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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Evelyn Small Henson, 2001

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Object ID: WV0214.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Evelyn Small Henson's nursing education and training before and after World War II; her experiences in the Army Nurse Corps from 1943 to 1945; and her work as a public health nurse in North Carolina.

Summary:

Henson provides information about her nursing education at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, and about her decision to join the Army Nurse Corps directly after graduation. She recounts details of serving on the hospital ward at Camp Gordon, Georgia, primarily caring for personnel on the base. Other topics include the nurses' social life; having her overseas orders canceled when the war ended; the emotional hardships involved in army nurse work; and the impact of her army experiences on her post-service life.

Henson discusses her attendance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after the war to complete studies in public health nursing with the aid of the GI Bill. She also describes working as a public health nurse, providing immunization clinics and child care classes in rural communities in North Carolina.

Creator: Evelyn Small Henson

Biographical Info: Evelyn Small Henson (b. 1922) of Lancaster, South Carolina, served at Camp Gordon, Georgia, with the Army Nurse Corps from 1943 to 1946 and later worked as a public health nurse in North Carolina.

Collection: Evelyn Henson Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

HT:

Today is Sunday, May 13, 2001. My name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Mrs. Evelyn Henson in Greensboro, North Carolina, and we're here to do an oral history interview for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Henson, if you would give me your full name, including your maiden name.

EH:

Frances Evelyn Small Henson.

HT:

Mrs. Henson, thank you so much for talking to me this afternoon. Could you tell a little about yourself, like when and where you were born?

EH:

I was born in Lancaster, South Carolina, in 1922.

HT:

Would you mind giving me the exact date?

EH:

February 16.

HT:

Thank you. And where did you live before you enlisted?

EH:

My home was Lancaster until I went to nursing school in Charlotte [North Carolina], at Mercy Hospital, right out of high school at age eighteen. You had to be eighteen to go to nursing school, so that was three years of study.

HT:

Where'd you go to high school?

EH:

In Lancaster.

HT:

Lancaster High School?

EH:

Yes.

HT:

And what was your maiden name?

EH:

Small, S-m-a-l-l.

HT:

And can you tell me a little about your family, about your brothers and sisters and family?

EH:

I have a sister who is younger, and she finished at Duke [University]. My brother is a Baptist minister, and he finished at Furman University in South Carolina and at Southern Baptist [Theological] Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

HT:

What about your parents? What line of work were they in?

EH:

My father ran a barbershop, and my mother was a homemaker.

HT:

What was it like growing up in the Depression?

EH:

Well, I don't remember that it was much different. You know, we probably didn't have as many things, but I always felt like I really wasn't deprived that much. I guess we had as much as anybody else did at that time, but it wasn't too traumatic for me.

HT:

What made you decide to go to nursing school?

EH:

Well, I was interested in getting further education and thought I was interested in that field. As it turned out, I did really enjoy it. I found an opportunity to go in that direction.

HT:

And you went from high school to nursing school?

EH:

Yes.

HT:

It was a three-year program?

EH:

A three-year program.

HT:

And it was Mercy Hospital. Who ran that?

EH:

The Sisters of Mercy.

HT:

Was that a Catholic order?

EH:

It was a Catholic order, yes.

HT:

And what was it like going to a—

EH:

Well, it was very regimented. I look back on it now, and I think young girls would not put up with the strict rules that we had, but then you just accepted it. That was the way it was. And they were very rigid. I thought we had an excellent program, and, of course, the sisters supervised your work. I remember you never questioned any authority.

Up until just before the war, they started changing the procedures for surgical patients. You know, you'd have surgery and stay in the bed a week or two weeks, and that's unheard of now. One of the supervisors told me to get a patient out of bed who'd had an appendectomy after about three days, and I can remember almost questioning, but I dared not say anything, “Do you know how long that patient's been out of surgery?” But I was beginning to see some changes made just before the war in the medical field.

HT:

What was a typical day like when you were in school?

EH:

Well, you went to classes in the morning, depending on when you worked, because then we worked twelve-hour shifts, and sometimes you were on twelve hours at night. And that was quite an experience, too, to switch from night to day, but we were young, and we got through it with no complaints, not too many, anyway.

HT:

Now, you said it was a three-year program. Did you go straight through?

EH:

Yes, we went straight through.

HT:

No summers off.

EH:

No summers off, no. It was nothing like the nursing programs are now.

HT:

Was it purely clinical, or was it academic?

EH:

It was academic and clinical together.

HT:

And what did you think of the academic portion of it?

EH:

It was very adequate, and they were excellent teachers and also excellent supervisors. You learned the routines and what was proper, the way to make a bed and take care of a patient and that type of thing.

HT:

Did you have both doctors teach you as well as the sisters?

EH:

Yes, sometimes. And it was very much—we did everything for the patient. It's not like it is now, that you'd have the head nurse and down the echelon, you know. You were supervised, but you gave the patient all the care, which I felt was a very rewarding thing if you were interested in caring for people, which is not true now anymore. I mean, if you're the nurse on the floor, you delegate down the line to all the personnel.

HT:

Did you have fewer patients to take care of than you would now?

EH:

Oh, yes, yes, very definitely, because you had to give them a bath and whatever else they might need. So it was rather demanding, and there'd just be a limit to how many people you could take care of and give them that much care.

HT:

And did you specialize in any particular branch of nursing?

EH:

No. You would not then. If you did that, it would have come at a later time.

HT:

So you would have graduated in what, 1943?

EH:

Yes, 1943. And of course, you had to take state boards [exams], which I did and passed. So I immediately joined the army.

HT:

And what convinced you to do that?

EH:

Well, I think it was the whole—the United States was at war, and when you're young, you feel like you've got your part to do. And I was in the nursing field. I knew that I would have a reason to go, so I did.

HT:

What did your family and friends think about your joining?

EH:

I think back on it, my mother and father both made no objection.

HT:

You were over twenty-one, so they didn't have to sign or anything.

EH:

Oh, no, no, no. I have a daughter, and I'm not sure I would have been so understanding as they were. But I guess they felt, too, that you have to serve your country if you can. My brother was already in service. Now, my sister was younger, and she was in college, so she never was involved. But I look back as a parent now, and I feel a lot different about it.

HT:

When you were in nursing school, I'm assuming you stayed in a dormitory in Charlotte and that sort of thing.

EH:

Oh, yes.

HT:

So this was your first time away from home.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

So once you joined the Army Nurse Corps, it was not totally new for you to be away from home and be under disciplines and that sort of thing.

EH:

No.

HT:

What made you decide to join the Army Nurse Corps?

EH:

I had to wear glasses—they would call it restricted service. So I knew that I'd probably be able to get into the army easier than the navy or some other branch. So I decided to do that, which I did just because I wore glasses. I had no other physical limitations.

HT:

Do you recall where you joined, where you signed up?

EH:

I was thinking about that today or yesterday. I guess I signed up there in Lancaster, and then they gave me an assignment and went from there.

HT:

So after you graduated from nursing school, you went back home?

EH:

No. I stayed in Charlotte and worked at private-duty nursing until—I'll tell you, I just don't remember all the sequences of these. I could have joined in Lancaster, or I could have joined in Charlotte. I'm not real sure which place. I guess that was very incidental.

HT:

Did you have to do some sort of basic training?

EH:

No.

HT:

Some of the other women who joined the army, the WAC [Women's Army Corps], the regular WAC, would have been sent to someplace like Fort Des Moines, Iowa, for six to eight weeks or something like that.

EH:

No. No. I went straight, after I got my assignment, to Camp Gordon in Georgia, which was just over the state line. Truthfully, I didn't go very far.

HT:

Do you remember anything that stands out in your mind about your first few days at Camp Gordon?

EH:

No. No, it really doesn't. You had mostly patients in large wards, but it was just a continuation of what I had been doing before.

HT:

And you were a second lieutenant?

EH:

Second. I went in as a second lieutenant, and after a few years I was promoted to first lieutenant. I was discharged as a first lieutenant. You automatically had a commission as a second lieutenant with my educational background.

HT:

What type of uniform did you wear?

EH:

I guess we wore white uniforms. I'm pretty sure we did. I don't even remember. You mean for work?

HT:

Yes.

EH:

Then we had the dark uniforms for dress and then kind of a khaki color for summer.

HT:

What type of hospital was at Camp Gordon? Was it a general hospital?

EH:

Yes. I know there was an armored division there on the base, and, of course, you'd have soldiers coming in from there. I was thinking back. Don't remember too much about it, but we did have some prisoners of war, you know, who would be patients.

HT:

German prisoners of war?

EH:

Yes. And they would be in the wards with the other service personnel who were there.

HT:

And what type of nursing did you do at Camp Gordon? Was it general duty again?

EH:

General duty nursing. There was not any designation of the different wards.

HT:

You were talking about wards. What was a ward like? Can you describe that for me?

EH:

Well, there'd be a middle area, and on either side there would be one bed after another with a little space between them. I'd say forty or fifty beds.

HT:

No private rooms?

EH:

Yes, they did have a few private rooms if there would be any female personnel, patients there, but most of them were these large wards.

HT:

And were you assigned a certain number of beds?

EH:

You know, I can't even remember. I suppose I was. It kind of all has left my memory, and I don't remember.

HT:

And were you stationed any other place other than Camp Gordon?

EH:

The war in Europe was over, and so the army base at Camp Gordon was closing, and I stayed there until it was closed. I went down to Fort Bragg for a very short period of time. I was contemplating whether I would stay in service longer or what I wanted to do, and I decided to go back to school, so I was discharged from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

HT:

Do you recall when that was, by any chance?

EH:

Well, it had to be when—the war was over in—

HT:

Let me see. VE [Victory in Europe] Day was in May of '45, and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day was in August of '45.

EH:

Well, I did have my orders for overseas duty just before World War II ended. So I went home for that, and the war ended while I was at home. I went back to Camp Gordon, and that was when the base was closed, after the war. So I did go on down to Fort Bragg for two or three months, but I decided to leave. So it was right after the war had ended.

HT:

I think you mentioned a few minutes ago that you had thought about perhaps making it a career.

EH:

I didn't really know what I wanted to do at that point. So I thought maybe I might. But then I decided that I really didn't think I wanted to stay in the army and that I would get out and go to school, which I did.

HT:

Where did you go to school after that?

EH:

I went to Peabody [College] in Nashville [Tennessee] for a year. I was interested in a program in public health nursing, and there were very few of them, particularly on the East Coast at that time. I stayed there for a year, and then I learned that there was a good program at UNC [University of North Carolina] at Chapel Hill. So after a year, I transferred to UNC at Chapel Hill and finished up there.

HT:

That would be equivalent to a master's?

EH:

A BS [bachelor of science]. I had a BS in public health nursing.

HT:

Let me just backtrack a minute about your phase as an army nurse. When you first joined, did you have to take some sort of physical or written test to join, do you recall?

EH:

No, I did not, other than your credentials, you know, that you had nursing school.

HT:

And I understand that all nurses went in as officers right away.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

And did you ever have to do any kind of marching or review or anything when you were in the army? I was in the air force, and usually on Saturday morning I had to go on parade and this sort of thing. Did you ever have to do any of that sort of thing?

EH:

I really don't recall.

HT:

Because sometimes, as officers, you didn't have to do a great deal of that, especially nurses, because it was such a specialized area.

EH:

Yes, it was a little bit different. And I don't recall if we did, but it didn't really make a lasting impression on me, whatever it was.

HT:

When you were in the army, did you receive any additional training from the army in the nursing area?

EH:

No, I didn't.

HT:

Any specialized training or anything like that?

EH:

No.

HT:

Do you recall what a typical day was like, working as a nurse on a ward? Was it an eight-to-five-type job or shifts?

EH:

Well, yes, you would have—I can't remember what hours, whether we worked eight hours. I don't remember that. But there was day duty and night duty, of course. You had to have that. I can't really remember how the sequence of those things came about either. But I can recall working some at night.

HT:

You were probably on an eight-hour shift, I guess.

EH:

Probably so, an eight-hour shift. I know when we were in nursing school it was a twelve-hour, but I'm sure by then things were being [unclear] to work less hours.

HT:

What did you nurses do during your off-duty hours?

EH:

Well, a lot of times we would go into the city, maybe to a movie or maybe have a date with some person that, you know, you'd met there on the base and go out with him to a movie or that type of thing. Just the usual.

HT:

Did you ever go to dances?

EH:

Yes. Yes, they'd have dances. There was a recreation hall, I remember, and, yes, we would go there. Just the usual.

HT:

Do you recall any unusual events happening while you were in the military at Camp Gordon?

EH:

No, not really. We would have divisions shipping out, and somebody would be, somebody in that division that was leaving, you know. Then other people were just coming in. But it was just the usual thing.

HT:

Did you ever have the occasion to have orders to go overseas, or potential orders to go overseas?

EH:

As I said, just before the armistice was signed in Europe, I had received orders to go to the Pacific area. And so they would send you on a thirty-day leave—I think it was a thirty-day leave—if you were going to be shipped out of the United States. So I was at home on leave at that time when the war was over. So I figured that we probably would not be going to the Pacific. So of course, we did not.

HT:

If you had gone overseas, would you have gone as a unit or as an individual?

EH:

I think I was going as an individual.

HT:

Because I've heard of other women who went over as a unit, like a whole hospital would go over. Cincinnati, Ohio, General [Hospital] or something like that would send doctors and nurses and whole units to Europe or over to the Pacific or something like that.

EH:

No. Probably I would join a pool somewhere that would be shipped over.

HT:

Do you regret having not had a chance to go overseas?

EH:

Well, I thought at that time it was just really unfortunate for me, but perhaps in the long run it was the best.

HT:

But the Pacific, I understand, was rather rough duty.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

There was the disease, the heat, and that sort of thing.

EH:

Well, when you're young, you don't think about all those things. [laughs] So I'm thoroughly convinced things happen for the best for you. If you'll just be patient, you'll find out if it is, too.

HT:

What were some of the positive aspects of being an officer and being in the Army Nurse Corps?

EH:

Well, I think you felt as though you were being of some service and help to other people, and there were some rewards. I remember one young man who came back from overseas and he was blind. I think he couldn't have been over twenty-one or twenty-two years old. And I must have been just standing by the bed holding his hand or something, and he said to me, “You have the softest hands.” I thought, “You know, he has no idea what I look like,” and I thought, well, maybe that gave him a little lift that day. I don't know why it stood out in my mind more than anything that's happened to me. But it was just the idea that you were there, and you were a female, and maybe that helped them over some bad time in there.

HT:

Did it affect you emotionally to see all these wounded boys?

EH:

Well, yes, it did. You'd have to be awfully callous if it would not have.

HT:

Now, were your patients generally people who were sick on base, as opposed to—

EH:

Yes, most of them.

HT:

So they didn't come in from overseas.

EH:

I think if the person's home were in that vicinity, where their family would have been able to come and see them, they might be shipped there as they improved, but mostly it was personnel on the base.

HT:

So it wasn't a long-term rehab hospital or something like that.

EH:

Oh, no.

HT:

I imagine something like that would be more difficult to deal with, like Senator Bob Dole was in the hospital for years trying to recuperate and that sort of thing. I would imagine the nurses and doctors who had to deal with patients like that, it would just be so hard on you, knowing it would take years to recuperate from something like that.

EH:

yes.

HT:

What about the negative aspects in the Army Nurse Corps? What were some of those?

EH:

Well, right now nothing particularly occurs to me, as I said, except perhaps some instances like that that I can't even recall right now. But sometimes losing friends. I did know young men who were overseas, who didn't come back.

HT:

I imagine that was rather tough emotionally.

EH:

Yes. But, you know, it was a very pleasant time in my life, on the whole, you know.

HT:

Sounds like you really enjoyed your work.

EH:

I did. I did. Yes.

HT:

Probably very rewarding.

EH:

Very rewarding. It certainly was, and I'm glad I had the opportunity.

HT:

Do you think you were treated equally? All the nurses were women, but what about the doctors? Did they treat the nurses as professionals, as equals?

EH:

Oh yes. Yes. I think they were very dependent on us and very cooperative.

HT:

And all the doctors and all the nurses there were in the military. There were no civilians at all there, I assume.

EH:

You had orderlies that could be enlisted men. Or I remember a few civilians who worked as orderlies.

HT:

But the nurses and doctors were all military.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

As well as the administration. It was a military hospital.

EH:

Oh, absolutely. Yes, it certainly was.

HT:

What was the hardest thing you ever had to do physically while you were in the Army Nurse Corps?

EH:

Gee, I can't remember anything that would particularly come in that category.

HT:

Did you have any difficulties moving patients and that sort of thing?

EH:

No. No.

HT:

Of course, when I ask people these questions, they usually say, well, during basic training, some of the calisthenics and that sort of thing was tough on them, sit-ups or something like that. But you didn't have to do that.

EH:

No, I didn't have to do that.

HT:

What about emotionally? What was the hardest thing you ever had to do emotionally?

EH:

Well, I guess losing friends, you know, that you had known or that you had met there. And that would be very difficult. It really would. Somehow, it used to get back to us if you were corresponding with us, anything you might learn, that they had been killed.

HT:

Speaking of correspondence, were you able to keep a correspondence with fellow nurses or doctors or even patients who had come through the hospital? Were you able to keep in touch with them?

EH:

I don't remember keeping in touch with any of the patients. Some of the nurses that went on to other places, you know, you might keep up with them.

HT:

I assume that people were transferred in and out on a regular basis.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

Do you recall any embarrassing moments or humorous moments?

EH:

No. I remember when—this kind of struck me funny later. I was called into the colonel's office, you know, and you're standing there at attention, and he looks at you, and he says, “Lieutenant Small, you're out of uniform.”

And I thought, “Well, what in the world?”

And he said, “Youíre supposed to have a first lieutenant's bar on instead of a second lieutenant's.” That was his way of presenting your promotion. And I remember there were two or three of us, we got called into his office. So that was rather amusing.

HT:

That was a cute way of presenting that.

EH:

Yes. It might not have even made an impression on me that much, but by his doing that, it certainly did. But other than that, as I said, it must have been a very pleasant time.

HT:

When you went home—I'm assuming you went home—of course, it wasn't that far away—from time to time, how did your friends and family treat you and view your enlistment? Were they proud of you?

EH:

Yes, I think so. And you have to remember, most all the young people were off somewhere anyway, so there weren't very many of them that were home. They had left for somewhere, you know, most of them had, my friends, girlfriends. But most of the young men were gone in that period of time.

HT:

I think we touched on this a little bit earlier, about how you spent your off-duty hours at the rec hall and dancing and that sort of thing. Were you able to go home on a regular basis, or did you go home on a regular basis?

EH:

Yes, I'm sure we did. Right offhand I don't remember, but we would have leave. We'd have leave every so often, and you would go home or wherever you might decide you wanted to spend that time.

HT:

Do you recall what some of your favorite songs and movies and dances were from that period?

EH:

No, not right offhand.

HT:

And do you recall where you were when you heard about VE Day, which was in May of 1945?

EH:

Well, as I said, I was at home at that time, because I thought I would be going overseas. And really, that's all I remember, that I was at home and wondering what this is going to do to the status of whether I go overseas or not. That is about as much as I can remember about that.

HT:

How did your family feel about the possibility of you going overseas?

EH:

Well, it was just like my joining the army. I don't remember—obviously, they did not make any objection to my doing it, because, as I said, having become a parent since then, I don't know how they could so quietly let me go ahead and do these things that I had decided to do.

HT:

You were quite young at this time.

EH:

Yes, I was. I was in my early twenties.

HT:

What about VJ Day and the dropping of the atomic bomb? Were you still at home at that time when that happened, or had you already gone back to Camp Gordon?

EH:

I think I had already gone back to Camp Gordon, and I don't really remember too much about how that affected me.

HT:

I think you said earlier that you were discharged at Fort Bragg. Is that correct?

EH:

Yes.

HT:

And you were discharged as a first lieutenant.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

What impact do you think being in the Army Nurse Corps had on you right after you got out and in the long term?

EH:

Well, I think I grew a lot as a person, and it opened up doors for me that probably would not have been open. I don't think I would have been able to go to college without working in some manner.

HT:

Were you able to take advantage of the GI Bill?

EH:

That's why I was able to go to about three years at Chapel Hill, to get my degree, which was very nice.

HT:

Since you had already had nursing school, did you have to complete the entire four years at Chapel Hill?

EH:

No, you got some credit for your nursing, for your RN [registered nurse license]. So that's what went towards some of it. So it took me about three years to complete.

HT:

And what was Chapel Hill like immediately after the war?

EH:

Oh, there were people there. I was able to get in a dormitory. I lived in Kenan Dormitory. I was married in 1949. We met in '48 and married in '49. I finished in January of '50 at UNC, because I lived in Kenan Dormitory until we were married. I went to work with the Orange County Health Department and worked out of the Hillsboro office, which was an interesting experience.

HT:

What was that like?

EH:

It was a rural area. Public health is so different from hospital nursing. It's a long time before you see any results of what you're trying to accomplish, which is to bring these people's health levels up.

HT:

As a public health nurse, did you go around to people's homes?

EH:

Yes. And then you conducted clinics, where they would come in for different services. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I found that very rewarding. Well, I worked there for about two years, because Gary was that long finishing law school. So it was an interesting field to be in and somewhat different.

HT:

And how long did you stay in that field?

EH:

Well, after we came to Greensboro from Chapel Hill, I worked for about five or six years. Then I had two children. Back in that era, there was not all this daycare that you have now, and it just became impossible to really have adequate help with two children at home. So I decided that I had to stay at home with the children.

HT:

And in Greensboro, did you go around visiting private homes and conduct classes and clinics?

EH:

Yes. Classes and clinics.

HT:

What kind of classes and clinics did you teach?

EH:

Well, immunizations and child care. And then we'd do clinics in child care. A lot of times you'd have a doctor there, maybe doing a check for babies or young children. I remember the polio vaccine came out about that time, and we'd have large clinics for giving polio vaccine. You'd go near to where the people were with your clinics, as opposed to them having to come into Greensboro. Of course, we had our clinic in Greensboro, too, so they could come in if they wanted to.

HT:

And was this the only care that some people received, all the doctor's care and dental care?

EH:

Yes. A lot of them, yes.

HT:

That was a huge responsibility.

EH:

Yes. And you helped people with prior diseases. A lot of times you would go in and give them bed care, when they were not able to get out of bed, or teach someone in the family to do those type things.

HT:

Now, that's not done anymore, is it, public health? At least I'm not familiar with it.

EH:

I have been out of the field for so long. I think hospice might be, but hospice deals strictly with the terminally ill. I think they do do some of it.

HT:

In the more rural areas, the mountains and things like West Virginia, perhaps, or something like that.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

I have just a few more questions about the military. Has your life been different because you've been in the military?

EH:

Yes, I suppose so, because, as I said, I don't think I would have—I might have, eventually, down the line, gone to college, but I would not have been able to do it as soon as I was to come out of the military and go to college. And that, to me, is always a more broadening experience.

HT:

Did the GI Bill pay for your books and tuition and room and board?

EH:

Well, it was pretty hard to live on just that amount, but I got some help from the family.

HT:

You don't recall how much you got on the GI Bill?

EH:

No, I sure don't. I can't remember. But it covered your books and tuition.

HT:

If you had to do it over again, would you join the military, or the Army Nurse Corps?

EH:

Yes, I certainly would.

HT:

So it was a positive experience for you.

EH:

Yes, it was. Yes.

HT:

Can you describe your adjustment to civilian life once you left the Army Nurse Corps, and what was it like?

EH:

Well, not very long after I was out of the service and the regimentation of that, I went to school.

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

EH:

There we had all our kind of basic needs we meet.

HT:

I see. You were never lacking in food or clothing or medical supplies and that sort of thing.

EH:

Oh, no. No. No. And really didn't anybody that did, other than I knew—what was it, sugar was in short supply?

HT:

I think sugar and coffee and gasoline was rationed.

EH:

Yes. And I know the gasoline was rationed, but—

HT:

It was difficult to get tires, and, of course, nobody had new automobiles.

EH:

Yes, so no new cars. But, see, I didn't have any.

HT:

I imagine you probably went back and forth either on a bus or by train.

EH:

Yes. So I really didn't. I didn't miss those things that much, and seems like when I went home, everything was sufficient there. So I guess I remember the gasoline shortage more than anything else.

HT:

Who do you remember admiring during this period of time and respecting a great deal, heroes or heroines, that sort of thing?

EH:

Oh, I think [Franklin D.] Roosevelt was a—

HT:

President Roosevelt?

EH:

Yes. He particularly stands out in my mind, and I remember very vividly when he died. That was quite a jolt.

HT:

Did you ever have a chance to meet him?

EH:

No.

HT:

How about Mrs. [Eleanor] Roosevelt?

EH:

She was quite an outstanding individual, too. I admired her an awful lot.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be an independent person?

EH:

Well, to a point, but I like having people around and support from them, too. So, yes.

HT:

Well, did the military make you more independent, or reinforce the way you already were?

EH:

I think so. I think any experience that you have, that you can take something from it that helps you later in life.

HT:

Would you consider yourself to be a trailblazer, a trendsetter when you entered the service? Because not many women had done this sort of thing. So it was quite new for this period of time.

EH:

Well, I didn't feel, by the time I went in, that I was a trailblazer. I felt like I was more one among many, because there were a lot of women in service, a lot more by the time I went in. I did not go in at the beginning of the war. So I didn't feel it was so unusual for me to do that, but I didn't hesitate to do it, so—but I wouldn't consider myself a trailblazer. Maybe Jo Flynn was, when I hear her tell her story.

HT:

She was one of the very early members of the second class of the WAAC [Women's Auxiliary Army Corps]. So it's quite unusual.

EH:

Very unusual.

HT:

Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?

EH:

Well, to a point, but not extreme.

HT:

In the Gulf War, women flew jets and were in combat and this sort of thing.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

How do you feel about that?

EH:

Well, I don't know. I think they're put in the jeopardy if anything happens and if they're taken prisoner, and I don't think I'd want to be in those—I think they can prove themselves in other ways. But if that's their choosing, then that's all right.

HT:

So if they want that opportunity, then they should not be denied that opportunity.

EH:

I don't think so if they're qualified. But as I said, I don't think I'd want that experience for myself.

HT:

Have any of your children been in the military?

EH:

No. Well, my oldest son would have been the only one, you know, the Vietnam War, the [unclear], and his draft number was so low—I don't know. Anyway, he was in college at the time, and he was not involved. So I have not had any children in the military.

HT:

Mrs. Henson, Iíve asked all the formal questions for this afternoon.

EH:

Yes.

HT:

Is there anything you'd like to add to the interview that I perhaps haven't covered about either your military service or afterwards, when you worked in public health?

EH:

No. I don't know of anything. As I said when you called me, I thought, I don't have anything to tell you, because I really didn't do anything unusual. I just worked in a hospital like I would have worked anyway. But it was a unique experience, and I'm glad I had it. And I hope, maybe, what I've had to say, with all the rest you collect would—

HT:

There is one thing. I just want to ask you, after you got married, and I think you said you worked in public health for a few years. After the children were grown, did you go back into public health nursing or any form of nursing later on?

EH:

No. You know, once you get out of the field of nursing, it seems to be changing so much that you really feel at a loss to go into a hospital to work.

HT:

The technology changes so rapidly.

EH:

Of course. It's just unbelievable. And so I did work, volunteer for the Red Cross, because I thought that was a field that I could contribute. I did volunteer at Women's Hospital for several years, and I enjoyed that. But that was the nearest that I got into the medical field.

But I felt like my background helped a little bit even in those areas. But I just have not gotten back. But it's been a help raising a family. At least you're a little bit familiar with—you know enough sometimes to scare you to death. Anyway, I've had full and interesting life, so I can't complain.

HT:

What are some of the things you've been involved in in the last few years?

EH:

Well, as I said, I'd worked with Red Cross, and I worked at Women's Hospital. I also did mobile meals, which I found was a very gratifying experience also.

HT:

Again, thank you so much for talking to me, and I really appreciate it.

EH:

Well, it's been my pleasure, and I enjoyed seeing you. I don't have any—I tried to think if I had any keepsakes or anything that you might be interested in, but my daughter was so interested in whatever little bit I had saved that she took it with her. She was the one who expressed more interest in my time in service than the boys had. So I think that's kind of interesting.

HT:

Again, thanks so much. I'll go ahead and turn this off now.

[End of Interview]