Behind the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC is a quiet, shady courtyard, and in that refuge from the hubbub of the U.S. capital is a beautiful memorial to Jane A. Delano and the 296 American nurses who died during the First World War.
Delano, a relative of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born in Montour Falls, New York in in 1862 and graduated from the nursing program at New York City's Bellevue Hospital in 1886. Her nursing career was long and distinguished, and today she might be considered a workaholic. She went to Jacksonville, Florida in 1888 to care for victims of a yellow fever epidemic, and from there she was off to Arizona during a typhoid outbreak.
In the 1890s she served as nursing superintendent at University Hospital in Philadelphia, and then ran a centre for wayward girls in New York City. From 1902 to 1906 she was in charge of training nurses at Bellevue. Her association with the Red Cross began during the Spanish-American War of 1898, and in 1909 she became superintendent of the fledgling U.S. Army Nurse Corps. She held that position until 1912, and thereafter devoted her energies to building the Red Cross nursing program.
During The First World War, Delano worked tirelessly to recruit nurses for the war effort, and more than 21,000 signed up to serve. Shortly after the Armistice in November 1918, Delano travelled to France to visit the women she recruited, but fell ill and died at the U.S. Army hospital at Savenay, France on 15th April 1919. Of the 296 American nurses who perished during the Great War, none died as a result of combat. Nearly all of them - like Delano - died of disease as they tended to the sick and wounded Doughboys in American Expeditionary Force hospitals in France. Those nurses are buried in American cemeteries in France.
Delano was initially buried in a temporary cemetery at Savenay in Department of Loire-Atlantique in western France but her body was transferred to Arlington in America. Mark D. Van Ells