As WWI broke out, the need for nurses quickly became apparent. The Red Cross became involved right away and sent a ship to Europe filled with supplies, doctors, and over 125 nurses to aid victims of war (either side.) Throughout this year, over 250 American nurses served.
When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, there were 403 nurses on active duty and over 8,000 were already registered nurses thanks to the efforts of Jane Delano, the founder of the American Red Cross Nursing Service. Delano had served as the head of numerous nursing services and in 1912 began traveling around the United States giving speeches to nursing schools and others interested in taking up the cause.
The Red Cross also organized women throughout America to aid the war effort. Propaganda posters encouraged women to join to help in any way they could. Rolling bandages, knitting socks, and recruiting men who had not yet joined the armed services were some of the duties nurses were assigned other than actual nursing duties.
Once appointed a Red Cross nurse, women helped by serving at emergency stations near the fighting, field hospitals behind the lines, evacuation hospitals, and base hospitals abroad or at home. A Volunteer Nurses’ Aide Service was also created in 1918 to help the regular Red Cross nurses with many of the commonplace tasks in the hospitals. Recruitment of nurses was very successful and allowed the number of nurses serving during American participation in WWI to grow to over 23,000.
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