Doctor or Doctress?

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M. Louise Hurrell M. Louise Hurrell
An article published in the Woman's Medical Journal about a patient cared for at the hospital in Luzancy, France. The American Women's Hospitals (AWH) developed from the War Service Committee of the Medical Women's National Association (later, American Medical Women's Association) in 1917 to provide, register, and finance American women physicians in order to aid those affected by World War I and provide medical and emergency relief to refugees. Dr. M. Louise Hurrell was the second director of the American Women’s Hospitals. She took the position in November 1918, and ran the hospital at Luzancy until it moved to Blérancourt in June 1919. She remained director until August 1919.

Why It Matters

After the armistice was signed, living conditions were slow to improve in areas devastated by the fighting. It is likely that many families from the war-torn regions experienced similar events as those described by Dr. Hurrell. The story of the basket weaver and his family depicts the numerous difficulties civilians faced long after the fighting had ended.

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Analyze this evidence

  • What kind of difficulties did civilians face after the armistice was signed?
  • What does this tell you about the work the AWH doctors did in France? Do you think their help was needed after the war ended? Why or why not?

Listen to this document read aloud

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He was a frail, underfed, anemic boy of 17, who had been evacuated from a town near Chateau Thierry and put to work, or rather we should say overwork, upon a farm south of Paris. During the heat of one summer day he was found unconscious in the field, [and was eventually] brought to the American Women’s Hospitals, Unit No. 1. He had typhoid in its severest form, and with it a complicating pneumonia. For weeks and weeks the fever raged, and finally we decided that even youth could no longer help the doctor. Then one day, upon returning from our rounds, we brought to see his son the poor father, who had taken back his family to his desolate home in the bomb-stricken village. The family consisted of fourteen, our patient being the eldest. The father, [a basket weaver], told us his tale as we drove home in the ambulance, and we wondered not that the man wept as he talked, for he was a hysterical wreck. An American soldier once told us that we need not sympathize with many of our refugees, because they waited long after they were warned before leaving their homes. How feel you, reader, about these people? Call you it an easy thing to walk out and leave not only your beloved home and belongings, but home and belongings that were beloved by your father and his father, remembering those people have family ties and loves unknown to our new world? When the news came for him to evacuate he hesitated, and in that hesitating moment he was caught in a pocket of attacking Huns and the attacked French. He told us how, with his three youngest children, he was running down a field outside the village into a corner near a wall, with armed men advancing on all sides, in the night, when suddenly a bomb burst at his very feet, completely burying his children and dazing himself. Frantically he dug under it, and – a miracle to tell for ages to come – he found that his three children were uninjured. At the hospital for days we kept him while the battle with death was on, feeling that food, a bed, and our sympathy did much to balance the man. Finally the boy began to gain, and the father, well contented, returned home. Our patient was with us many weeks, his proudest possession an American soldier cap which someone had given him, and that pinched face in the khaki will be a sight long remembered by the members of our unit. Already, since the armistice, in that village the home of our basket weaver shows reconstruction, and that family in whom we were so vitally interested are now beyond the need of help.