This Way Forward: Clara Noyes (1869–1936)

This Way Forward: Clara Noyes (1869–1936)

“We need a strong woman in Washington! There is too much at stake now to take any chances.”

With that plea, from its founder Jane Delano in 1916, Clara Dutton Noyes (Class of 1896) was called to the American Red Cross Nursing Service, faced immediately with the enormous task of preparing nurses for service in World War I. Noyes was responsible for the enrollment, organization, and assignment of 21,000 nurses (by war’s end) to duty.

The truer challenge, perhaps, would have been trying to stop the cool-minded, fastidious Noyes from succeeding. Delano had chosen well. On her mentor’s death in 1919, Noyes became director of nursing service and chairman of the National Committee onAmerican Red Cross Nursing, After the war, she shaped the Red Cross shift to service for veterans, safety training, accident prevention, home care for the sick, nutrition education, and disaster response. Under her leadership, the Red Cross provided relief for victims during the Mississippi River floods of 1927 and severe drought and the Depression during the 1930s.

Noyes suffered a fatal heart attack on June 3, 1936, during her drive to the Red Cross headquarters in DC at age 66. “The swift termination of Miss Noyes’ earthly life came as she would have wished—swiftly, mercifully—with her affairs, personal and professional, all in the exquisite order that was so characteristic of all that she did,” read her obituary in the American Journal of Nursing.

Source: Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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