VA History: 1923–National Homes Open For Women Veterans

Ninety-three years ago today, on September 14, 1923, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (VHA’s origins) approved the first hospital spaces for women veterans.

1924_02_17_National Homes accepting disabled women veterans_NYT

Hospitalization and medical care for women who served as Army or Navy nurses during World War I were first authorized as part of Public Law 65-326 on March 3, 1919, just a few months after the Armistice. It was the third time in history that federal veterans benefits had been extended to women nurses who served with U.S. military forces as contractors or employees during wartime. The first federal benefit—pensions–was authorized in 1892 for women nurses who provided support to the U.S. military during the Civil War. In 1897 Congress approved the right to burial in national cemeteries for the same group. Although the 1919 law gave women nurses the right to medical care, no facilities were prepared to accept them.

The Women’s Overseas Service League, founded in 1921, took up the cause to force changes so that women veterans could use the benefits they were entitled to. Only after the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers approved dedicated space for women veterans did the War Department take further action.  The World War Veterans Act of 1924, as well as several smaller acts afterwards, ensured that accommodations were made to house and provide medical care to women veterans.

At the National Homes, a separate building at the Danville Branch (now VA Illiana HCS) in Danville, Illinois, was authorized for women veterans who required general medical treatment. A floor was reserved for them in the tuberculosis hospital at  the Northwestern Branch (now Clement J. Zablocki VAMC) in Milwaukee.  Catherine G. Witter, a 39 year old Army nurse who served at Camp Zachary Taylor during World War I, was one of the earliest women veterans admitted. She entered the Danville (IL) Branch on December 19, 1923 and died of stomach cancer on July 14, 1924. She is buried in the Home’s cemetery, now known as Danville National Cemetery.

By the time that the National Homes became part of the Veterans Administration in 1930, more hospitals had been constructed and opened, so women veterans weren’t limited to just one or two facilities.

Roughly 21,500 women served as nurses during World War I, with about 10,000 of them serving overseas.

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Photo: American nurse in Paris, France, during World War I, Library of Congress

Links to learn more:

http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/WWIhttp://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/WWI

Women’s Overseas Service League: http://www.wosl.org/photo.htm

Story: VA Historian

 

 


History Tidbit – America’s First Veterans Benefit

Two hundred and forty years ago on August 26, 1776, roughly eight weeks after American colonists announced their “Declaration of Independence” and made known their intentions to be set free from British rule, the Second Continental Congress approved the first Veterans benefit that was national in scope—pensions for those disabled in military service.

In 1776, the Second Continental Congress was a transitional government with no recognized powers or treasury, but they faced a full-blown war with England and pensions were offered as inducements for those willing to fight for freedom.  Payment of Veterans’ pensions fell “to the assemblies or legislatures of the several states. . .on account of the United States.” In 1781 the Articles of Confederation established a weak central government with the majority of power resting with a loose confederation of sovereign states.

Disability pensions were the first Veterans benefits established in the New World by colonists of the British Empire. Since the first successful permanent colony was established in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, individual colonies increasingly created their own laws and public benefits. Read the rest of this entry »


New Mexico Author Looking For Photos of KAFB for new Book

Joseph Page, who has authored several books about military installations, is looking for good-quality photos about Kirtland Air Force Base and, especially photos of its families.  If you’d like to submit your photos to add to the book–due out in late 2017–please email Joseph at joseph.t.page.ii@gmail.comIMG_0480


1st Lt. Adela Lutz

image0021st Lt. Aleda Lutz

Twenty-six years ago, on August 15, 1990, Congress enacted Public Law 101-366 to name the Saginaw, Michigan, VA Medical Center after World War II flight nurse, 1st Lt. Aleda E. Lutz. Saginaw was the second VA facility to be named after a woman. There are currently two VA medical centers named for women.

Aleda Lutz was born in Freeland, Michigan on November 9, 1915 to German immigrants, Fred and Margaret Lutz. She graduated from Saginaw Arthur Hill High School in 1933 and shortly afterwards entered the Saginaw General Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1937 and worked at the hospital as a registered nurse until February 10, 1942 when she enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps. She was initially assigned to Selfridge Air Field near Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

In December 1942 she was transferred to the 349th Air Evacuation Camp at Bowman Field near Louisville, Kentucky, where she was part of the first group of women to train as specialized flight nurses. The first class of Army flight nurses—then called “air evacuation unit nurses”–graduated on February 18, 1943. She was then assigned to the 802nd Medical Air Transport Squadron, the first of its kind activated in the Army Air Corps, and deployed to North Africa.

She served as a flight nurse through the Tunisian, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns and logged over 800 combat hours flown. She was killed while evacuating 15 wounded soldiers to Italy on November 1, 1944, eight days shy of her 29th birthday, when her transport plane crashed near Lyon in southern France. It was her 197th mission.

She was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, the Oak Leaf Cluster, Red Cross Medal, and Purple Heart, posthumously. In addition to the VA Medical Center name designation, a U.S. Army Hospital Ship and C-47 airplane have been named in her honor.

Aleda Lutz is buried in the Rhone American Cemetery in Draguignan, France, which is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Historian, Veterans Health Administration

 


Can’t Prove Me

by Circe Olson Woessner

While filling out a form for a job, I pause

“…List last five supervisors, and can we contact them?”

I answer:

1.) Yes-But good luck finding her

2.) No. Retired–address unknown

3.) No. Deceased

4.) No. PCSd–address unknown

5.) No. PCSd–address unknown

On to the next question

“…List last five employers and a good point of contact.”

1) Still here–see #1 above

2.) Still there-Maybe the secretary would remember me

3.) Base closed

4.) Post closed

5.) I guess it’s still there, but I doubt anyone would remember me

Moving on:

“…List last five residences and two neighbors who would remember you.”

  • My current neighborhood’s not very friendly; I don’t know any of my neighbors
  • Most folks have PCSd
  • Base is closed-who’s to ask
  • That was overseas. I don’t remember the street name; we had a PO box on post. Plus the post’s closed
  • Come on, really? No one stays in one place so long!

Last question:

“Where did you go to school? Can someone verify your attendance?”

  • School bankrupt and gone (as well as my money)
  • Still there—but since I went online, you’ll just have to trust my transcripts
  • BA-Still there, but I don’t want alert their alumni fundraisers to my whereabouts
  • AA-School closed; Post closed (sigh)
  • High School-School closed; Post closed. I can refer you to the FB page. Someone will remember me.

I’m an Army spouse…

With such a sketchy past, do you think I’ll really get the job?

Can’t prove me–

 

 

 

 


VA History: Atomic Research

Seventy-one years ago the world’s first atomic bombs used for military purposes were dropped by the U.S. on Japan to facilitate an end to World War II. The first bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” using the uraninum-235 isotope was dropped on August 6, 1945 on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, a second bomb using plutonium and nicknamed “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. Both bombs had been built under the special “Manhattan Project” which officially began in 1942 under the U.S. Army. Six days later, on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered. A formal signing of the surrender took place in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. Each bomb leveled areas four miles wide, killed and injured tens of thousands of men, women, and children, and ushered in a new era of exciting scientific possibilities tempered by fear from the new reality that they could annihilate all of mankind.

After the war, atomic research flourished worldwide and followed two major paths: development for use in warfare and development for peaceful purposes. Barely one year after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, the U.S. Congress enacted the Atomic Energy Act on August 1, 1946. The act established the Atomic Energy Commission, which became the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1974. An important component of the law authorized the use of atomic radioisotopes for biological and environmental research to benefit society. By the end of 1947, the Veterans Administration was among the first federal institutions to initiate an Atomic Medicine program. Read the rest of this entry »


End of Racial Segregation in VA Hospitals

End of Racial Segregation in VA Hospitals

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The nation’s first federal system of veterans’ hospitals for the masses of Civil War volunteer soldiers—the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (VHA’s origins)—were racially integrated from the very beginning. The first African American Civil War veterans were admitted to the National Home’s Central Branch in Dayton, Ohio—now known as Dayton VA Medical Center—in March 1867. The attached 1880 census excerpt from the National Home in Dayton shows African American veterans housed in the same barracks as Caucasian veterans. They lived, worked, and dined with one another with no problems reported and racial harmony mentioned periodically in annual reports.

After the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case decision, the practice of “separate, but equal” accommodations based on race took hold in American society, especially in the South. When the National Home opened its new Mountain Branch in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1903, veterans were segregated by race. Twenty years later the first federal veterans hospital established exclusively for African American veterans opened in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1923 for those who served in World War I. Today that historic hospital is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and known as the Tuskegee VA Medical Center. Two more segregated hospitals for African American veterans were proposed and considered by Congress in 1947, but the NAACP protested all efforts to do so and they never came to fruition. Read the rest of this entry »