Angels of World War One: Nurses from Washington County, Ohio
November 26, 2018
Ella Kathleen Hoff
In August 1914, the American Red Cross saw the conflict in Europe as a great humanitarian crisis and decided on a mission of neutrality, by providing medical aid to wounded soldiers on both sides of the war. Their plan was to ship medical personnel and supplies to Europe and then to disperse them in small groups to areas of need. The S.S. Red Cross left New York in September 1914 and headed to Europe. On board were 30 surgeons and 125 Red Cross nurses. The ship also carried 10,000 tons of medical supplies contributed by the American people. On the passenger list of nurses was E.K. Hoff, of Washington County, Ohio
Ella Kathleen Hoff served in a reserve hospital in Vienna, Austria. Ella had attended the Cincinnati Training School for Nurses and was working at the Cincinnati City Hospital when she joined the Red Cross Nursing Service. Ella and several of her coworkers were on the Red Cross mission to Europe. Nurses accepting this medical mission agreed to a 6-month contract and received $60 per month. On arriving in New York, the nurses received uniforms and other items needed for hospital work. The nurses were to wear their uniforms, including their Red Cross badges, on board ship for their protection as “neutrals.” During the voyage, the nurses attended classes taught by the surgeons to prepare them for the work ahead. The classes included the metric system and language instruction. The nurse’s lectures also included appropriate moral conduct. The Red Cross wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the formal cultures of Europe. At various ports in Europe, the medical teams of 3 surgeons and 12 nurses disembarked, destined for France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Ella and her team served in Vienna, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There these medical teams began treating the wounds, infections, mustard gas burns and emotional injuries—shell shock—of the soldiers. By mid-year 1915, the Red Cross medical teams were called home due to lack of funds to continue the mission, along with the German blockade of Allied ships making it difficult for the Red Cross to send supplies needed by their teams. Ella Hoff is listed on the passenger manifest of the S.S. Frederik VIII. Ella traveled with seven other nurses from Cincinnati on the return trip. Ella had gotten sick while working in Austria and she died of tubercular pneumonia a month after returning home. Her obituary stated, “Nurse Dies a Heroine.”
Alice M. Young
After the United States declared war against Germany in April 1917, Red Cross nurses were called to work in training camps. City fathers of Charlotte, North Carolina, successfully lobbied for a camp, which they hoped would bring economic benefits to the city. Planners designed Camp Greene to support about 40,000 troops in training at any given time. However, the Army constructed the camp hastily which, as reported by the Representative from New Hampshire, resulted in very poor living conditions for the soldiers. The report cautioned about these conditions and the potential for infectious disease to flourish. This occurred in 1918 when the Spanish Flu epidemic hit Camp Greene. It was particularly deadly for those who cared for the sick. Washington County Ohio Red Cross Nurse, Alice Young was at Camp Greene in October of 1918.
Alice was born in New Matamoras, Ohio. She died, age 41, of pneumonia in October of 1918 while she was working in the hospital in Camp Greene. On Alice’s grave in New Matamoras, there is an outline of a Red Cross, with “Army Nurse Corporal,” and the Latin phrase, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.” (It is sweet and honorable to die for one’s country). There are two photos of women in the memorial to those from Washington County who served and died during WWI. One is Ella Hoff, and the other is in a white nurse’s uniform is Alice Young.
During the Great War, 23,822 nurses served with the American Red Cross, and of those, 19,931 were on active duty overseas with the Army, Navy, US Public Health Service, and the Red Cross. One hundred ten nurses died overseas due to illness and 186 died in the U.S. Many of the nurses were awarded medals of honor from Britain, France and other countries, including the United states. In researching the patriotic service of the Red Cross Nurse in the Great War, I found this metal sign that was inspired by the knowledge of the sacrifices made a generation ago by Red Cross Nurses. I think these nurses were truly angels to those they cared for during the Great War.
Conditions of Camp Greene. Speech of Hon. Sherman E. Burroughs of New Hampshire in the House of Representatives, February 22,1918 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1918) (http://docsouth.unc.edu/wwi/burroughshs/burroughs.html)
Contributions of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War I (https://e-anca.org/History/Topics-in-ANC-History/Conributions-of-the-US-Army-Nurse-Corps-in-WWI)
Davidson, Henry P., The American Red Cross in the Great War. New York: Macmillan. 1919.
Middleswart, Bell. History of the Washington County, Ohio, Chapter American Red Cross, April 10, 1917- April 10, 1927. Paper presented by request of Women’s Centennial Association and read, in part, before that organization in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross, April 10, 1027).
Sandusky Ohio Daily Register, July 16, 1915, page 3 column 2 “Nurse Dies a Heroine”.
S.S. Red Cross Passenger List 13 September 1914. gjenuick.com/PassengerLista/Hamburg-AmericanLine/Eastbound/1914-09-13-PassengerList-RedCross.html