Helena Clearwater, WWI and WWII nurse.

Helena Clearwater, from the Army School of Nursing Annual, 1921

Kingston, NY, native Helena Clearwater (1879–1956) was the daughter of laborer John W. Clearwater, who was blinded while serving as a private in Company C, 80th New York Infantry, during the Civil War. According to Military Medicine (vol. 119, 1956, p. 218), she graduated from the Kingston Free Academy in 1897 and taught in Kingston schools before joining the US Student Nurse Reserve in 1917. In the 18 Feb. 1919 Kingston Daily Freeman, she related some of her experiences at USA Debarkation Hospital No. 2 on Staten Island (where men wounded overseas received care until they were moved to other hospitals. Clearwater also was listed as working at Fox Hills Base Hospital, also on Staten Island, in the Army School of Nursing Annual, 1921):

The rules are very, very strict. One is reprimanded for the first offense, but the second one means dismissal from post. …. There are 42 wards and about 72 beds to a ward. [S]ome have more. I am in a “doubledecker” No 35, where there are convalescents from gas attacks. They are a brave bunch, and I have become very much attached to them. We have some dreadful cases here, too dreadful to speak about! Death would be a blessing. One cannot be here without feeling the bitterest kind of hatred toward the people who caused these wrecks. Yet I haven’t heard one of these boys complain, even when they know how hideous they are.

We are evacuating this place fast, so by next week we expect to be pretty well cleared. It has been turned into a Reconstruction Hospital, and we expect about 1,000 patients tomorrow. The transport is in now. That means some dreadful litter cases and they will stay here.

The bugle call is 5:30 a.m. Then our beds must be “unfrocked,” even to the mattress and we must be at mess hall at 6:15 a.m. Then we will rush back to our rooms, make the beds up to pass inspection, which we have every morning; then dust, and we must be in the ward at 7 a.m. Now my ward is at least a mile from my room, so there’s some hustle for me. There are over five miles of corridors here. I leave the ward at 10 a.m. for class and am in class until noon, when we have lunch. Then there are classes in the afternoon except when I am in the laboratory. … The first year here will be really spent in study and when this course is finished it will be my own fault if I don’t know something. (6)

She also noted the following regarding food and recreation:

Our meals are splendid, I never ate better cooked food and when one thinks of two-hundred nurses eating at one time, they can imagine the fun. …. We have a fine Recreation Hall, prettily furnished, with a piano, 2 victrolas, lots of books, etc. We can go there at any time. Then the Red Cross Hostess House is just across from us, where we can get fine “eats” for mere nothing. Every Tuesday afternoon we have movies or a show. Tuesday is a very hard day so we have the afternoon off. (6)

Clearwater worked in pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology at Bellevue and graduated from the Army School of Nursing in June 1921, receiving her diploma from General Pershing, and was assigned to Walter Reed. In 1923, she was appointed superintendent of the Frances Warren Pershing Memorial Hospital (named for Pershing’s wife, who died in a 1915 fire) in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in a civilian capacity and returned to the army and Walter Reed in 1925. She served in the Philippines, China, Shanghai, Colorado, West Point, Louisiana, and Texas, and was promoted to captain in 1942. Clearwater received the Legion of Merit for, as the citation noted, “exceptionally meritorious service in the performance of outstanding service as the Chief Nurse, North Sector General Hospital, at the time of the Japanese attack on Hawaii, 7 December 1941 and in the months that followed. Captain Clearwater displayed unusual courage, fortitude and devotion to duty during this period and thereby rendered a service of great value.” She retired from the army in 1944. After Clearwater’s death from cancer in 1956, she was buried with full military honors in her hometown.

Further resources
• Helena Clearwater in October 1942 (photo)

• Helena Clearwater on Detroit radio program “In Our Opinion” with individuals from Battle Creek’s Percy General Hospital, 14 March 1943

Marjorie Kay: nurse, Yeoman(F), actress, singer, theatrical agent.

Born in Detroit, Marjorie Griffin Kay (1897–1949) was the daughter of Canadian-born jeweler Richard Day Kay and his wife Margaret. She appeared in Sherlock Holmes (1916, filmed at Essanay Studios in Chicago; see below) as the love interest of William Gillette’s Holmes and studied voice with Gioacchino Baralt in New York, participating in a recital of Baralt’s students at Carnegie Chamber Music Hall in May 1916. In early June 1916, Kay sailed for France intending to study languages, which she needed to pursue opera professionally. Instead, spurred by her Canadian aunt Amy Eaton, who was involved in relief work, she served as a nurse at the American Ambulance Hospital (aka American Red Cross Hospital No. 1) in Neuilly. She returned to the United States in September 1916 for a rest break, and it is unclear when she returned to France.

Marjorie Kay, right, assists in a facial reconstruction procedure for a wounded French soldier, ca. 1917. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

According to Kay’s Hartford Courant obituary, she served as a model for a World War I poster, but the title of the poster and the name of the artist were not identified. The only clues provided: she was in a nurse’s uniform, and the word give was on the poster. A candidate may be a 1917–18 poster by Albert Herter; compare it with a 1916 photo of Kay in the Library of Congress (see below).

The 9 January 1918 Jeweler’s Circular-Weekly reported Kay singing at the New Year’s 1918 open house of the Detroit YMCA. She spoke at the June 1918 meeting of the Dental Assn of Massachusetts, as the attendees were interested in learning about newly developed facial reconstruction techniques for wounded soldiers that Kay had observed as a nurse. Reported the 2 June 1918 Boston Sunday Globe:

Men were frequently brought to the hospital with their faces entirely gone below the eyes. Then it was that the American dentists went to work to reconstruct their faces.

Jaws were made from the small bones of the knees; these bones formed the sides of the jawa and were caught togther across the chin by aluminum wires, which held together composition in which the teeth, made separately, were imbedded.

She told about the making of brand new noses, in which operation the third finger of the hand was slit open and fastened upon the place where the nose belonged. There it stayed until the flesh had knit, and the finger was severed from the hand, and a presentable nose was formed. Skin, grafted from the leg, was used to form the surface of the new faces.

She saw a baby, only a few days old, who had been cut in two by a German officer and thrown at the feet of a Belgian mother. She saw babies whose eyes had been gouged out, and others with hands cut off by German soldiers. . . . .

“If I could only talk,” she said, “and could tell of the things I have seen, I should be the happiest girl in the world.” (“Ambulance Driver and Nurse” 56)

Kay enlisted in the Navy on October 22, 1918, serving as a Yeoman (F). The abstracts of World War I service for New York list her as working 20 days (Oct–Nov 1918) at the Cable Censor Office, Third Naval District Headquarters, New York. According to the Veterans Administration Master Index, she was discharged from the Navy on April 30, 1919.

Kay married Holbrook V. Bonney in November 1919. The marriage appears to have soured quickly, as the 1920 census (dated early January 1920) reports Kay residing with her parents in New York without her husband. The 26 September 1920 New York Tribune listed her as a member of the cast of the musical comedy Honeymoon Night (written by Mabel Keightley under the pseudonym M. de la Chambeaux); it played in Sag Harbor in September 1920 and in Hartford in October 1920. Kay obtained a divorce in December 1922 and relocated to Hartford, where her parents were living. She established the Marjorie Kay Studios (for theatrical preparation), the Marjorie Kay Dance Studio, and the Marjorie Kay Entertainment Bureau (a booking agency for performing artists). There is a touching letter to the editor in the 30 April 1927 Vaudeville News that mentions her kindness to a down-on-his-luck vaudeville performer.

Kay’s second husband was a man with the surname of Ford. Her third husband was William Anderson, whom she married in October 1936. She died in June 1949 and is buried at Northwood Cemetery in Windsor, CT.

Further resource:
Marjorie Kay paper dolls

“In the Name of Mercy, Give!” by Albert Herter (1917–18). Library of Congress
Marjorie Kay, Sept. 1916. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
William Gillette and Marjorie Kay in Sherlock Holmes (1916)

1918-19 flu pandemic lecture, Aug 18.

Russell Johnson, curator of the History of Medicine and Sciences at UCLA Special Collections, will give a virtual presentation on Building a Collection: Personal Narratives from the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic,” which will cover firsthand accounts of the flu pandemic and its impact on life and death in the military and at home and discuss collecting, writing styles, handwriting, genealogy, digitization, and other topics.

The presentation is scheduled for August 18, 6-7 pm ET. This free event is sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine Library, but a $10 donation is suggested. To register: https://www.nyam.org/events/event/building-collection-personal-narratives-1918-1919-influenza-pandemic/

25 Sept. 1918 diary entry by nurse Ethel Anderson (Base Hospital no. 44, Evacuation Hospital no. 5) about patients with influenza. NYPL

Film with WWI’s Joy Bright Hancock.

C-Span has posted the 1974 Navy film Ladies Wear the Blue, which features an interview with Joy Bright Hancock (1898–1986), a veteran of both World Wars. Hancock was a Yeoman (F) in World War I.

Joy Bright Hancock, ca. 1918.
Library of Congress, Prints and
Photographs Division.

Further reading:

Hancock, Joy Bright. Lady in the Navy. 1972. Annapolis: Naval Institute P, 2013.

Joy Bright Hancock Papers. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia.

Joy Bright Hancock.” Naval History and Heritage Command.

Leadership at Its Best: Captain Joy Bright Hancock.” Naval History and Heritage Command.

US female scientists of WWI.

For Veterans Day:

The Caduceus of 3 Aug. 1918 notes that nurse Marie X. Long (1886–1970) of York, PA, was the first female lab assistant at the base hospital of Camp Greene (NC), after she had undergone three years of training in laboratory analysis and served at the US Army General Hospital in Lakewood, NY. The 6 Dec 1919 York Dispatch (10) reported that she had been appointed assistant pathologist of the Illinois Central Railway, working out of the railway’s hospital in Paducah, KY. She published articles such as “The Value of the Wasserman Reaction in Diagnosing and Treating Syphilis” (American Journal of Nursing Mar. 1921: 369–75).


Rachel E. Hoffstadt. From Marshall Univ’s Mirabilia 1914.

Jefferson County in the World War states that Indiana-born Rachel Emilie Hoffstadt (1886–1962) was head bacteriologist in the hospital’s laboratory at Camp Sevier (SC) for seven months and was an instructor of chemistry and bacteriology for the Army Nurses School. She earned a BS in science from Hanover College (IN) in 1908, an MS in science from the University of Chicago in 1912, a PhD in science from the University of Chicago in 1915, and a PhD in hygiene from Johns Hopkins University in 1923. She was the first female graduate of Hanover College to earn a doctorate, and the biographical note with her papers at Hanover College states that she developed an oral vaccine for typhoid while at Camp Sevier.

Hoffstadt was on the faculty of Marshall College (now Marshall University) in 1914. In 1923, she became a member of the faculty of the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Washington. In 1929, she received the Mary Pemberton Nourse Fellowship to study at the Pasteur Institute in France. This 1946 photograph shows her as the sole female faculty member of University of Washington’s Medical School.

Further reading:

Madison’s Jewish Community: From Scholars to Politicians to the Parents of a Supreme Court Justice.” Madison [IN] Courier, 19 Aug 2017.


Kitty Steele Barrett Pozer, mechanic and ambulance driver.


Kitty Steele Barrett Pozer, right.   Imperial War Museum ©IWM (Q 30618)

Kitty Steele Barrett was born in Atlanta in 1888, the daughter of Rev. Robert South Barrett and noted social activist and physician Kate Waller Barrett. In 1916, she married Lt. Charles Henry Pozer of the Canadian Railway Troops, who was a nephew of Canadian senator Christian Henry Pozer. Kitty served as a mechanic and ambulance driver with the Canadian Army Service Corps for more than two years. In a 25 Mar. 1919 interview with the Sherbrooke [Canada] Daily Record, she described some of her duties:

…[W]e were under the Canadian army and as such were included in the service corps. We were . . . the only division of Canadian women  who were actually under army supervision. We were busy transporting wounded Canadians from hospitals to convalescent homes, and doing other odd jobs on the side. . . . .

Our principal work was to transport those men across London . . . But we also handled work throughout London whenever a discharged man fell sick, or men coming home had to be brought from trains to their homes.

Her husband rose to the rank of major and later became resident engineer for the Southern Railway. He died in 1947. Kitty wrote a longtime gardening column for the Washington Post and died in 1981. The publication La Famille Pozer (1927) refers to her as “femme courageuse et digne d’admiration”  (a brave woman and worthy of admiration).

Further reading:
• “Kitty Pozer Day” in Fairfax, VA, with photo of Kitty and Charles Pozer in World War I and information on Earl’s Ordinary (aka Ratcliffe-Allison-Pozer House) and garden, Fairfax Connection newspaper, 28 June-July 4, 2018. The house currently has the exhibition “The Barrett-Pozer Family in World War I.”

Audio, WWI Centennial News Podcast


Ruth Bryan Owen,  WWI worker, member of Congress, US ambassador

The audio has been posted from my appearance on the World War I Centennial News podcast, talking about some of the roles of the US women in the war. I’m on at about minute 37.15. There’s also information on an interesting documentary on the Hello Girls (the US switchboard operators who served in France) that will be part of several film festivals. As I am from New Jersey, I was happy to mention Flemington’s own Marjorie Hulsizer Copher.

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