The Red Cross Nurse - 1918

Dinner Menu and Passenger List of American Red Cross Doctors and Nurses Aboard the Hamburg-American Line SS Red Cross, 1914.

Dinner Menu and Passenger List of American Red Cross Doctors and Nurses Aboard the Hamburg-American Line SS Red Cross, 1914. GGA Image ID # 1d8291c7b7

Some details of Red Cross work in which women are especially interested—Fields of opportunity suggested by Woman's Bureau—Nursing service—Emergency detachments—Town and country nursing—Instructions for knitting, comfort kits, hospital garments, etc.— Home Service Institutes in twenty-five cities.

The Woman's Bureau of the Red Cross does not undertake to deal with the professional women in the nursing field, as this is under the Bureau of Nursing. Still, it is reaching out to the non-professional or lay-women of the country, who, though not explicitly trained for a particular line of work, can render valuable service in time of war when every resource must be utilized.

The Woman's Bureau suggests the following as some of the fields of opportunity open to the laywomen for effective service:

(1) The giving of a united and unqualified service to the Red Cross. Every woman in the country should be an enrolled Red Cross member. It is becoming increasingly important that the great work of war relief should be controlled in such a way as to reduce to a minimum both the waste of effort and material, and the women of the country have an opportunity as never before to sink individual opinions and work shoulder to shoulder to make the war a success.

(2) The production of all kinds of supplies, such as:

a. —Surgical Dressings. The need for these is so great that the Red Cross is sending surgical dressings workers to Paris. Yet, the Red Cross representatives in Paris say that this would not be necessary if the women in America only realized how much more effectively, they could work in this country, where they are not handicapped by a shortage of food, coal, etc.

b. —Hospital Garments and Other Hospital Supplies. The emphasis here should be placed on making such articles as requested by the Red Cross to avoid the waste now existent in making vast quantities of articles that "somebody says are wanted," but no one knows just why or where.

c. —Knitted Garments for soldiers both at home and abroad. With the possibility of a severe wool shortage, it must be used only for such garments as are urgently needed and requested by the Red Cross.

d. —Comfort kits for soldiers in the cantonments, in the hospitals, and in the trenches.

e. —Christmas packets for the men in the cantonments, in the hospitals, and in the trenches.

3. The cooperation with local Red Cross Chapters for such activities as:

a. —Assisting in all forms of civilian relief.

b. —Assisting at local canteens.

c. —Providing comforts for sick and convalescent soldiers.

d. —Dispensing cheer and comfort to soldiers1 dependents.

e. —Tendering for use in chapter activities use of automobiles, either with personal service or hired chauffeurs.

4.The volunteering of service at own expense for service in the war zone for various forms of work to be done under order. Demand is made from time to time for a limited number of foreign service to assist in certain specified lines, such as:

  • Canteen service.
  • Surgical dressings. 
  • Social service.
  • Stenographers.
  • Bookkeepers.
  • Translators.
  • Interpreters.

(5) Providing money, equipment, etc., for workers who are qualified for service abroad but cannot defray their expenses.

These are some of the essential services in which laywomen can help. To be of the maximum of assistance to themselves, the untrained woman should seek required training to the men on the firing line and in camps and to the Red Cross. The American Red Cross, through its vast machinery of Divisions and Chapters, offers channels through which training in most lines may be secured and in all of those directly bearing on war relief.

The successful laywoman is the one who can:

1. Take orders.

2. Be cooperative — work with as well as for the Red Cross.

3. Regard her service to the country as the enlisted man does his oath of allegiance.

4. Exercise sound judgment and have the breadth of vision.

5. Regard service as her keynote.

Miss Florence Marshall, Director of the Woman's Bureau, says: This world calamity gives to the Red Cross an opportunity to give expression to the best and most characteristic side of American life, and to do it on a scale called for by the immensity of the sorrow and distress of humanity, and the Bed Cross seeks the aid of the women of the nation in the gigantic task. The Red Cross knows the women are equal to the emergency.

Emergency detachments of the Nursing Service have been found necessary because of war. The body of enrolled Red Cross nurses constitutes the reserve for the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. The purpose of the formation of emergency detachments is to make available all over the country groups of Red Cross nurses organized for instant call to active service.

The organization of emergency detachments is ordinarily affected by Red Cross nursing committees throughout the United States. An emergency detachment's usual strength is nine or ten members, but a smaller number may be authorized.

Members of emergency detachments:

Must be enrolled Red Cross nurse or eligible and willing to enroll.

Must not be over forty nor less than twenty-three years of age (in very exceptional cases, some latitude may be allowed beyond the set limits upon application to the Director of the Bureau of Nursing Service at Washington, stating the circumstances).

Must pass a physical examination and file certificate of an examination upon the form furnished by the Red Cross.

Nurses must send these certificates to Washington through the Local Committee or the organizing nurse of the detachment—additional physical examinations may be required from time to time; must file a certificate of immunity upon a form also furnished by the Red Cross showing that the applicant has been vaccinated for smallpox and inoculated for typhoid and paratyphoid; those who have had typhoid fever or complete immunity treatment for the same need not take the therapy unless specially requested to do so.

Enrolled Red Cross nurses receive no compensation except when assigned to active duty. When called into active service with the Army and Navy Nurse Corps, they will receive the pay provided by law for said Corps, namely, $50 a month in the United States and $60 a month elsewhere, plus maintenance and traveling expenses. Chief nurses may receive an additional salary.

The following is an extract from instructions received from the Office of the Surgeon-General of the Army. The Navy Department has made a similar ruling.

Reserve nurses assigned to active service during the war will be expected to serve as long as they may be needed. A nurse who desires relief from active service may apply, therefore by letter to the Surgeon-General, through the proper channels, stating her reasons in full.

If these reasons are sufficient in the judgment of the Surgeon-General, her request may be granted. Return transportation will not be authorized to nurses who have served less than one year unless the need for their services ceases to exist or to those who are discharged for misconduct.

A nurse who is found to be unsuited for the service, physically, professionally or temperamentally, will be furnished transportation to her home for relief from active service, without regard to the length of service.

Special circular are 702 concerning equipment, including specifications for uniform, will be supplied to each nurse before assignment to active duty. A regulation outdoor uniform has also been adopted.

Red Cross nurses assigned to war service become thereby part of the United States military establishment. Although they remain Red Cross nurses, their papers are transferred to the Army or the Navy Department, as the case may be. Thereupon assumes jurisdiction and issues orders and instructions covering assignments to duty and details of transportation.

It is crucial that organizing committees should at all times maintain their detachments at maximum strength and have reasonable assurance that each member is available for duty.

However, under no circumstances should nurses give up positions or buy equipment except on direct orders from Washington. Vacancies caused by illness or any other reason should be filled immediately, and all required papers for the substituted members should be sent at once to Washington.

The refusal of a nurse to serve in time of war for any reason other than illness should be investigated. Such refusal without justifiable cause should be reported promptly to the National Committee.

When the organizing nurse of a detachment is asked to submit names and addresses of nurses available for duty, it is imperative before such are sent that she communicates with each individual nurse to ascertain if she is ready for service.

At the same time, she should determine the correct address to which the assignment for duty, oath of allegiance, and transportation may be sent.

The nurse should remain at the address given until these orders are received. If this is not done, it results in great confusion in the War Department and reflects the efficiency of the Red Cross Nursing Service.

When possible, nurses should assemble at a central place and proceed together to their appointed destination. Under such circumstances, the orders can be mailed to the organizing nurse. If this is not possible, the order may be issued to each nurse at the address given.

A phase of Red Cross work that should interest many women, especially those in small towns and rural districts, is the Town and Country Nursing Service.

This department grew out of a realization of the need for a national organization of specially prepared nurses for public health work in small towns and rural districts and was established in November 1912.

The Town and Country Service does not operate in towns or cities of over twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Red Cross public health nurses are employed by boards of health, boards of education, county boards of supervisors, industrial companies, anti-tuberculosis associations, women's clubs, and various other groups.

A fee is usually charged by the local nursing organization where nursing care is given, although patients who cannot afford to pay for such help are not denied it on that account.

There probably never was a time when the question of health and conservation of life was more vital to the nation than now. Instruction in a community in the proper feeding and care of infants and older children and hygiene for the school child, in the conservation of food supplies and in the making of sanitary homes, will go far towards the prevention of disease and of needless suffering and death among those who must carry the unusual burdens resulting from a state of war. Public health nursing may well be termed the first line of home defense.

The Bureau of Town and Country Nursing Service is one of three bureaus of the Red Cross Nursing Service, the other two being the Bureau of Nursing Service and the Bureau of Instruction.

The latter is in charge of classes in-home nursing and home dietetics. The Bureau of Nursing Service controls the nursing service (including public health nursing) for war and disaster and operates through the Department of Military Relief.

The Red Cross realizes the importance of sending only the best-prepared nurses to the rural districts where the lone worker carries a heavy responsibility.

Great care is accordingly exercised in the assignment of public health nurses to duty. Those desiring further information on this subject should ask their nearest Red Cross Chapter, their district chairman, or the National American Red Cross for circular A. R C. 204, which contains suggestions for the organization and administration of public health nursing in small communities, and for the guidance of chapters and other associations contemplating the employment of Bed Cross public health nurses.

A Committee of Dieticians of the American Red Cron was appointed in 1916 by the National Committee on Nursing Service to pass on the credentials of applicants for the dietician service of the American Red Cross, not for active service with the society in any emergency that may arise, but as instructors in the Red Cross course in Home Dietetics.

This Committee was also made responsible for the establishment of uniform standards for the enrollment of dieticians. There are widening opportunities for instructors chiefly through the agency of Red Cross Chapters.

The course of instruction for women, which has been provided by the Red Cross and placed under the Bureau of Instruction at national headquarters, deals with the importance of a well-balanced diet for adults, children, and invalids; the proper selection and comparative nutritional value of food; and the underlying principles of dietetics, together with the practical application of this knowledge to buying, cooking and serving food. Instructors in this course are subject to the regulations of the Red Cross Nursing Service.

For further information on these regulations, dieticians may confer with the educational Committee of the nearest Red Cross Chapter.

Miss Jane A. Delano, Chairman National Committee on Red Cross Nursing Service, is an ex-officio member of the Committee on Red Cross Dietician Service.

The original Committee consisted of:

  1. Chairman, Miss Emma H. Gunther, Columbia University, New York City;
  2. Miss Isabel Ely Lord, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y.;
  3. Miss Annie W. Goodrich, Columbia University, New York City;
  4. Miss Elva A. George, Red Cross Headquarters, Washington, D. C.

An enlarged committee was found necessary, which includes the following members:

  1. Miss Grace E. McCullough, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, Mass.;
  2. Miss Mary A. Lindsley, Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Ill.;
  3. Miss Ada Z. Pish, William Penn High School, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  4. Miss Edna White, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio;
  5. Miss Effie Raitt, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.;
  6. Miss Emma Smedley, Philadelphia, Pa.;
  7. Miss Hath Wheeler, University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.;
  8. Miss Lenna Cooper, Battle Creek Sanitarium, Battle Creek, Mich. ;
  9. Miss Catherine J. MacKay, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa;
  10. Dr. Agnes P. Morgan, University of California, Berkeley, Cal;
  11. Miss Helen M. Pope, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pa.

The Red Cross may add other members as necessary.

Comfort kits are always in great demand. The Woman's Bureau of the American Red Cross, Washington, D. C., has issued a circular Number A. R. C. 402, which thoroughly explains the proper method of making these comfort kits and a list of articles should contain. All Red Cross Chapters should be able to supply this circular.

Completed articles should be sent, if possible, to the nearest Red Cross Chapter. When this cannot be done, they should be sent directly to the Red Cross Division Supply Service in the closest of the following cities: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle.

The Woman's Bureau also issues a circular (A. R. C. 400) giving complete instructions for knitting sweaters, mufflers, helmets, socks, wristlets, washcloths, bottle covers, etc. Every woman who wishes to knit for the Red Cross should have these instructions, as they are official. Completed articles should be sent, if possible, to the nearest Red Cross Chapter. When this cannot be done, they should be sent directly to the Red Cross Supply Depot, New York City.

The Home Service of the Red Cross under the Department of Civilian Relief should be familiar to every American woman. The absence of the head of the family is the absence of one of the essential household members, often, indeed, the senior partner. In many homes, the absence of a son or brother who may have been the head of the family involves a hardship second only to that of the husband's absence. Any deprivation of advice and sympathy is a heavy handicap to a household, even in times of peace.

The purpose of the Home Service is not merely to offset the loss of income that the absence of the head of the family involves, but to make possible the same standard of living that during his presence was in force. More than this, when the standard of living is low, it is the duty and the opportunity of the Home Service visitor to raise the standard.

The President himself has said, Battlefield relief will be effected through Red Cross agencies operating under the War Department's supervision.

Still, civilian relief will present a field of increasing opportunity in which the Red Cross organization is especially adapted to serve. I am hopeful that our people will realize that there is probably no other agency with which they can associate themselves especially and respond so effectively and so universally to alleviate suffering and relieve distress.

In July 1917, the Woman's Bureau sent two representatives to France to study garments and other supplies needed for the hospitals and refugees.

These representatives and other women already in Prance were appointed by the Red Cross Commission in Paris to act as a special committee for this purpose and made a partial report on the garments and supplies immediately needed.

Anticipating the winter's severe cold in Prance, this report emphasized the need for warm materials, such as outing flannels, heavy bath robing, etc., for hospital garments.

Models for garments have been sent to the Woman's Bureau by the Committee in Paris. The models have been given to the pattern companies, which have agreed to issue patterns in strict conformity with them.

These patterns will be the official Red Cross patterns and can be obtained from chapters, stores, or pattern companies for ten cents each.

Patterns available and material desired for each article are as follows:

  • Pajamas—Material: For winter—Flannel or outing flannel, good quality. For summer—Ginghams, seersuckers, and similar material.
    Color: Light or dark stripes desirable for American hospitals; only dark colors for French hospitals.
  • Hospital Bed Shirts—Material: For winter—Canton flannel and twill, good quality. For summer— Twill, or good quality bleached or unbleached muslin. Bed shirts should be at least 1 yard and 4 inches long, finished.
  • Hospital Bed Shirts (taped)—Material: Same as for bed shirts.
  • Bathrobes and Convalescent Robes—Material: For Winter—Heavy bath robing. For summer— Gray blanketing, either plain or with striped borders.
  • Bed Jackets—Material: Bath robing or other very warm, soft material.
  • Convalescent Suits (lined pajamas)—Material: Outing flannel of dark plain color for outside and white for the lining.
    Color: Blue, lined with white, with which red tie can be worn, especially desirable. Essential to have convalescent patients conspicuous.
  • Bed Socks—Material: Flannel or outing flannel.
  • Undershirts—Material: Lightweight flannel or flannelette (white).
  • Underdrawers—Material: White outing flannel or unbleached muslin.
  • Bandaged Foot Socks—Material: Outing flannel, preferably dark; lined with white.
  • Operating Gowns—-Material: Twill, of a good grade.
  • Operating Caps—Material: Same as for operating gowns.
  • Operating Leggings—Material: Canton flannel or flannel.
  • Operating Masks—Material: Hospital gauze or cheesecloth of good quality.
  • Icebag Covers—-Material: Hospital gauze or cheesecloth of good quality.
  • Hot Water Bag Covers—-Material: Outing flannel.

The patterns for the garments are all issued in two sizes, medium and large. For American hospitals, two medium-sized garments should be made to every one of large size. For French hospitals, no large sizes are needed. The same garments and other articles are wanted by both American and French hospitals where no special mention is made.

Materials, including emblems that are to be used on the garments when the patterns call for them, can be purchased by the chapters from the Division Supply Depots.

The notable points emphasized in the report of the Committee are

1. Convalescent robes should be warm; heavy bath robing is preferred.

2. Pajamas should be made of flannel or good outing flannel for winter use.

3. Pajamas for the French hospitals should be made in dark colors, as Frenchmen wear them only when about the hospitals and out-of-doors. Those for American hospitals may be made in light colors.

4. Convalescent suits (lined pajamas) are needed. The men wear them in other suits in American and French hospitals. They should be made of bright-colored materials that the convalescent patient may be conspicuous.

5. Both pajamas and lined pajamas are preferred with a turn-over collar with which a tie may be worn.

6. Nightingales are not desirable for either American or French hospitals. Bed jackets are used in place of them and should be made of warm material.

7. Operating leggings are desirably made of flannel of heavy Canton flannel for winter use.

8. Heavy, warm machine-made men in the tuberculosis hospitals need sweaters with long sleeves; no particular color is mentioned.

9. Carpet slippers, or Romeos, or any good soft slipper with leather soles that can be worn about the wards and in the hospital grounds are needed.

10. There is an endless demand for socks— the Red Cross model (for Red Crops model of socks, see A. R. C. 400) made with heavy yam and large needles (at least as large as No. 10 steel) are desirable but other good models will be acceptable.

The report of the Committee on the need for hospital linen and supplies calls for the following articles for which no patterns are given:

1. Sheets (both bleached and unbleached) at least 64 inches wide and 102 inches long. These may be wider or longer as desired.

2. Pillow slips of bleached or unbleached muslin for French hospitals should be 28 inches wide and 30 inches long and should have three pairs of tie tapes stitched on the inside of the hem to hold the pillow in. For American hospitals, they should be about 36 inches long by 21 inches wide when finished.

3. Plain towels and bath towels. There is a great demand for towels of all sorts.

4. Washcloths, either bath toweling or closely knitted ones.

5. Handkerchiefs, colored preferred; white acceptable.

6. Comfort pillows, all sizes, and shapes, filled with any good soft material.

7. Bright colored bags, unfilled, for the men to use in the hospitals for their small personal belongings. The gayer, the better.

8. Mattress covers need not be supplied for American hospitals. For French hospitals, they should be made of ticking with French seams. One end should be left open for stuffing: measurements, 6 feet 4 inches long by 2 feet 6 inches wide and 5 inches thick.

9. Bedspreads. Colored cotton or chintz, 7 feet long by 5 feet wide. These should be packed in lots of 50 or 100 of the same material.

10. Old linen, any size, in good condition is wanted.

Garments that will probably be needed in the most considerable quantities are pajamas and hospital bed shirts.

Those needed in the second-largest quantities: convalescent suits (lined pajamas); underdrawers, undershirts, taped hospital bed shirts; bathrobes; bed socks; bed jackets.

Those needed in smaller quantities: operating caps; operating masks; operating gowns; operating leggings; bandaged foot socks.

All other supplies, towels, sheets, pillowcases, etc., are needed continuously.

A representative of the Woman's Bureau will remain permanently in France to study the demands for all kinds of garments and supplies to keep chapters in touch with the latest needs.

Boxes containing garments and hospital supplies should not exceed 3x2x2 feet in size. They should be made of five-eighths inch tongue, and grooved boards firmly joined at the corners and should be lined with heavy waterproof paper, which must extend over the top of the contents after the box is filled. When possible, each box should be filled with only one kind of garment or supplies.

Garments or supplies designed for American or French hospitals should be packed in separate containers and so marked outside the box.

Each box of garments should contain the waterproof paper wrapping, a typewritten inventory of its contents following the shipper's name and address.

Containers should be marked on top "American Red Cross, Division Supply Depot," with the address to which the box is sent. The name and address of the shipper, the serial number of the box, and a statement (stenciled on the wood) of the contents of the box should also be given. A red cross four and one-half inches high and wide should be painted on each end of the box.

Express companies will accept gifts to the Red Cross for shipment at two-thirds of their regular rate when prepaid and addressed as above.

Chapters should ship to their Division Supply Depot in one of the following cities: Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, New York, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Denver, Washington, Cleveland, San Francisco.

An invoice or notice of shipment, giving the serial number of the box or boxes sent, and all shippers should mail duplicate copies of their inventories to the Chapter or Division Supply Depot to which the shipment is being forwarded.

For more efficient operation, the American Red Cross has decided to divide the United States into Thirteen Divisions, each of which will be a separate and complete operating unit of the Red Cross, under the Division Manager's supervision.

Each Division Manager will look to National Headquarters at Washington to determine questions of policy and suggestions that will increase the efficiency and productivity of the chapters in his division.

All chapters will deal directly with the division organizations, and the head of each chapter will be responsible to the Division Manager in each case.

The National organization will have contact with the chapters only through the various division offices.

By such decentralization, National Headquarters at Washington will be enabled to give closer study and attention to significant policy matters and the fullest possible extension and development of the American Red Cross.

Ida Clyde Clarke, "Chapter XII: The Red Cross Nurse," in American Women and the World War, New York-London: D. Appleton and Company, 1918, pp 148-165.

Return to Top of Page