Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part III): DeKalb County Cadet Nurses

The United States and the world is currently facing a pandemic like we’ve never seen before. Some have said that society has not been unified under a single cause like this since WWII. So today, thank and support healthcare workers who are on the front lines of this epidemic. Then, remember the nurses, doctors, and nurses’ aides who also served in crucial roles during WWII.

To read the previous post about DeKalb County women during WWII, please click here.


To help alleviate the shortage of civilian and military nurses at the beginning of the war, the US government offered a free nursing training program through the Cadet Nurse Corps, a part of the Public Health Administration. The program ran from July 1, 1943 to December 31, 1948, and more than 120,000 women completed the rigorous training and joined the Corps. About 64 women from DeKalb County joined the Cadet Nurse Corps. After training, they were assigned to civilian and military hospitals and public health agencies, and were required to stay in active service for 6 months after the war.

Verta Mumaw, who attended St. Luke’s School of Nursing from 1943-1946. (Image source: Stott family photos)

The free education definitely allowed women to get an education when they might not have otherwise been able to afford it. Verta Mumaw, a young woman from DeKalb County, remembered, “So this little girl from the country goes to the big city to a Nursing School. My folks drove me in and yes I was scared stiff.” The program even paid for all tuition, books, housing, and uniforms, and as a freshman, Verta earned $10 a month at St. Luke’s in Chicago. By the time they were seniors, they earned $30 a month. They typically worked 8 hours on the floor of the hospital, attended classes, and the rest of their off-duty time was spent studying. The programs were quite rigorous, and many women left because of grades, homesickness, illness, marriage or pregnancy, or making dangerous mistakes while on duty. Many of the registered nurses already on duty were recruited into the service, leaving the hospitals understaffed. As their training progressed, the Cadet Nurses bravely took on more and more responsibilities and patients. Student nurses often made up the bulk of the nursing force. As nurses they saw some important changes in the medical profession, including the introduction of penicillin and increasing standards of sanitation and treatments.

Women who completed the program were prepared to join the Nurse Corps in the Army or Navy, or become a civilian nurse. A few DeKalb County women, like Betty Craig, Doris Hagman, Janice Lindus, and Margaret Weydert, joined the ANC or NNC after completing the program. The war ended before many of them had graduated, so most new registered nurses were assigned to civilian or VA hospitals. Most of the DeKalb County women remained civilian nurses in the area after completing the program, and were dedicated nurses throughout their careers. Collectively, Cadet Nurses were essential to our hospitals operating and healthy during our time of crisis. They remain a vital part of our healthcare system today.

When Verta Mumaw was a Cadet Nurse, she found this poem in a frame at a gift shop in downtown Chicago. She and other nurses were inspired by this nurse’s prayer:

A Nurse’s Prayer

The World grows brighter year by year,

Because some nurse in her little sphere

Puts on her apron, and smiles, and sings,

And keeps on doing the same old things.

Taking the temperatures, giving the pills

To remedy mankind’s numerous ills.

Feeding the babies, answering the bells,

Being polite with a heart that rebels.

Longing for home and all the while

Wearing the same old professional smile,

Blessing the new-born Baby’s first breath,

[Closing the eyes that are stilled in death.]

Taking the blame for all mistakes.

Oh, Dear! What a lot of patience it takes.

Going off duty at seven o’clock

Tired, discouraged and ready to drop,

But called out to help at seven-fifteen

With woe in the heart that must not be seen,

Morning and evening, noon and night

Just doing it over, hoping it’s right.

When we report off to cross the bar,

Dear Lord, will you give us- just one little Star

To wear on the cap of our uniform new

In the ward above, where the head nurse is YOU.

[I believe the above poem was published by Buzza mottos in about 1910’s or 1920’s. If someone has further information about this poem or motto, please contact me.]

 


Phyllis RandMariJane HoldernessRita Herrmann

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phyllis Rand, MariJane Holderness, and Rita Herrmann where three DeKalb County women who attended St. Luke’s School of Nursing with Verta Mumaw during WWII.

 


The following women from DeKalb County served in the Cadet Nurse Corps during WWII. The information provided reflects their names and hometowns at their time of service. An (*) next to a woman’s name indicates that they later joined the Army or Navy Nurse Corps during the war.

Name Dates of Service Hometown School of Nursing
Mary Rose Adee 1944-1947 DeKalb / Clare Copley Hospital, Aurora
Agnes Mae Anderson 1945-1948 Waterman / DeKalb Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Hannah Jeanette Baker 1943-? Waterman Copley Hospital, Aurora
Mary Margaret Barrett 1943-1946 DeKalb Loyola University School of Nursing, St. Bernard’s Unit, Chicago
Eileen Louise Benson 1944-1947 Shabbona Evanston Hospital of Nursing (Northwestern University), Evanston
Evadine Marie Benson 1945-1945 Sycamore West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Hollis R. Breunig 1944-1944 Somonauk St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Lois Ruth Carroll 1943-1946 Genoa West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Marjorie Dorothy Christenson 1945-1946 Hinckley Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Audrey Lea Coss 1943-1946 Lee / Paw Paw Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Craig* 1943-1944 Shabbona St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Betty Jane Crisler 1943-1946 DeKalb Loyola University School of Nursing, St. Bernard’s Unit, Chicago
Marie Lucille Diedrich 1944-1947 DeKalb Mercy School of Nursing of St. Xavier College, Chicago
Margaret Irene Douglass 1945-1948 Shabbona St. Charles Hospital, Aurora
Betty Jean Dunning 1943-1945 Sycamore Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Marjorie Irene Dunning 1944-1944 Sycamore Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Mary Loretta Duffy 1944-1947 Waterman St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Eva Xenia Fenwick 1943-1943

1944-1947

DeKalb St. Luke’s Hospital, Chicago  and Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI
Margaret  Jane Foose 1943-1944 Hinckley Copley Hospital, Aurora
Barbara Joan Flusch 1943-1944 DeKalb Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago
Betty Cloe Garner 1945-1948 Hinckley West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Elizabeth “Beth” A. Gilchrist 1943-1946 Waterman Copley Hospital, Aurora
Beverly Gene Gliddon 1945-1948 Kirkland Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Doris Elizabeth Hagman* 1943-1944 DeKalb Sherman Hospital, Elgin
Catherine Louise Herrmann 1945-1948 Shabbona St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Rita Jean Herrmann 1943-1945 Lee St. Luke’s Hospital, Chicago
Rosemary Herrmann 1943-1946 Shabbona St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Elizabeth Mae Holderness 1945-1946 DeKalb Silver Cross Hospital, Joliet
Marijane Holderness 1943-1945 DeKalb St. Luke’s Hospital, Chicago
Jean E. Holroyd 1945-1948 Genoa West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Mary Elizabeth Holroyd 1944-1946 Genoa West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Betty June Hueber 1944-1946 Kingston Rockford Memorial Hospital, Rockford
Agnes C. Jensen 1945-1948 Sandwich Copley Hospital, Aurora
Melba Elaine Kemnitz 1943-1945 Sycamore Sherman Hospital, Elgin
Mary Catherine Kennedy 1944-1945 DeKalb St. Therese Hospital, Waukegan
Janice Elaine Lindus* 1943-1944 DeKalb Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Jean Barbara Lucas 1944-1946 Kingston / Flora Twp, Boone Co., IL St. Anthony’s School of Nursing, Rockford
Marian Eileen Lucas 1943-1946 Kingston / Flora Twp, Boone Co., IL St. Anthony’s School of Nursing, Rockford
Marjorie L. Maple 1943-1946 Waterman Copley Hospital, Aurora
Dorothy McCabe 1943-1946 DeKalb St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Ora June Meyer 1944-1945 Shabbona Copley Hospital, Aurora
Mary Jo “Judy” Mohrmann 1944-1944 DeKalb / Paw Paw / Earlville St. Joseph Hospital, School of Nursing, Elgin
Mava Jean Morsch 1945-1947 Hinckley Copley Hospital, Aurora
Joan Irene Mueller 1945-1948 Sandwich Copley Hospital, Aurora
Verta May Mumaw 1943-1946 Mayfield St. Luke’s Hospital, Chicago
Joyce Ellanor Nelson 1944-1947 DeKalb Augustana Hospital of Nursing, Chicago
Mila Marie Pearson 1943-1946 Mayfield / Sycamore West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Phyllis Grace Rand 1945-1948 Malta St. Luke’s Hospital, Chicago
Shirley Pauline Rote 1944-1946 Sycamore Cook County Hospital, Chicago
Margaret J. Rueff 1945-1948 Waterman West Suburban Hospital, Oak Park
Evodia June Seablom 1945-1948 Maple Park Lutheran Hospital, Moline
Eudora Jayne Shaw 1943-1946 DeKalb Wesley Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Maxine Elizabeth Snyder 1943-1944 DeKalb St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Margaret J. “Peggy” Sparrow 1943-1946 Sycamore St. Joseph Hospital, School of Nursing, Elgin
Bonita Mae Stoda 1943-1945 Genoa St. Joseph Hospital, School of Nursing, Elgin; Hines Memorial Hospital, Hines
Gertrude E. Tadd Yount 1944-1946 DeKalb Rockford Memorial Hospital, Rockford
Shirley M. Walker 1944-1947 Sandwich Copley Hospital, Aurora
Doris Mae Warner 1943-1946 DeKalb Copley Hospital, Aurora
Helen Irene Warner 1943-1946 DeKalb Copley Hospital, Aurora
Margaret Louise Westbrook 1943-1945 Somonauk Evanston Hospital of Nursing (Northwestern University), Evanston
Margaret Emily Weydert* 1943-1944 DeKalb / Maple Park St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Aurora
Joyce G. White 1943-1945 Kirkland Swedish American Hospital School of Nursing, Rockford
Lilly Lucinda Wilcox 1943-1946 Shabbona Copley Hospital, Aurora

2 thoughts on “Hidden Heroes of WWII (Part III): DeKalb County Cadet Nurses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.