Women’s History Month Celebrates the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps in Arizona

When a looming nursing shortage threatened to impact stateside hospitals in the runup to WWII the solution came in the form of an innovative program. The Nurse Training Act (also known as the Bolton Act) was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, making federal funds available to support and establish an emergency pathway for young women to become nurses. Among the provisions of the law was an unprecedented ban on discrimination against students on the basis of race or ethnicity, and the guarantee of a free education in exchange for a promise to serve in essential nursing service for the duration of the War. Native Americans, African Americans, and relocated Japanese Americans were permitted to enroll in a newly accelerated training curricula that would supply the care delivery to meet critical demand at home and abroad. Arizona was home to two trailblazing schools of nursing: the nation’s only accredited and successful school for Native Americans, Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado; and the country’s first inter-racial hospital west of the Mississippi, St. Monica’s Hospital in Phoenix.

Elsie Szecsy, author and Research Professional Emerita in the School of Transborder Studies, a unit of the College of Liberal Arts at ASU, discusses the history and lasting influence of the 124,000+ women who graduated from participating nursing schools, sharing the story of their recruitment, training, and experience.

Program is included in museum admission; free for museum members.

Elsie Szecsy