JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Shorpy members who are Patreon contributors get an ad-free experience! (Mostly -- there's still an ad above the comments.) Sign up or learn more.

Major Medical: 1920

Major Medical: 1920

Washington, D.C., circa 1920. "No caption." Someone out there must know who these ladies are. UPDATE: Thanks to the excellent research of Mudhooks, we can identify this as a portrait of Major Julia Stimson, superintendent of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Army Nurse - WWI.

My great-aunt was an Army nurse at Base Hospital 5, among others following her service as the first rural public health nurse in Wisconsin (she earned her cap in 1908). Her wartime diary, written in pencil, is a model of decorum - went up to the hospital, came back to the barracks, and so on. Not a word about what she faced, although she was bombed by German aircraft in one of the hospitals. She served as a nurse until 1946, specializing in the care of tuberculosis patients, and died in 1961. There is a definitive history waiting to be written about these incredibly brave and selfless women.

Shorpy, please show us more of this kind of service!

Appearances Can be Misleading

The good Major and her staff may look a bit hard-edged to the modern eye, but trust me, being an Army nurse, particularly in WWI, is not for the faint of heart. The effects of mustard gas, in particular, are truly horrific. Angels of Mercy, to be sure, but competent first of all. I'd trust them with my life, as I'm sure many did.

Very lucky find.

Thanks! It was luck.

I Googled "Red Cross" Washington 1918 (was the original date on the image 1920? I thought it was 1918, for some reason) in Images. Seven pages along and there was the photo.

Doesn't always happen that quickly.

I assume the women are her staff.

Possibly the photo was taken when she received her rank, which she did in 1920. As the first woman to be given rank in the US Army, this would have been a "big deal".

She looks a formidable woman. However, apparently, despite her looks she was a a sensitive and caring person, as her wartime letters to her family reveal. In fact, she was quite hurt and personally upset when the Red Cross, in writing about her in its official history stated:

"In the blinding light of war, her dominant personality stood out in the same bold outline as did her Amazonian physique. Her regular boyish features habitually wore a thoughtful expression which brought to the observer an impression of dignity and power. Her well-trained mental processes, clean cut often to the point of brusque speech, were as direct in their focus as her clear blue eyes."

Quite rightly, she wrote "It seems to me that professional experience, preparation, and attainments are entirely appropriate, but I can see no point to the addition of personal appearance or characteristics." They published the section, anyway.

She apparently suffered from a condition which caused ulcerations on her legs, made worse when she was stressed. All through her service in France, she suffered terribly but stoically worked on.

An admirable woman.

Good detective work!

Hey Mudhooks, Great find! another interesting thing are the 4 service chevrons on her lower left sleeve, According to my research, one chevron was authorized for each six months of service in a theater of operation from 6 April 1917 to 4 October 1919.

Army Nurses

At first, I thought these ladies could be with the American Red Cross, which had similar uniforms during that time period, but as they are wearing rank and Nurse Corps insignia, I would have to guess that these are Army Nurses.

The Museum of the Reserve at Fort McPherson, GA has in its collection a World War I era Army Nurse Corps uniform just like the ones in the photo.

One, at least

I believe that the lady at the desk is in the photo at the bottom of this page. She would be Major Julia Stimson, Superintendent, U.S. Army Nurse Corps. (far right, second row).

"Some distinguished visitors in the person of Major Julia Stimson and her entourage were in Ellsworth last Saturday and called on Rev. and Mrs. C.A. Fisher of the Methodist Church. Major Stimson is head of the nurses in the army and is the only woman major in the United States army. She had charge of ten thousand nurses during the war."

Julia Stimson, chief nurse, was concerned about her nurses working in the casualty clearing stations, but knew they were strong. “What with the steam, the ether … the odor in the operating room … sewing and tying up and putting in drains while the doctor takes the next piece of shell out ... Then after fourteen hours of this … off to rest if you can … one need never tell me that women can’t do as much, stand as much, and be as brave as men,” Stimson wrote. (VF Women at War, March 2008) I concur. My ex-husband's grandmother served in WWI at the Buffalo Base Hospital, in Vittel, France. I admired her greatly and had the honour of transcribing her wartime diary. She died just short of her 106th birthday. She was also the first Aboriginal Canadian to be trained as a nurse but no one in Canada would train "an Indian" so she applied and was gladly received by the New Rochelle nursing school.


"After her service in the First World War, Stimson remained with the military, becoming the superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps and the first dean of the Army School of Nursing. In 1920 she became the first woman to achieve the rank of major in the U.S. Army. Stimson retired from the Army in 1937 and then served as president of the American Nurses Association from 1938 until 1944. Stimson returned to the Army during World War II to recruit nurses to the Army Nurse Corps, retiring a second time at the end of the war. Stimson was promoted to the rank of full colonel six weeks before her death, at the age of 67, in 1948."

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2021 Shorpy Inc.