World War I nurses

On the base of the cannon at Norwalk Town Green, in an inconspicuous corner on one of the plaques, is a short list of women who served in WWI. They were nurses with the Army or Red Cross. While none died in the line of duty, their stories need to be told. The first world war entailed horrific conditions and injuries to those who fought. The recovery from that action was often times led by women like those on this list who volunteered to be there.

April 16, 1894 (New York City) – July 25, 1964 (Rhinebeck, NY); 70 years old
Last local addresses: 9 Strawberry Hill Avenue (1910 census) and 6 Harriet Street, Norwalk
Hazel Ball never married
Served November 1, 1918 to November 19, 1919

Was also a retired school teacher from William Cullen Bryant HS, Long Island City, NY.


March 30, 1888 (Pueblo, CO) – September 4, 1926 (Saranac Lake, NY); 38 years old
Last local address: 115 East Avenue, Norwalk (1910 census)
Married Dr. Edward Newman Packard of New York City in 1919
Unknown service dates

In husband’s obituary in 1968 it is written that he was married to “Mary Bissell Betts, one of the earliest occupational therapists.”

Husband Edward served two years during WWI and 1941 to 1946 when, as a Lieutenant Colonel, and later Colonel, he was medical chief of the Fort Dix and Holloran General Hospitals’ 6,500 beds for which he received the Legion of Merit.

May 24, 1892 (Norwalk, CT) – August 4, 1932 (New York, NY); 40 years old
Last local address: 200 West Rocks Avenue, Norwalk (1910 census)
Mary Callahan never married
Served September 16, 1918 to July 7, 1919

November 13, 1897 (Norwalk, CT) – April 1, 1983 (Alexandria, VA); 85 years old
Last local address: 45 Spring Hill Avenue, Norwalk (1910 census)
Married Robert Alexander Bowman
Unknown service dates

From  The Norwalk Hour August 4, 1919

Miss Mary Cavanaugh arrived at her home in Spring Hill Avenue last evening to enjoy a three weeks’ leave of absence from her duties in the army general hospital at Alexandria, Va. Miss Cavanaugh, a popular Norwalk young woman, has been serving as an Army nurse for the past several months.

Obituary from the Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch April 3, 1983

Mrs. Mae Cavanaugh Bowman who had been active in state nursing programs for more than 60 years died Friday. She was 85. Mrs. Bowman, a graduate of the Alexandria Hospital School of Nursing, had served on the hospital corporations board since 1947. Considered to be the first female bacteriologist in Virginia she also was an Alexandria welfare officer for years. Mrs. Bowman had been a member of the American Legion Post 24 since 1918 when she moved to Alexandria from Connecticut. She was a leading organizer of soroptimist clubs in the Alexandria and middle Atlantic areas.

January 16, 1894 (Norwalk, CT) – May 23, 1980 (Meriden, CT); 86 years old
Last local address: 11 Hanford Place, South Norwalk (1900 census); lived in Rochester, NY much of her adult life
Married to Franklin H. Smith
Served May 29, 1918 to May 22, 1919

April 7, 1892 (Norwalk, CT) – December 26, 1975 (Youngstown, OH); 83 years old
Last local address: 192 North Taylor Avenue, Norwalk
Married Joseph Paul Harvey of Pennsylvania in 1921
Served July 20, 1917 to April 15, 1919

From unknown newspaper but likely The Norwalk Sentinel. Clipping found in a collection in the Norwalk History Room of the Norwalk Library.

Mary Justinian Collins With the Post Graduate unit Base Hospital No. 8, A.E.F., France

We regret that our opening paragraph must be an apology. We tried to secure a photograph of Miss Collins from which to have a cut made. The only picture that was obtainable was an amateur 2×3 snap shot of a group of three taken in France some months ago. Miss Collins was one of the group and from this we secured the electrotype. We feel it is a great injustice to this noble young lady to use such a picture, however, we, ourselves, can see, even in this imperfect likeness, through its genial smile and sparkling eyes, a character which is indicative of kindheartedness, good humor and sympathetic love, who warm hand-clasp and compassionate words would give renewed vigor and comfort to the injured and tired out soldier boy. Passing through Osborne Avenue, East Norwalk, at number 78, one sees a service flag with three stars. Once of these stars belongs to Miss Mary Justinian Collins, the other two stars are for her two brothers who are also in the country’s service. Miss Collins was a trained nurse and received her training in the Post Graduate Hospital in New York. Previous to the United States going into the war she had been a very successful nurse for two years. When our country decided to enter into the great conflict abroad, Miss Collins at once enlisted her services as a Red Cross nurse, which step she took in April 1917, on Good Friday. She joined her own Hospital Unit which was largely made up of Princeton men on the medical staff. The Hospital Unit, some 250 in number, were on the steamer Saratoga which sailed from New York in July 1917, and when just outside of the harbor was rammed by the Panama, another steamer who pilot proved to be a German, and the intention was to sink the Saratoga with her cargo. Miss Collins was submerged with the incoming water and for two days suffered considerably from the shock. About two weeks later, the unit took another steamer and landed safely in France. Miss Collins immediately upon her arrival began to study the French language and soon mastered it sufficiently to enable her to make use of it. The following is an abstract from one of her letters to her aunt here at home:

Some Place in France, March 22, 1918, “I’m on night duty now and it’s the wee small hours of the morning and my patients are all in the land of nod, I have a chance to write you. We are planning our furloughs and expect to go to Nice. Miss Green and I expect to go together, but we may not as we have been separated ever since we came to France. Secretary of War Baker and General Pershing were here last week, and they made things hum for awhile, but again we have settled back into our quiet little ways. We have a dance every week and movies every night. We act just like regular people. My dear friend Mr. Chaplin appears a couple of times a week. By the way – admission is free, so there is always a good crowed. How is the coal situation – still very serious. It does not see quite possible to us here as we have plenty of everything. Tell Florence I am some knitter, I’ve made three sweaters and have started the fourth. I cannot sit idle, so I knit. I wish you could sit beside me for a few minutes and look down the ward. There are fifty beds here. The trunks and suit cases are at the foot of each bed and the clothes are hanging at the head. It reminds one of Hester Street, New York. I almost forgot to mention the very lovely basket of candy and fruit cake you sent me. We had several parties from same.” When Miss Collins enlisted as a Red Cross nurse, she passed her examination with a high standard of merit, except in one requirement. That one was her age, she was one year under age than the official regulations. But being persistent, and being so well qualified in every other respect, the age limit was overlooked and she was accepted. On one occasion since being in France, Miss Collins learning that some United States soldiers were expected to arrive, she stepped in one of the YMCA huts and wrote a note to greet the boys when they landed. The note was given to one of the captains who met the company and handed the letter to one of the young fellows. The young man opened the letter to read and found to his great surprise, that it was from his own sister, it being Miss Collins’ brother George to whom the letter was incidentally given. Extract from letter, April 18, 1918 – “Mr. Sculley was up to see me today. He looked splendid in his uniform. I was on duty at the time, so hadn’t much time to spend with him. However, we made the most of what time we did have, and he told me lots of good news. He saw Harry Haugh and Leonard Foster who are patients in this hospital. The weather here is lovely tho today it is a bit cold. Miss Green and I took a walk this morning and picked a large bunch of violets and forget-me-nots. Miss Green and I are in the operating room together. I heard from brother George a few days ago. He is well, and had received mail from home. Does brother Tom like the Navy? Where is he located and when have you heard from him?” Miss Collins’ brother George volunteered in May 1917, and has been in France since last August. Her brother Thomas is in the naval service and expects a call to go across. Miss Collins is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Collins of east Norwalk, and is one of a family of eight children. Mrs Collins the mother, was taken away in June 1904, leaving a family of small children. These motherless children are making a record that they can well be proud of. Miss Nora E. Ryan is their aunt and the extracts quoted were from letters received by her from France.

Referred to in the obituary of her son J. Paul Harvey Jr., “Mary Justinian Collins Harvey, a decorated World War I army nurse.”

From The Norwalk Hour November 14, 1917

Postals are expected from Miss Mary Collins and from George Collins of Osborn Avenue, who are in the Red Cross service in France. Miss Collins is in one of the French hospitals and Mr. Collins is at the front in ambulance work.  NOTE: 1910 census shows a George Collins, brother to Mary Collins, 4 years younger.

August 13, 1896 (Rowayton, CT) – February 9, 1978 (Mars, Wisconsin); 81 years old
Last local address: 97 Rowayton Avenue, Norwalk (1910 census)
Married John Garrity of Norwalk in 1920
Served April 1, 1918 to August 18, 1919

From unknown newspaper but likely The Norwalk Sentinel. Clipping found in a collection in the Norwalk History Room of the Norwalk Library.


Proud, indeed, is the Rowayton section of the city of Norwalk in being able to say that one of its young ladies, born and brought up in the community, realized the need for nurses and responded to the call, and is now in France doing all that is in her power to relieve the suffering of the boys from the U.S.A., as they are brought into military hospitals at Paris. She is Miss Marion Frances Crockett, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Crockett of Rowayton Avenue, a registered nurse, having received her training at the New Haven School for Nurses in connection with the New Haven State hospital. Miss Crockett as a child, attended the public school here and later in 1913 graduated from the Norwalk High School, and the following September, entered the New Haven training school. Of a pleasing personality and happy disposition, Miss Crockett was well liked and made many friends wherever she went. After her graduation from the school, she practiced her profession in the Elm City. Last April, when the call cam in for nurses for the cantonments, Miss Crockett, realizing the great need and wishing to do all she could to ameliorate the sufferings of our boys, enlisted in the American Red Cross, and was sent to Camp Meade, near Annapolis, Maryland, where she worked in the base hospital for five or six weeks. About the middle of June, when the call for trained nurses for overseas duty came, Miss Crockett joined the Army Nurses’ Corps and, in a few weeks, sailed across the ocean, and is now in active service with the American Expeditionary Forces in a military hospital in France. The following is a portion of a letter received from their daughter by Mr. and Mrs. Crockett and will doubtless prove interesting to her many friends here, who are happy to know that she is doing her bit for the country.

Paris, July 1
On Active Service, A.E.F.
Dear Mother and Father:

Just a few words at present to let you know we are assigned and settled down to work. This is the first day on real duty, except for a couple of nights on duty where we were last staying temporarily, and all I can say is that the war is terrible and I have seen comparatively nothing of it yet. We are situated nicely, and no doubt will enjoy our work, at least as much as can be expected under the circumstances. We are living in a hotel only a few blocks from our work.

July 18, 1918

As I did not send the letter on the 15th will add a few lines more and send it out tomorrow. The last two days have been busy ones, lots of work, and no off duty, but we are glad to do all we can for our boys so don’t mind it. When I see the amount of dressings they use here, seems good to know that at least the greater part of them are made by our women over home. We have a few French patients on my floors and I have great fun trying to talk to them. Sometimes I succeed in making them understand, mostly I do not. The aids here, untrained nurses, are a great help to us, and I don’t know what we would do without some of them.

From The Norwalk Hour February 20, 1919

Miss Marion Crockett who is a nurse at a hospital in Paris writes that she is very busy and does not know just when she will be able to leave for home. She is anxious to get back home once more.

April 19, 1894 (Norwalk, CT) – February 16, 1977 (Westport, CT); 82 years old
Last local address: 9 Courtland Place, South Norwalk
Married Henry Rippe of Westport in 1922.
Served September 28, 1918 to September 29, 1920

February 19, 1894 (Norwalk, CT) – January 2, 1985 (Melville, NY); 90 years old
Unknown address in Norwalk; lived primarily in New York
Married Edward Hobson Odom in 1927
Served March 21, 1918 to June 18, 1919
Not on the plaque in Norwalk

September 7, 1888 (Connecticut) – July 24, 1965 (Cornwall, CT); 76 years old
Last local address: 3 Morgan Avenue, Norwalk
Married James Gold of Norwalk in 1925
Served October 1918 to April 25, 1919

No other information found.

November 11, 1897 (Danbury, CT) – March 2, 1950 (New York, NY); 52 years old
Last local address: 32 France Street, Norwalk
Married John Hurd [1896-1931] of NYC in 1928 & John Dorsey of NYC in 1933.
Served October 31, 1918 to May 14, 1919

October 4, 1891 (Yonkers, New York) – September 21, 1938 (Umatilla, FL); 36 years old
Last local address: 9 Seaside Place, East Norwalk
Anna Hipson never married
Unknown enlistment date.
Discharged February 4, 1920.

March 17, 1883 (Salem, MA) – December 11, 1971 (West Haven, CT); 88 years old
Didn’t live locally (Bridgeport), but did graduate from the Norwalk Hospital School of Nursing in 1914. Was supervisor of nurses at Norwalk Hospital in 1918.
Alice never married
Served October 2, 1918 and released August 7, 1919

Obituary in The Bridgeport Telegram on December 13, 1971 states “She had been a veteran of World War I, serving as an Army nurse in France. She graduated from the first nursing class at Norwalk Hospital and worked at both the Doctors and Leroy hospitals in New York City”.

Listed as a passenger on the transport ship Louisville (“Base Hospital No. 77”) on December 3, 1918, leaving from or sailing to New York.

June 9, 1895 (Bridgeport, CT) – July 12, 1966 (Newark, NJ); 71 years old
Last local address: 1 Livingston Street, South Norwalk
Married Howard Penny in Norwalk in 1923
Served September 6, 1918 to July 27, 1919

The Norwalk Hour July 3, 1919

Miss Anna Miller of Livingston Street, who is a graduate of Stamford School for Nurses, and who has been doing war duties in the service of Uncle Sam at Camp Merritt, has received her discharge and is visiting in Norwalk.

November 20, 1895 (Norwalk, CT) – December 8, 1974 (Bridgeport, CT); 79 years old
Last local address: Grumman Avenue, Norwalk
Married Bert Robertson [1871-1926] of Norwalk in 1915, and married Thomas Ledwith of Norwalk in 1927
Unknown service dates

January 30, 1887 (Norwalk, CT) – March 5, 1976 (Lake Zurich, IL); 89 years old
Unknown Norwalk address; parents are shown in Norwalk in 1880 census
Served June 8, 1918 to September 8, 1919
Not on the plaque in Norwalk

On a manifest for the SS President Harding departing Cherbourg, France for NYC, arriving October 2, 1927. In the 1940 census, Ruth is listed a renter at 560 170th Street, NYC. Occupation “nurse” at “private hospital.” After this, nothing else can be found.

March 16, 1882 (Norwalk, CT) – June 26, 1968 (Norwalk, CT); 86 years old
Last local address: 7 Elmwood Drive, Norwalk
Grace never married.
Served 1917 to 1919; extensive Red Cross nurse file found.

The Norwalk Hour October 31, 1918

Relatives of Miss Grace Roberts have received word through the Red Cross, of her safe arrival overseas.

July 19, 1893 (Jersey City, NJ) – December 22, 1968 (Teesside South, Yorkshire North Riding, England); 75 years old
Last local address: 378 Flax Hill Road, Norwalk
Married George Chapman Hogg, in Middlesbrough, United Kingdom in July 1922 and lived in England until her death.
Unknown service dates

Graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts in 1914. Also taught at Hillside School in Norwalk.

From During World War I she was a communications officer giving expert service to the U.S. Navy as a civilian employee. 

June 10, 1890 (Grand Rapids, Michigan) – October 4, 1981 (Lake Wales, FL); 91 years old
Last local address: 46 Gregory Boulevard, East Norwalk
Married Kenneth Ringrose sometime after 1918
Served August 19, 1918 to August 7, 1919

From The Norwalk Hour August 20, 1918

Miss Jeanette Van Coevering, of Gregory Boulevard, has received orders from the United States government to report tomorrow at Base Hospital No. 1, Lakewood, NJ from whence she will be assigned to some unit for overseas duty in the hospitals. Miss Van Coevering has been expecting the call for some time and has been busy receiving congratulations from her many friends upon her entrance into the service.

From unknown newspaper but likely The Norwalk Sentinel. Clipping found in a collection in the Norwalk History Room of the Norwalk Library.


Miss Jeanette Van Coevering of Gregory Boulevard, East Side, who recently volunteered as a Red Cross nurse and who went to Base Hospital No. 9, Lakewood, New Jersey, has arrived safely overseas with her detachment, according to a card received by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Van Coevering this morning. Miss Van Coevering is a graduate nurse and passed her examinations for service some time ago. According to word received, Miss Van Coevering sailed for France on October 1. Her many friends in this city will be pleased to hear of her safe arrival and it is expected that letters will be received from her shortly.

From The Hartford Courant October 7, 1981

Jeannette (Van Coevering) Ringrose, 91, of Lake Wales, Florida, died Sunday (Oct. 4). She was an Army veteran of World War I, serving as an Army nurse in Italy and France. She was graduated from the Connecticut Nurses Training School, now a part of Yale University, in 1913. She was a life member of the Order of the Eastern Star, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Nurse’s Alumnus.

May 7, 1886 (Ballston Spa, NY) – May 2, 1948 (New York, NY); 61 years old
Last local address: 5 Cannon Street, Norwalk
Margaret never married
Served September 16, 1918 to April 28, 1919

%d bloggers like this: