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.
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 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
|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|