My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

WASHINGTON, Thursday—At luncheon yesterday, some of the people deeply interested in the nursing situation talked over the problems with a view to seeing exactly what the situation is.

It is apparently true that a number of girls in the cadet nursing service have not volunteered for work in the armed services. However, while these girls are in training they do relieve the shortage in our civilian hospitals, and it is hoped that a great many will continue to enroll. They help at home, in any case, and therefore release a certain number of registered nurses who may be able to leave home. The training does give every girl a profession and prepares her better for home life and child care in the future.

The general feeling seemed to be that the military needs will have to be filled very largely from among the nurses who are doing private duty. The number doing this type of work has gone up of late, because some people have bigger incomes today than they had in the past and can afford to have trained nurses where it might not have been possible some years ago. The hospitals are having a hard time and probably can furnish no more nurses to the armed services. But industries have come to realize in the last few years the value of employing nurses, and it may be possible to substitute women with less training for some of the work which nurses are now doing in industrial plants, offices and mercantile establishments.

Nurses who are drafted, of course, will begin as privates, whereas those who go in through the Red Cross as volunteers at once obtain a commission. There has been a change made also in the army rules. A nurse now has rank comparable to an officer, and not what was known as "relative rank," which nobody can quite define! The navy now allows its nurses to marry. Of course, when the war is over all officers will go down in rank and so will the nurses, but many of them will want to return to private practice or to civilian hospitals or public health work.

I found that most of the women present at this lunch believed with me that a national service act which covered all women, as well as all men, would be preferable to drafting one group among the women. I wish, of course, we had done this at the very start of the war, and I hope very much that if such an act is passed the age limit will be 65 for women. I feel sure many women would like to feel that they are part of the war effort. Under a national service act, if they are told to continue keeping house or doing the work they are now engaged in doing, they will feel that they are essential, and that will be a satisfaction.

Last evening some of us went to the National Symphony Orchestra concert. We heard Helen Jepson sing charmingly, and enjoyed every minute of the evening.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL