Master’s Thesis on Women and Military History
As a graduate student at Appalachian State University, I am pursuing a Master of Arts in History with a concentration in Public History. I have focused my graduate studies on American women’s history combined with military history.
My MA thesis focuses on the experiences and impact of American military nurses during World War II. I heard about Dorothy Managan and her service in the Army Nurse Corps during the Second World War through Janis Allen at the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.
My digital history class, taught by Dr. Rwany Sibaja, required students to create an online collections archive and exhibit. We use Omeka [a content management system for online digital collections].
Meeting a Woman World War II Veteran
Many historians never get to meet or get to know people like Dorothy Managan who lived history! Dorothy was so enthusiastic and kind. In several phone interviews, she told me about training nursing recruits and healing POW patients. She told me about her life before and after the war. She shared heart-warming stories of the various ways patients showed their gratitude for the nurses’ live-changing care and friendship.
Dorothy allowed me to read some letters American POWs wrote to her while in the hospital. I used the experiences of military nurses to show how they impacted the war and women’s history, while saving lives. These women performed courageous actions and sacrificed their own comfort and safety.
I placed a mini biography of Dorothy on the site. It includes her pictures of training nurses and some notes of gratitude to the caregivers by the patients. From the first phone call, Dorothy amazed me with her ability to tell me so many details. She has a positive attitude toward everything she dealt with back in those times. Dorothy makes it clear that she loved serving as a nurse during the war. She always says it was a privilege to serve. She makes it clear how glad she was to have been a part of something like that.
Why This History Project is Important
I want to tell stories like Dorothy’s not only for their own merit, but also to celebrate the service of women like her. Her stories can inspire women today to become part of something larger than themselves. They can help others remember they are capable of changing the course of events and impacting history.
It can be hard to relate to figures from history. Historical characters may seem too distant to impact us today. However, talking with a woman who, with strength and integrity, worked hard to heal the mental and physical wounds of others was truly inspiring. It pushed me forward in my understanding of my topic. This project also reminded me of why I was studying women’s history in the first place.
After my graduate degree is completed, I plan to pursue either a job teaching high school history courses or community college courses, or, if possible, take a position with a North Carolina or Virginia historical site or museum.
I would love to one day get my PhD in history but have not yet decided on this. My dream career would involve working with historical objects and documents every day and being able to interpret that history to an audience, sharing the stories of those who came before us.
Learn More about WWII Nurses
Linked here is my Omeka website “US Nurses in World War II.” The link here will take you to Dorothy Managan’s story. On the site you’ll find stories of other incredible women who served their country during a global crisis. Please browse and enjoy. This website is still a work in progress!
Editor’s note: Dorothy Managan, now age 97 (profiled in an earlier newsletter and featured on www.theveteransmuseum.org), continues to make rounds to visit patients in the medical center of her community.