Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding at the War Front. New York: Cupples & Leon, 1918.Nurses

Nursing was a popular profession for girls’ series’ leading characters, particularly during the first half of the twentieth century.  One of the earliest examples in this genre appears midway through the Ruth Fielding series when the title character volunteers as a nurse in World War I.  Sue Barton was a popular and well written nursing series published between 1936 and 1952.

The U.S. involvement in World War II prompted the publication of several girls’ books and series devoted to nurses.  Begun in 1943, the Cherry Ames Nurse series, one of the most popular series, not only provided wholesome entertainment for adolescent girls, but also incorporated the patriotic message that young women could play an active role in the war effort both in the battlefield and on the home front. 

 

 

 

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Sue Barton

The author of this series, Helen Dore Boylston, attended Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing and served as an anesthesiologist with the British Expeditionary Force in World War I.

Boylston, Helen.  Sue Barton: Superintendent of Nurses.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1940.

Boylston, Helen. Sue Barton: Superintendent of Nurses. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1940.
Boylston, Helen. Sue Barton: Rural Nurse. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1939.

Considering that the author once served as a nurse in World War I, it is somewhat ironic that her main character is one of the few fictional nurses during this period who did not serve in the war.  This was most likely due to the fact that the Sue Barton was already married with one small child by 1940.  Instead the series documents the evolution of the title character from unsure student to capable nurse, doctor’s wife and mother of four. 

Boylston, Helen.  Sue Barton: Rural Nurse.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1939.

Ruth Fielding

While she is not a nurse for most of the series, Ruth Fielding volunteers as a Red Cross nurse during World War I and serves in France.  Ruth Fielding in the Red Cross and Ruth Fielding at the War Front, which were published in 1918, feature her nursing experiences.

Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding at the War Front.  New York: Cupples & Leon, 1918.

Emerson, Alice B. Ruth Fielding at the War Front. New York: Cupples & Leon, 1918.
Wells, Helen. Cherry Ames: Chief Nurse. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1944.

Cherry Ames –The Patriotic Nurse

"The Army Nurse, trim and neat in her uniform greeted the graduates....A note of urgency crept into her voice as she pleaded with them to answer their country’s call. “You are needed, desperately needed! If we are to save our men out there fighting for us—if we are even to win this war—you nurses must help. Are you ready to serve?"

—from Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse

Wells, Helen.  Cherry Ames: Chief Nurse.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1944.

The series begins with Cherry’s years in nursing school where upon graduation, she along with her entire class, decides to join the Army after hearing the impassioned plea of the Red Cross Army nurse. The following three books, Army Nurse, Chief Nurse, and Flight Nurse give an authentic portrayal of the training that a new military nurse preparing to go overseas would require. 

Tatham, Julie.  Cherry Ames: Dude Ranch Nurse.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1953.

Tatham, Julie. Cherry Ames: Dude Ranch Nurse. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1953.
Tatham, Julie. Cherry Ames: Mountaineer Nurse. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1951.

The series continued well after the war, as Cherry pursued her nursing career in such unusual locations as dude ranches, department stores, cruise ships and ski resorts. As a girl series heroine Cherry was not allowed to age. Thus, her years as an Army nurse were never referred to in the post-World War II books so as not to date the eternally young heroine.

Tatham, Julie.  Cherry Ames: Mountaineer Nurse.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1951.