On December 7, 1941, the Japanese made a surprise attack on the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, near Honolulu, Hawaii. One day later, the United States of America decided to officially become part of World War II, a conflict the nation had tried to isolate from for as long as possible, as a member of the Allied Powers.
Immediately, war production increased and propaganda began to call for all those able to join the war effort. America's women were encouraged to take up the jobs left behind by the men in the armed forces, and they did. Contrary to the traditional gender norms of American society in the 1940s, countless American women decided to not only join the workforce, but to join the military. Their courage to step out of their comfort zones caused them to face hardship and discrimination, but ultimately lit the fuse for a drastic change in a woman's role in American society forever, and helped push many women to pursue careers previously considered inappropriate for them. When women began to invade the military, society was unsure how to react, but as they contributed vitally to the war effort, many began to support and appreciate the presence of women in a sphere that had been barred to them for centuries.
The presence of nurses, serving the United States military since the American Revolution, was less shocking for many, as that barrier had been crossed back in the Civil War. However, never had women been able to pursue an actually military career through nursing, and never had they had the chance to rise in the military ranks and be treated almost as if they were soldiers themselves, and with some of the respect associated with it, until World War II. Thousands of American women answered the desperate plea of the military for nurses to serve wounded soldiers, and thus embarked on an experience that would not only change their lives, but the evolution of the medical field and women's history in the nation.
Nurses served at home and abroad, in hospitals, on planes, on ships, and in hastily created field hospital tents amidst the sound of artillery fire. Regardless of where and how they served, all of these women had the agency to choose to participate in serving their country, and using that patriotism and willingness to help to pursue careers, gain recognition, and endure hardship to save lives.
This project, which was originally created for a graduate digital history class at Appalachian State University, has taught its creator so much about these incredible women, and the fascinating time period in which they lived their lives. It is a work in progress, as it will hopefully be expanded more as the author continues to study nurses in World War II.
The goal of this project is to shed light on some of the stories of these remarkable women, and to give people a glimpse into the overall experiences, both good and bad, of American nurses in World War II. Others have done similar projects telling specific stories of nurses, discussing specific fields of service, and focusing on certain events or aspects of life as a World War II nurse. The purpose of this website is to combine as many facets of the experiences of these women into one narrative that exhibits their overall experience, impact, power, and agency within the war.
This collections on this site all have specific topics, but can be browsed through in any order the viewer chooses, which fits well for those looking at the site for research purposes, or to just come away with a stronger knowledge of the importance of American women in medical service during World War II.
Cover Image Source:
“The Wartime Experiences of Two Women at Iwo Jima and Okinawa | The Sextant.” Accessed April 14, 2020. https://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/03/27/the-wartime-experiences-of-two-women-at-iwo-jima-and-okinawa/.