By Joe Nixon
via the Lehigh Valley Health Network web site
More than a century ago, Allentown Hospital nurse died of pneumonia caring for soldiers in France
Allentown Hospital nurse Anna Marie McMullen answered her country’s call in April 1918, shipping off to France along with thousands of other nurses from the U.S. to care for wounded soldiers.
Anna Marie McMullen was a 1915 graduate of Allentown Hospital Training School for Professional Nurses.
Six months later, suffering from pneumonia, she drew her last breath at an American Expeditionary Forces hospital in Mesves-sur-Loire in central France. It was Oct. 6, 1918. She was 30. A little more than a month later, on Nov. 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice, ending the “war to end all wars.”
“Possessed of a sunny and amiable disposition, of sound physical health and strength and of recognized ability as a nurse, she gave early and continually growing promise of distinction in her chosen profession, a promise which failed of fulfillment because of her early and lamented death.” – Former Allentown Mayor James L. Schaadt
McMullen would be one of over 22,000 American women who would eventually join the Army Nurse Corps after a call from American Expeditionary Forces Gen. John J. Pershing. The nurses held no rank and were paid half that of an Army private. Some 36 Allentown Hospital nurses enlisted for war duty in 1918.
This Memorial Day, the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) family highlights and honors her service.
Early life and nursing career
McMullen was orphaned at a young age and was raised by her aunt and foster mother, Sarah Ursprung, in Allentown. She attended city schools and graduated from Allentown High School.
McMullen entered Allentown Hospital Training School for Professional Nurses in 1912 and graduated three years later. Allentown Hospital, opened in 1899, was the original building block for what is now LVHN. The site is now Lehigh Valley Hospital–17th Street.
A tribute to McMullen by Allentown Mayor James L. Schaadt, published in the Jan. 6, 1921, edition of The Morning Call, says that after graduation McMullen completed a course in nervous diseases in Massachusetts, then worked in private nursing in locations including Allentown, Washington, D.C., and Easton. She also worked for two years at Illinois Central Hospital in Chicago.
“Out of the 36 nurses furnished by the hospital for service in the World War, she was the only one called to give her life to her country. She was also the only woman from Lehigh County who died in the service,” Schaadt wrote. “Possessed of a sunny and amiable disposition, of sound physical health and strength and of recognized ability as a nurse, she gave early and continually growing promise of distinction in her chosen profession, a promise which failed of fulfillment because of her early and lamented death.”
Having qualified as a Red Cross nurse, McMullen enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps on April 1, 1918, and was first sent to Camp Lewis in Tacoma, Wash. In August 1918, she sailed from Hoboken, N.J., as part of Group E. The passenger list has the words American Expeditionary Forces crossed out and handwritten in its place is “Exceptional Replacement Nurses.”
Read the entire article on the Lehigh Valley Health Network web site.
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