that there were other nurses who died during WWI who were not sent to Europe, but who volunteered in state-side military hospitals.  One such nurse was Marion Pearl Turner, who died of influenza on Mare Island, San Francisco.  If you know of others I will include them here.

I hope that you celebrate National Nurses Week in a fitting way. You can thank a nurse in your family, a neighbor, a friend. Or you can pause to remember a nurse who has died in WWI or in any war. Just speak aloud one of their names with reverence and gratitude.


World War One: The many battles faced by WW1’s nurses (BBC News)

Military Nurses in World War I

10 Greatest Nurses of WWI | Repeat Story in British newpaper

They Gave Their Lives (Nurses from the Civil War to Today)

American Women in WWI

RESEARCH: U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine: Nurse Corp Cards

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

2nd Editor’s Note:  I don’t think that the memorial referenced in this story was ever built.  I do know that now the United States has The Women’s Memorial–Women In Military Service which needs financial support.  This memorial was conceived in 1985 and the groundbreaking was held in 1995.

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12 Responses to 100 Years Ago: “Gold Star Women” Nurses of World War I

  1. Pingback: New Hampshire World War I Military: Heroes of The Great War | Cow Hampshire

  2. In all the college history and literature courses I’ve taken that included WWI, nowhere were the deaths of these nurses mentioned! I feel a need now to learn more about what their war experience was like. Would you know of any literature (memoir, fiction, poetry) written from their perspective?

    • Janice Brown says:

      Liz, I have not really come across any poetry or literature written by these nurses. The Smithsonian Museum has some mention of nurses so you might start there. I recently posted a story about the Bordeaux Belles where the newspaper article details what the nurses experienced in just one hospital, and some of my other WWI nurse stories give you snippets of information. I’ll keep an eye out for diaries, poetry or any of their personal writings and let you know if I find some. As for this list of names–I came across it by accident, while researching one of the nurses and was aghast that no one seemed to know about them, so I profiled it here.

  3. Kathy S. says:

    Thank you for this article. My great-great aunt, Elma Groves, from Lodi, Wisconsin, is on the list. She was a nurse by profession and was with the Red Cross during the war. She died of influenza in France and is buried in a military cemetery there.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Kathy S., you should write a story about her! I’ll link it back to this list 🙂 You should feel so very proud of Elma.

      • Kathy S. says:

        Our family is very proud of Elma’s work and her sacrifice. I have pictures of her, as well as a pocket diary she kept during her training, her journey to France, and the short time period she was able to nurse before becoming ill with the Spanish flu. Like so many other young, healthy people who caught the flu, she succumbed pretty quickly. I’ve always wondered how her family reached the decision to leave her remains in France and not bring her home to the family burial plot in Lodi, Wisconsin.

        • Janice Brown says:

          Actually I have been researching an article about gold star mothers and discovered, to my surprise that for several years after the war ended, many women lobbied against having the remains of all soldiers returned from France. Several prominent gold star mothers spoke out against returning them, including one who had volunteered in Europe during the war. I won’t go into the gory specifics but dealing with the dead when the war ended was gruesome. People were concerned too that moving the bodies of those who died of the flu would create a second wave of the disease. Thousands and thousands had died in the United States, not just soldiers from influenza and associated disease. Others felt that their children would have wanted to remain with their station in Europe. Yet others were so grief stricken they didn’t want to deal with a funeral. See, its complicated.

  4. Pingback: Friday finds Week 18 – 2017 | Norwegian Genealogy and then some

  5. Amy says:

    Thanks for reporting on the important role that nurses played and the sacrifices they made in WW1. I am slowly re-entering the blogosphere as we have now returned from our trip!

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