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Working in a Louisville hospital during World War II

February 25, 2011 in 1940s-1950s, Military history, Primary source

Constance Cline Phillips, 1945, UNC-Greensboro Library

Constance Cline Phillips, 1945

Constance Cline Phillips of North Carolina dropped out of college and signed up for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in February 1945.  After attending six weeks of basic training at Fort Des Moines in Iowa, she spent  four months in X-ray technician school at Camp Atterbury in Indiana.  Then, she was stationed at Nichols General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky from August 1945 to March 1946 when it was closed.

Phillips (1924- ) gave an oral history interview along with her papers and documentation about this time period in her life to the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (where she returned after the war to finish her education in what was then called the Woman’s College).

X-Ray Department Staff of Nicolas General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, Fall 1945. According to the identification on the back of the photo, "This is an example of the hard life we lead." Constance Cline Phillips is kneeling at left. From UNC-Greensboro Libraries Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

X-Ray Department Staff of Nicolas General Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, Fall 1945

In her interview, Phillips talked about the Nichols General Hospital in Louisville where her work as an X-ray technician was part of medical experimentations using wounded veterans.  She remembered Nichols General as a “nerve center” where soldiers whose injuries made them into paraplegics.  Many of them, she said, had extremity nerve injuries – some had been wounded quite a long time before – and the surgeons were experimenting with ways to rejoin the nerves.

X-Ray staff at Nichols General Hospital, 1945

X-Ray staff at Nichols General Hospital, 1945 – from UNC-G Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

“…they used tantalum wire, is something I remember X-raying to see how close something was getting to something to rejoining.  But I think that was where some of the first paraplegics were kept alive. I don’t believe they understood the technology to be able to do that. So that was very interesting. And of course, most of our patients were male. Very few females. Which, of course, at twenty I thought was cool.

WAC barracks at Nichols General Hospital, Louisville 1945 - UNC-Greensboro Libraries

WAC barracks at Nichols General Hospital, Louisville 1945

Phillips remembered that the WACs had their own barracks at Nichols Hospital (“Well, see, we were peons and segregated”) – and the local nurses were in “another segregated area.”   However, Phillips does not address this issue of segregation as one of race (though later in the interview she indicates that she was a white supremicist).

Oneida Miller in 1943 before she started work at Nichols General Hospital in Louisville

Oneida Miller, Army Nurse Corps, 1943

Oneida Miller Stuart who served as an US Army nurse there then remembers that there were about 30 African-American nurses and 100 White nurses attending approximately 500 veterans and prisoners of war (most from Germany and the Pacific front).  She remembered the difficulties of working with Whites despite her professional status and experience: “We were called ‘nigger’ many a time… but you just kept on going.” (audio excerpt)

Phillips met her husband Mike at the Hospital in Louisville – he had been serving as a truck driver in an Army unit recently returned from Germany.  “They didn’t know what to do with all these people at the end of the war, because they were overstaffed.  So they put him on as a ward boy.”  He later became a professional football player, but her first memory of him was seeing him in the hospital: “So here came this great big fellow, moving a patient on a stretcher very gingerly. It didn’t bounce him off the walls.”

This memory is explains also why the young Oneida Miller, in her early 20s similar to Phillips, chose not to move her patients herself anymore. She described her pace of work as progressively becoming “too slow” since she was often accosted by the American GIs who did not want an African-American nurse.  The racism still an important component of the American day-to-day interactions allowed for her to rely on this future football player to serve as a “ward boy.”

~~~~~

Resources:

Oral history interview with Constance Cline Phillips, 1999. WV0082.5.01. The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project, University of North Carolina-Greensboro Libraries. Full text transcript available online: http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/results5.aspx?i=2015&s=5.

Listen also to the oral history interview with Oneida Miller Stuart, an African American servicewoman in the Army Nurse Corps who worked at the Nichols General Hospital in 1945 – Oneida Stuart Collection (AFC/2001/001/4850), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.04850/

by Measha

Margaret Ingels

December 6, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

Margaret IngelsMargaret Ingels (1892-1971) was born in Paris, Kentucky. In 1917, she was the first woman at the University of Kentucky to graduate with a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering. She got a jobas an engineer at Carrier in their Pittsburgh office.

In 1920, Ingels was the first woman in the United States to earn the professional degree of mechanical engineer.[1] She became a specialist in air conditioning. Her history of women in engineering (“Petticoats and Slide Rules,” pp. 85-97 in Women in Engineering: Pioneers and Trailblazers. Ed. Margaret Layne. ASCE Publications, 2009) chronicled the lives of women like herself – “petticoat engineers.” She also wrote a biography, “Willis Carrier: Father of Air Conditioning” which was published in 1952. She worked in the field for thirty-two years, retiring from the Carrier Corporation in 1952.

I think this is very interesting due to the fact that she broke down barriers by being a women in a male dominated field. An engineering major for a woman in her days was non-existent and to be the first women to obtain this degree is a major accomplishment. It is so empowering for all women, when barriers are broken down so that other can follow in their footsteps.

[1] “Margaret Ingles,” Hall of Distinction, College of Engineering, University of Kentucky. Accessed 1 December 2010. http://www.engr.uky.edu/alumni/hod/ingels.php

by Measha

Lillian H. South

December 5, 2010 in 1960s-1970s

Lillian H. South, bacteriologistLillian H. South (Jan. 31, 1879-Sept. 13, 1966) was born in Warren County, Kentucky. She studied to be a registered nurse at the Nurses Training School of the Central Hospital in Patterson, New Jersey, and continued in her education to become a bacteriologist.

She accomplished such great things and also overcame barriers for women during this time. She was credited with the elimination of diseases such a hookworms [1]. She also carried out inoculation campaigns against scarlet fever, malaria, small pox, typhoid, and leprosy [1]. Lillian was also the state bacteriologist at state board of health Louisville. She would go on to held this position for 40 years [2]. She was very involved in state and national organizations. South was an active member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Kentucky Medical Association, Jefferson County Medical Society, and other associations [2].

Although, Smith did not have to overcome racial barriers, she had to fight the barrier of being a women in a male dominated world in the early 1920s. She would go on to do some amazing things. Women like her set the path for other women to be able to help make changes in the medical field.

1. http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/fcs1/fcs1323/fcs1323.pdf

2. “Dr. Lillian Harold South,” Warren County Medical Society. Accessed 5 December 2010. http://www.warrencountymedicalsociety.org/Lillian%20South.htm

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