November 2, 2016 - The United States Army Nurse Corps was formally established by the US Congress in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps followed in 1908. During World War I in which America participated (1917-1918) 20,000 registered female nurses were recruited for military and navy duty in 548 military hospitals. They also were a part of 47 ambulances companies that operated on the Western Front with more than 10,000 serving overseas. Another 5,400 nurses enrolled in the Army’s new School of Nursing.
In the beginning U.S. Army nurses were U.S. citizens, female, unmarried, between 25 and 35 years of age, Caucasian and graduates of training schools offering theoretical and practical nursing. As the war went on, some of these requirements were expanded. Before and during WWI, nurses were part of the Army, but were neither enlisted or commissioned personnel and they were not trained as soldiers. They were appointed by the Surgeon General with the approval of the Secretary of War. Nurses were not given military ranks at that time.
The need for an Army hospital on a separate military installation dated back to the Civil War. In 1906, $200,000 was appropriated for the construction of a new hospital and the land was designated a military reservation to be known as the “Walter Reed United States Army General Hospital. It opened on May 1, 1908 with room for 75 patients. By 1917 Walter Reed was treating thousands of World War I patients and the hospital was growing quickly. In 1918 the Army School of nursing opened at Walter Reed with its first graduating class of over 400.
Elizabeth Davis Holmes, born to Zachary Taylor Davis and Sophronia Catherine Pittman Davis in Campti, Texas on December 27th, 1879 graduated from the University of Texas School of Nursing in 1915 at the age of 36. For a number of years she did public nursing in Houston, Texas and on April 1, 1918 Elizabeth was approved to join the Army Nurse’s Corps and was assigned to Walter Reed General Hospital in Tacoma Park, D. C. The age limit and marital status for Army Nurses must have been changed due to the war as she was now 39 and married. At the time of her acceptance her parents were also living in Houston and she had four brothers serving in the Army. Information about her husband (Holmes) could not be found. Elizabeth served at Walter Reed until October 16th, 1918 when she was then transferred to Camp Logan, Texas. Camp Logan was a World War I Army training camp in the Houston area and about this time the deadly 1918 Spanish Flu had broken out at the camp with over 600 cases being reported.
On December 14th, 1918, one month after the end of World War I Elizabeth resigned from the Army Nurses Corps and probably continued her profession as a nurse in the Houston area. She married Sidney Albert Ellington (1876 – 1967) on February 22, 1926 and at some point, moved back to Shelby County, Texas. The Timpson Daily Times reported on February 22, 1936 that Elizabeth became the first female member of the Norman G. Crocker American Legion Post. The article also noted that she was the sister of Judge T. O. Davis and the Honorable W. I. Davis of Center.
US Army Nurse Elizabeth Holmes passed on October 5th, 1956 and is buried in Oaklawn Memorial Park. If you can add to her story with information or a photo, please contact me at 598-2976 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Sources: Wikipedia, US Army Nurse Corps, 10/2016; ANCA.org, 10/2016; walterreedlra.com, 10/2016; form 84n-2 A.G.O. 3/17/1921; Wikipedia, Camp Logan, 10/2016; Houston Post, 4/2/1918; Houston Post, 4/8/1918; Laredo Weekly Times, 3/24/1918; Timpson Daily Times, 2/22/1936; Ancestry.com, 10/2016)