A Message from the President

Arlene W. Keeling, PhD, RN, FAAN

A Message from the President
February 2019

African American Nurses, Camp Sherman, 1918

In recognition of Black History Month, AAHN applauds this group of African American nurses who volunteered to go to Camp Sherman, Ohio, to help in the midst of the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918.  

Until the fall of 1918, when a devastating flu (H1N1) ravaged U.S. troops and civilians throughout the country, the Army Nurse Corps had refused the services of African American nurses, both at home and on the battlefront of the Great War in Europe. Finally when U.S. military camps were inundated with thousands of sick and dying soldiers and white nurses were collapsing from overwork, that policy changed.  In late October, the Army sent black nurses to Camp Sherman, one of the military camps with the highest mortality rate. There the nurses cared for both black and white patients, but were assigned to segregated living quarters. Their experience with racial prejudice varied. According to African American nurse Aileen B.
Cole: “. . . We have met with individual prejudice, but generally speaking, everyone so far has been exceedingly kind.”1   

Cole’s brief statement tells us little of the nurses’ reality in the camps. No doubt it was not as positive as she so professionally reported.  And their stories need to be told. Hopefully, one of our members will begin that process, searching the archives for what may be hidden in plain sight. 

Meanwhile, we honor these brave African American nurses, and others who were sent to Camp Grant, Illinois, or other military posts, for their service.  They deserve our respect and our inclusion in nursing history.

Arlene W. Keeling, PhD, RN, FAAN
President, AAHN

1 Mary Sarnecky, A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999).  See also: A. Keeling, “ ‘Alert to the Necessities of the Emergency’: U.S. Nursing during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.” (Public Health Reports, 2010 Supplement 3, volume 125): 105-11.

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History provides current nurses with the same intellectual and political tools that determined nursing pioneers applied to shape nursing values and beliefs to the social context of their times. Nursing history is not an ornament to be displayed on anniversary days, nor does it consist of only happy stories to be recalled and retold on special occasions. Nursing history is a vivid testimony, meant to incite, instruct and inspire today's nurses as they bravely tread the winding path of a reinvented health care system.

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            BREAKING NEWS             

The American Association for the History of Nursing is proud to support The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Recognition Act in honor of the thousands of Cadet Nurses who studied and served under the U.S. Cadet Corps program in World War II.

About Friends of the United States Cadet Nurse Corps World War II

This group was formed to pass the 2018 bipartisan legislation, "U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Service Recognition Act." It was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as HR7258 and in the U.S. Senate as Senate Bill 3729.  There is no financial or VA benefits. These women of the Greatest Generation only request to be honored as Veterans of WWII with an American flag and a gravesite plaque forever marking their proud service to our country during wartime in the United States Cadet Nurse Corps.  

Action Needed:  Be a  "Friend" of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps WWII.  
How:  Simply let your U.S. Senators and House Representatives know that passing this new bill is important to you by going to their website and clicking on the button.