People do get tired of fill-in-the-blank: national day, week, month. These are often prompts for us, though, historical events and acts of altruism and courage, to remind us and teach us— now and in the future. Another one: March is Women’s History Month, with a focus on women in the labor force, and I simply must remark on this. One hundred years ago, on April 6, 1917 the US joined the world at war, with 413 nurses in active duty in the Army Nurse Corps (for contrast, there were 21,480 nurses by armistice day on November 11, 1918), with more than 10,000 of those nurses serving overseas. My grandmother, Lieutenant Edith Amy Hollindale was one of them (photo here from my book, “Solace: Story of a War Nurse” [download for free above]).
My grandmother always said, “the opportunity was there”, as she performed acts of heroism during her year of Army Nurse Corps service. Following her year on the battlefront in evacuation hospitals, she spent the remainder of her life caring for her disabled husband and many foster care girls rather than practicing a career in nursing like others of her cohort. But perhaps another role of heroism was living daily with the drudgery of caregiving and dependency of vulnerable people demanding her constant dedication. As we ponder the labor force of women, and the valuable example of so many amazing nurses over this past century, I add my voice to others and commend all the caregivers, both trained nurses and untrained family members, who sacrifice so much to provide quality days to those who are often forgotten in society…the disabled, the unwanted, the homely, the needy, and the dying. Though grandma received the purple heart for meritorious services during her time in France, she did not receive recognition for her years of service after the war. I am reminded of all the women who are serving their families today, as unpaid caregivers, who have not received compensation for their gift of self-sacrifice. My grandmother has my greatest respect and gratitude for the unheralded care she provided to grandfather and the many women who entered and stayed in her loving home over the years. She provided a beautiful example for the women in the generations to come.
Today, I’d like to recognise all the unpaid women caregivers in the labor force. My hope is that there will be a time in the future when these women might be recognised and recompensed for caring for the ill and dying in their homes, where few see the daily surrender and valor.
“Did you ever know that you’re my hero? And everything I would like to be. I can fly higher than an eagle, For you are the wind beneath my wings.”
To all the women, who have both in history and are today performing laborious acts of love, THANK YOU.
Wind Beneath My Wings, by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley
Solace: The Story of a War Nurse (A book written by Amy Getter) download button on top of this page.
Dear Amy, Thank you, as always, for your eloquent tribute to caregivers. My Mother served in the ANC 1942-46 in the neuro-psch hospital Fort Lawton. Her plans to return to nursing after childbearing were cruelly cut off in 1949 by the onset of a host of autoimmune diseases in an era long before medication to moderate pain or tissue damage. She used her nursing knowledge to direct her family in providing care. Originally, in her small community high school, she had followed a well-trodden path to enter ‘business school’ To qualify for entry to a hospital, diploma program in nursing, she returned for an additional year of science courses after high school graduation. Her roomate, who also served the ANC in the Philipines & France, still lives independently on Bainbridge Island at 97 y.o.
“Bravo!” to so many women coming of age in the first part of the 20th century who had the courage to take the opportunity before them, forging new pathways for all of us!