Women's History Month: The Nurse!

To understand your future you must know your past.

March is Women's History Month – we have come a long way over the years, this month especially, we commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

During WWII, more than six million American women participated in the war effort; however only about 350,000 women served in uniformed roles such as pilots, medical professionals, engineers, mechanics, and office administrators. No role, however, was more historically important and visible than the nurse. Throughout history, nurses provided physical, emotional, and mental support and encouragement to wounded and dying soldiers.

March 1945 marked an important shift for military nurses—on March 6, 1945, the first woman landed in Iwo Jima as part of an air evacuation mission. As the first female flight nurse in a combat zone in the Pacific Theatre, Ensign Jane “Candy” Kendeigh spent her time caring for 2,393 evacuated marines and sailors—she treated their wounds, fed those who couldn’t feed themselves, comforted those in severe mental and emotional agony, and kept everyone on the plane as comfortable and healthy as possible until they reached Guam. A month after her mission at Iwo Jima, Jane flew north from Guam to help clean up the aftermath of the Battle of Okinawa: Jane, along with other flight nurses, helped evacuate more than 11,000 sailors and marines to Guam to receive more extensive medical treatment.

Jane Kendeigh is important not only because she cared for thousands of wounded and dying servicemen, but because she helped pave the way for women in the military. Nurses in World War II didn’t receive medals for their service or even broad recognition for their brave actions; nevertheless, these women risked life and limb by going to live battlefields to help save the lives of sailors and marines during some of the most important and costly battles of World War II.

Women like Jane Kendeigh helped solidify women’s place in military history by proving that they were able to sacrifice themselves in order to serve and protect their fellow countrymen.

Photo and credit to Dr. James Sandy


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