There were eight graduates in the Blessing Hospital Training School for Nurses Class of 1916. Three of them served with the American Red Cross Nursing Service in World War I. The Rev. F.J. Brown of the Payson Congregational Church gave the graduation address May 18, 1916. He said, "Now when the world is at war there are many chances for heroism on the part of the nurse. But in peace there are many parts as noble to play and they are often harder to play."
One year later, the class held a reunion with seven of the nurses living in Quincy and one in St. Joseph, Mo. Cora Boyles, Florence Brown, Blanche Markley, Lois McTucker and Eulalie Sellers worked at Blessing Hospital. Ethel Robinson did private-duty nursing, Della Bennett moved to Missouri, and Nola Pease was waiting to receive a commission from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions. Three of the group would join the Red Cross Nursing Service.
There were prerequisites to joining the Red Cross Nursing Service. The nurse must have graduated from an accredited nursing school, passed her licensure examination to be a registered nurse, and have two years of general nursing experience in a hospital of at least 50 daily patients of both sexes. As The Quincy Daily Herald said in 1917, "She must be not only of voting age, but must have added four additional years of discretion and arrived at the mature age of 25, yet she must not have passed her fortieth birthday." In addition, she must be a member of a nursing organization affiliated with the American Nurses' Association and be endorsed by officers of that group. She must have the approval of the superintendent of the nursing school she attended and the local Red Cross committee. Finally, she must pass a physical examination. Cora Boyles, Blanche Markley and Eulalie Sellers joined the American Red Cross while working at Blessing Hospital.
Veta Blanche Markley was the first of her classmates to be sent overseas. She was born in Stillwell in 1892. After her graduation from Blessing Hospital Training School for Nurses in 1916 she worked at Blessing Hospital. She received her notice to report to New York City one week before the sailing date of April 10, 1918. Markley was assigned as a nurse with the Red Cross Commission for Italy. She was paid $60 per month. Before she left the states, she requested that $40 a month of her pay be sent to her mother, Laura Markley of West Point, Ill. She was stationed in Rome at a hospital for Italian and American soldiers until she was honorably discharged and sailed home on the steamship Re d'Italia, leaving Genoa, Italy, on April 27, 1919, for New York. Markley had served abroad for 11 months. She returned to Quincy, and after a few months applied to the Navy Nurse Corps in a letter that stated, "I will be ready for duty Oct 1, 1919." She served four years as a member in the Regular Reserve Navy Nurse Corps, working at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Annapolis, Md.
Once again, Markley returned to Quincy and did office nursing for a short time. She remained part of the American Red Cross Nursing Service for most of her career and held badge number 17177. Over the years she worked in veterans hospitals in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, with a special interest in neuropsychiatric nursing. With the start of World War II, the Red Cross contacted her, but as she was over 40, she was considered too old for military service.
Cora Boyles and Eulalie Sellers joined the Red Cross at the same time. When they left Quincy in June 1918, Blessing Hospital had 16 stars on its service flag honoring its nurses. Thirty-two graduates of the training school worked for the American Red Cross between 1914 and 1919.
Boyles was born on a farm just south of Augusta in 1894. She was the fifth child of John and Mary Boyles. Boyles left the farm in 1913 to attend Blessing Hospital Training School for Nurses. After graduation she lived in Quincy and worked at Blessing Hospital while she waited for her call to service. She and her classmate Eulalie Sellers left Quincy on the train for Chicago and continued on to New York. They both worked at General Hospital No. 1 in the Bronx while preparing for their overseas assignment. They were part of Group D of the American Expeditionary Forces, which had 100 nurses.
The two sailed on the RMS Olympic, where they joined 200 other nurses and more than 9,000 troops, crewmen and officers. Boyles listed her mother as her beneficiary on the ship's manifest, but Sellers listed her sister Margaret Sellers, a graduate of the Class of 1912, as next of kin, as her mother had died. Margaret was also a Red Cross nurse working at Post Hospital No. 2 on Long Island, N.Y.
While on the ship more than 650 passengers caught the flu. Many died, but Boyles and Sellers recovered and crossed the English Channel to Le Havre at the end of September 1918. They served in two base hospitals while in France.
The war ended Nov. 11, 1918, but many of the nurses remained in France. Boyles and Sellers requested discharge in April 1919. It was granted, and they left Europe in May. Upon arrival in Quincy, they returned to civilian nursing.
Blanche Markley retired to Arizona and died there in 1983. After retiring, Cora Boyles moved to Clayton and died there in 1976. She is buried in Golden. Her tombstone reads, "Army Nurse WWI." Eulalie Sellers died in 1955 and is buried in the Old Barry Cemetery. Her headstone reads "Nurse Army Nurse Corps World War I."
Arlis Dittmer is a retired medical librarian. During her 26 years with Blessing Health System, she became interested in medical and nursing history -- both topics frequently overlooked in history.
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of America's entry into World War I, this column will run a series of irregular articles about the area and its involvement in the war. The articles will coordinate with the "Remembering WWI" exhibit at the History Museum, which runs through 2018.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs, BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010. Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011.
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"Eight Young Women Complete Course at Blessing Training School." Quincy Daily Journal. May 19, 1916.
"Nobleness of Nurses," Quincy Daily Herald. May 19, 1916. p. 2.
"Nurses receive Call." Quincy Daily Whig, June 19, 1918, p. 7.
"Nursing News and Announcements." American Journal of Nursing 19, No. 1 (1918): 58.
"Red Cross Work During War Time." Quincy Daily Herald, Aug. 6, 1917.
Taylor, Karen S. "Cora Boyles Served her Country." Hancock County Journal Pilot. Nov. 11, 2009.
U.S. American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916-1959. Ancestry.com.
U.S. Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939: Outgoing: Olympic, Sept. 2-14, 1918.
VanderMeer, Nola Pease. The Tired Country Smiles. Detroit, Mich.: Harlo Press, 1983.