White Paper: Women in World War I – The New Professional

In November of 1918, an Armistice ended hostilities between the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary and the four top Allied powers (Britain, France, Italy and the United States). Celebrating the centennial anniversary of that event in 2018, this paper looks at the transformation of nursing as an active and increasingly professional role for women during the course of that global conflict. The Army Nurse Corps had been formed in 1901 and was headed by Dita H. Kinney. At the outbreak of the First World War, the Corps consisted of just over 500 (active and Reserve) nurses; by the close of the war, there were more than 21,000 active nurses stationed at home and abroad. Given the short duration of U.S. involvement in the First World War, the shift in perception and training of women in the service is nothing short of remarkable.

This white paper explores the rapid changes needed to get America ready for its role in World War I and the work needed to get a well-trained nursing corp in place immediately by building upon the nursing practices coming out of the 19th century.

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The Red Cross was able to muster a large group of civilian volunteer nurses in the early years of the war.

The Red Cross was able to muster a large group of civilian volunteer nurses in the early years of the war.

Accessible Archives Collections

The following collections were utilized in developing this material.

Godey’s Lady’s Book – This collection provides the complete run of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and is the only one containing the color plates as they originally appeared. Our search and retrieval system allows searchers to limit by “Image Type,” which includes chromolithograph, color plate and color plate fashion, as well as advertisement, cartoon, drawing, engraving, fashion plate, illustration, map, mezzotint, portrait, sheet music, table and woodcut.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly – Frank Leslie’s Weekly, later often known as Leslie’s Weekly, actually began life as Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Founded in 1855 and continued until 1922, it was an American illustrated literary and news publication, and one of several started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. John Y. Foster was the first editor of the Weekly, which came out on Tuesdays. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

America and World War I: American Military Camp Newspapers This collection addresses a topic and period that continues to be of the widest interest and importance to scholars, students, and the general public – America in the World War I Era.  Camp newspapers make important original source material—much of it written by soldiers for soldiers—readily available for research and fresh interpretation of events about “The War to End All Wars”.

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