Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dorothy Parsons and the Army Nurse Corps

When I can’t locate a family to return a postcard, I keep the card in a box in the hope that I’ll find the family someday. One card, however, found a different home.

The card, acquired from e-Bay, was written from North Africa in 1943 by an Army nurse, First Lieutenant Dorothy Parsons, and addressed to Miss Helda Brown in Wolfboro, New Jersey. The photo on the card was an artifact from a museum in Tunisia, and the message indicated that Lt. Parsons had visited the museum.

My research determined that Lt. Parsons was from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and graduated from nursing school at Portsmouth Hospital in 1929. During World War II she served in North Africa and Italy, and also served in Korea. She made a career of the Army Nurse Corp, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. She died in 1998 at the age of 92 and is buried in the Sagamore Cemetery in Portsmouth.

It appears she never married. I found names of a few nieces and tried unsuccessfully to contact them. I also tried to find Helda Brown, the person to whom the card was addressed, but couldn't locate her, either. I suspect Ms. Brown kept the card and it got to e-Bay through an estate sale when she died.

In her postcard, Lt. Parsons wrote, "A friend sent me some N.H. Troubadours and I love the mountain scenes. I wish I got them all the time." The New Hampshire Troubadour was a magazine published from 1931 to 1951 by the New Hampshire State Development Commission.

In searching for Lt. Parsons I found a reference to her in a book titled Paradox of Professionalism: American Nurses in World War II, by Marsha Burris. I contacted Ms. Burris to see if she had a connection to Lt. Parsons and wanted the card. While she didn't want the card, she made the excellent suggestion that I consider donating the card to a place that would preserve it.

I searched around and found the Army Medical Department Medical Museum at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. My email to them was quickly answered by Colonel Betsy Vane, Army Nurse Corps Historian. Col. Vane said they would be happy to have the postcard. She sent me the appropriate paperwork and I sent them the card.


Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, Aug. 31, 1945

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