Women Medical Professionals

During WWII the U.S. military employed thousands of civilian women as nurses and medical technicians. The following is an excerpt from an oral history interview with Karina Allen, a medical technician at Fort Snelling from 1944-45. Think about the following as you read the reminiscence and look at the images:

  • Why do you think Allen was so excited about the opportunity to work at Fort Snelling?
  • How do you think the U.S. military tried to attract men and women into the medical service?

I wanted that job and I had picked out my best business looking clothes.  I came with my high school diploma, an unsigned transcript of grades and classes from the Med Tech School.  I hadn't told the school that I was going for an interview.

First, I was taken to a military office and asked if I was a citizen.  Then he said raise your right hand.  I did.  He recited a pledge, something about defending the U.S. against all its enemies.  There may have been more to the pledge but he said it so fast I wasn't quite sure what I was promising.  I said, 'I do.'

Next stop was at the personnel office.  I was offered a salary of $120.00 a month, my hours were 7:00-4:30 six days a week, a half an hour for lunch.  As civilians, we were to be off the fort grounds by 6:00 p.m.  We were to buy our own white uniforms but the hospital laundry would wash and iron them free.  I was to start the following Monday.  I was going to be working at something more exciting than waitress, babysitter, sales clerk, dishwasher or cleaning houses that I had been doing while going to school.... 

In 1940, civilian doctors in private practice in the area were hired to do physicals because the Army did not have enough doctors to examine the large number of men being inducted.  In 1942, there was a staff of over 1,000 civilians and military personnel processing 800 recruits a day....


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