In Her Words

Letter from Lucille S. Spalding to Louise Knapp, February 3, 1942

Many nurses in the 21st General Hospital were graduates of the Washington University School of Nursing. The unit’s chief nurse and others maintained a correspondence with their friends and associates at the Nursing School to keep them abreast of news from the army unit. Some of the letters were published in the School’s Nurses Alumnae Association Bulletin.

Lucille S. Spalding, chief nurse of the 21st General Hospital, was a 1931 graduate of the Washington University School of Nursing. She joined the staff of the St. Louis Maternity Hospital in 1931 as Assistant Head Nurse. By 1936 she had risen to the position of superintendent of Nurses. That same year Spalding joined the faculty of the Washington University School of Nursing as an instructor. In 1939 Spalding left St. Louis and joined the faculty of Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, as an assistant professor of Nursing. In January 1942 Spalding was called to service and appointed chief nurse of the 21st General Hospital.

In this letter to the School of Nursing’s director, Louise Knapp, Spalding shares the experiences of the nurses during their first days in active service.

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Letter from Lucille Spalding to Louise Knapp, 2/3/1942, page 1

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February 3, 1942

Dear Miss Knapp,
      Life continues to be very full here; but it is so much easier to relax since we are now with the rest of the “family” and no longer have to wonder when and where we will meet them. The glorious Georgia weather is a help too. It is fairly cool and the days are bright and clear.
      You know, of course, after our friends sending us off in a blaze of glory aided and abetted by swarms of photographers. In spite of the sailors and a later group of soldiers, our trip was comparatively uneventful. I passed on all

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Letter from Lucille Spalding to Louise Knapp, 2/3/1942, page 2

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the fatherly advice I received at Jefferson Barracks and the girls responded beautifully. The boys looked at them wistfully but were perfect gentlemen.
      When we stopped at Columbus to have our cars switched, Miss Anderson, the chief nurse here, boarded the train and wanted me to drive over with her – so I was at Ft. Benning with all the doctors to welcome the girls. It was all very gay, with the doctors singing a welcome and a long line of olive drab ambulances there to provide transportation. Believe it or not, a Post Dispatch photographer was also in the group and he has been haunting us ever since. We seem to be disrupting Ft. Benning as we did St. Louis – but here, as at home, everyone is wonderful to us.
      The nurses quarters are full so the girls are in a long barracks and seem to be enjoying

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Letter from Lucille Spalding to Louise Knapp, 2/3/1942, page 3

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      Most of our time has been spent, so far, in signing in, taking out insurance etc. This morning we received our field equipment which consists of a steel helmet, gas masks, and knapsacks – all to be gracefully draped about our persons when we leave.
      Our uniforms have not arrived but are expected soon.
      Tomorrow we all dress in our own white uniforms plus insignia and go into the hospital to learn “paper work” (records, slips, etc.). I am getting excellent instruction from Miss Anderson.
      Some of the nurses are getting experience in the operating room, others in medical, surgical, and psychiatric supervision – and others in the management of the nurses’ mess, and dispensary. They all seem very enthusiastic.

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Letter from Lucille Spalding to Louise Knapp, 2/3/1942, page 4

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The nurses all appreciated your message which I read to them on the train.
      Let me again thank you for your good wishes and all your helpful assistance and guidance. It was such a pleasure to be associated with you and to be among my old friends again. A special greeting to them all. Gradually I will get notes to them telling them how nice I think they are.
      We wish that you could all be here. The weather is glorious and Ft. Benning a beautiful and exciting place. Please tell Mrs. Maestre for me that I am writing to her very soon. Her good wishes and valuable assistance mean more than I can say.
      Now for the business at hand. We are delighted that nurses Thayer, Kohring and Walker are to join us. Col. Cady is expecting orders from Washington (S.G.O.). As soon as he receives them, he will contact you to instruct the nurses to start down here

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Letter from Lucille Spalding to Louise Knapp, 2/3/1942, page 5

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where the oath of office forms are made out. They are to be returned to Washington as were the others.
      Send on the forms 174 & 174-A to Major Flikke for these three. Just in case they may not be there I am inclosing some more blanks.
      We have 10 nurses from Lagarde Field New Orleans and 4 from Savannah Air Base. I don’t know yet where the others will come from. Col. Cady requested that Nurses Hagler, Morris, Foster, Phillips, Hardwick, and Harback he permitted to join us. So far, there has been no reply.
      Best wishes to you all.
                  Lucille Spalding