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Second mothers: fictive kinship and patriotic feminism in the Army Nurse Corps, 1917-1975.




Franks, Cassie, author
Little, Ann, advisor
Yalen, Deborah, committee member
Conway, Thomas, committee member

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The Army Nurse Corps, founded in 1901, has been shaped over the last century by a hierarchy of age and experience among nurses in the ANC, many of whom served in a previous war, creating intergenerational links to women who served in later war. Through the work and action of women such as Col. Florence Blanchfield, who served as a Chief Nurse in WWI, then as the superintendent of the ANC from 1943-1947, Col. Althea Williams who served as an officer in WWII and Korea, then served as the Chief Nurse for the Army during the Vietnam War, and countless others, the ANC challenged the militaries treatment of sex differences and women's ability to serve. The relationships between higher and lower ranking ANC officers and the hierarchy and age between these groups of women shaped their experience, ideas, and the ANC itself. The work of these women, and countless others, illuminates the position of experienced nurses, their leadership, and how their rank and experience allowed them to not only teach the younger generation of nurses but created a sort of proto-feminist consciousness among Vietnam Era nurses. Many Chief Nurses, higher ranking officers, and experienced nurses, earned the nickname of "Ma," "Mama", or "Mother." These women helped to cultivate an environment that allowed women to serve under pressure, look to their superiors for assistance, and challenge the gender norms that permeated the 20th century military.


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