Nurses were integral to the advancing medical care during World War I. Sarah Leigh Hospital was built in 1902 on Mowbray Arch in the Hague District. St. Vincent de Paul Hospital, originally located on Church and Wood Streets, was established in the home of a patient, Miss Ann Plume Behan Herron, who willed the house for the creation of a hospital in 1855. They both served as nurse's training schools locally and for the Red Cross, the U.S. Army, and the Naval Reserve during the War.


Norfolk was a hub for military service during World War I. Nurses who trained at local hospitals Sarah Leigh and St. Vincent de Paul were enlisted into the Red Cross, the United States Army, and the Naval Reserve. Norfolk drew people from across the state, North Carolina, and Maryland to the nursing schools and economic opportunities in the area. Many women sought nursing as an outlet of patriotism and duty.
Lillian E. Bohlken was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and attended public school before moving to North Carolina and Littleton College for higher education. On June 1st, 1911, Miss Bohklen graduated from the Sarah Leigh Hospital nursing program in Norfolk, Virginia.  In April of 1918, she enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corp at Portsmouth, Virginia. She was stationed at Camp Dix, New Jersey before embarking from New York to Liverpool. From Liverpool, she proceeded to Southampton and from there to Le Harve, France before moving on to Paris and being stationed at St. Dennis, France. Nurses at St. Denis were centered at L'ecole de la Legion d'honneur. Miss Bohlken returned to New York in March 1919 and was discharged from the Army Nurse Corp in April 1919.
Harriet Leila Arrington was born in Granville County, North Carolina on March 28th, 1890. She attended grammar and high school, as well as post high school private tutoring before enrolling in the St. Vincent de Paul nursing training program, graduating on March 21st, 1913. She was employed predominantly as an Operating Room nurse. On March 18th, 1918, Miss Arrington enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corp at Oxford, Granville County, North Carolina. She was stationed at Camp McClellan, Alabama where she continued to work in the Operating Room and on the Surgical Ward. Embarking from Boston, Massachusetts on July 19th, 1918 and arriving in Liverpool, England, she followed the same route as Miss Bohlken from Southampton to Paris, and from Paris before being stationed at St. Denis. Returning to New York on March 12th, 1919, she was discharged from the Army Nurse Corp on January 19th, 1920.
The lives of these two women demonstrate the thirst for education and the drive of duty and patriotism during the First World War. Nurses during World War I acted as invaluable members of medical staffs but also as symbols of the home and catalysts for the male soldiers struggling to fight on. The women's stories show the struggle of war is a shared one, and help us to understand the experiences and realities of the War, offering a glimpse of the lives and roles of women who raised their hands and joined the fight when duty called.

Jones, Marian Moser. American Nurses in World War I. PBS. . Accessed May 07, 2019. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/the-great-war-american-nurses-world-war-1/. 

World War I and the American Red Cross. Red Cross. . Accessed May 07, 2019. https://www.redcross.org/content/dam/redcross/National/history-wwi.pdf. 

McDaid, Jennifer Davis. "Our Share in the War is No Small One:" Virginia Women and World War I, Part 1". virginiamemory.com. March 14, 2018. Accessed May 07, 2019. http://www.virginiamemory.com/blogs/out_of_the_box/2018/03/14/our-share-in-the-war-is-no-small-one-virginia-women-and-world-war-i-part-i/. 

Arrington, Harriet Leila. Virginia War History Commission, Norfolk, Virginia, Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk, Virginia.

Bohlken, Lillian E. Virginia War History Commission, Norfolk, Virginia. Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, Virginia.