Online at the Library of Virginia are nearly 15,000 questionnaires completed by some of the estimated 100,000 Virginians who served in World War I. They are one result of the work of the Virginia War History Commission (1919–28), which sought “to complete an accurate and complete history of Virginia’s military, economic and political participation in the World War.” Here is a small sample of female respondents:
• Camilla Ruth Atkins (1891–1986) of Blackstone, VA, was an Army Nurse Corps nurse who served at Camp Lee (located between Petersburg and Hopewell, VA) from November 1917 to July 1918 and in Toul, France, from September 1918 to early February 1919. She wrote, “We got our hospital in working order in time for the St. Mihiel drive, then got patients from the Argonne, Th[iau]co[ur]t, etc. During the five months of our actual service we treated over 17,500 boys.” Although she noted that there was a shortage of staff, her pride can be seen in her comment, “…out of several thousand gas patients we treated[,] not one lost his eye sight.” The entry on her in The Final Roster: A Roster of the Soldiers Who Saw Service in the Great War from Nottoway County, VA notes that she also cared for German prisoners and returned American POWs during her overseas war service. The December 1928 issue of the American Journal of Nursing states that Atkins volunteered and was sent by the Red Cross to Puerto Rico to assist with health care in the aftermath of the Okeechobee hurricane. There is no mention of her Army service on her gravestone in Lakeview Cemetery, Blackstone.
• Edna Brearley Bishop Myers (1894–1968) of Fredericksburg, VA, was an Army Corps nurse assigned to Toul and cared for those exposed to poison gas. She wrote, “The only thing that hurt was not to be able to do more.” She is buried in Old Saint David’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Cheraw, SC.
• Nancy Adah Joynes Thomas (1892–1971) of Nassawadox, VA, enlisted as a Yeoman (F) in September 1918 and worked at the Navy Yard in Norfolk, VA. She wrote, “Until humanity changes, military service is an important and necessary adjunct to civil life” and “I have realized that a well balanced life should contain some interest and goal, which can only be worked out by the person concerned and not decided by others.” In 1932, she inherited the historic property Woodlands Farm on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
• Sara Mildred Tucker (1888–1952?) of Sandidges, VA, first cared for wounded servicemen at a New York City hospital before she was sent to St. Denis, France. She noted, “…[M]y Army service made me appreciate our boys as never before. . . . We had a fine site for our hospital—good officers, nurses, and splendid boys.”