The Untold Story of Women's Oversea Hospitals Unit in 1918 WWI- women who risked their lives to do good -- and get their rights

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This article awakened previous history lessons of women suffragists tucked in the corners of my mind. However, I was unaware that the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) had created the Women's Oversea Hospitals Unit that sent female physicians and nurses to France during WWI, with several later receiving valor medals from France and Britain. Read this remarkable history story.

Just like then, it's women who are organizing drives to collect PPE, creates masks for health care facilities, organize community groups for food drives, delivering food + supplies to the elderly and disabled, along with leading rallies against racism and forpassage of the Equal Rights Act (12 southern states yet to sign) during this COVID-19 Pandemic.


CNN 8/16/220

Women's Oversea Hospitals Unit

The untold story of women who risked their lives to do good -- and get their rights


Today, women are fighting in combat and earning the title of Green Beret alongside men. It is not uncommon to see a woman soldier cited for valor in the military or otherwise recognized as civilians who demonstrated courage by the American government or other organizations. But a century ago, during World War I, women mostly were limited from the theatre of war, even as medical professionals.

Suffragists, however, seized on the war as an opportunity to bolster their cause, and in 1918, organized the Women's Oversea Hospitals Unit to serve in France. They were responding to the powerful antisuffragist argument that declared that women should not have the right to vote because they could not prove themselves as full citizens -- by fighting for their country....

Yet who knows their story? It may surprise many to find out that more than 100 American women during World War I were decorated by foreign governments -- yet none were recognized by the United States, even when they were operating within American-sponsored volunteer groups. Why is it that we are still contending with women being left out of American history, especially military history? Historians must remove women's history from the margins and place it prominently as American history....

...Carrie Chapman Catt, the leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), sent the first group of the 78 American women physicians and nurses to France in February 1918. These women, working under the auspices of the newly formed Women's Oversea Hospitals Unit, were led by Dr. Caroline Sandford Finley. A graduate of Cornell Medical College, Finley was in the top 10 of her class and had worked her way up to lead the department of obstetrics at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Despite having no military training, the suffragist physicians and nurses felt that if they proved themselves in war, it would be impossible to deny women full voting rights back home....