Beauty and Vulgarity WWII’s Influence on Nursing December 7, 194,1 is a date that will forever be remembered in U.S. history. It was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. The air in the country after the attack was that of patriotism and determination to defend the nation. America’s involvement in World War II had a profound effect on the profession of nursing. Nursing is a key element of healthcare. During times of war, it can be the difference between life and death for a wounded soldier. Not only the number of female nurses increased significantly during the war, but the roles that nurses played became more critical. In 1941, the Army Nursing Corps had a severe shortage of nurses with fewer than seven thousand nurses and it was leading to the need for nurses to volunteer. In order to join the Nursing Corps, a woman had to meet certain criteria. Naturally, she had to be a citizen of the United States and she had to be a registered nurse. In the time frame of World War II, the nursing profession created job opportunities, where women and African Americans, unfortunately, were treated with discrimination. The nursing profession allowed women to join the Army Nurse Corps during WWII without fighting with men. Before World War II, women were always permanent members of many movements. In early America, a woman’s life tended to center around the farmhouse and the family. Men did the outside work while women worked inside the house. World War II broke out and changed women lifestyle. During World War II, some women returned to the place society had destined for them while others refused. They had learned new skills and were prepared to use them. This time, many women began working outside the home for the first time. According to the article, the author stated that “Between 1940 and 1944, the number of employed women rose by half, reaching a high of 19 million, and, for the first time in American history, married women outnumbered singles” (O’Neill, 2008). This statement explains that many women were in the workforce during World War II, which created numerous new social and economic opportunities for American women. Both, Society and the United States military found an increasing number of roles for women. As large numbers of women entered many of the professions for the first time and need for nurses clarified the status of the nursing profession. According to the article, “Counting Nurses: The Power of Historical Census Data”, the author stated numbers of men and women who identified themselves as “professional nurses” exploded in the early decades of the Twentieth Century: from 10,000 in 1900; to 74,000 in 1910; to 117,000 in 1920; to 230,000 in 1930; to 3534799 in 2006. That means many people take professional careers as nurses. Moreover, the author also emphasized women represented 98% of all nurses during World War II (J Clin Nurs, 2009). This statistic shows that females were the only gender allowed to join the Army Nurse Corps during WWII. During World War II, women nurses got a chance to go to work outside the home, but their struggled changed the gender role. Working women also suffered from discrimination. When the supply of white males and single white females was exhausted, employers had no alternative but to hire married women and blacks. Despite the gendered images, men and women did the same work, but their pay did not equal with men. “In 1944 the average wage for working women was $31.21 per week compared to $54.65 for men” (O’Neill, 2008) even though women had high degrees. Furthermore, men who were nurses were denied nursing roles and were assigned as Corpsmen or medical technicians. Also, they only began to break the gender barrier in 1955 via an amendment to the 1947 Army-Navy Nurse Act. Women feared encroachment on their domain in the Corps and actively resisted the inclusion of men. At the end of the war, women wanted to keep their jobs as nurses, but men forced them to go back home. “At the war’s end, even though a majority of women nurse surveyed reported wanted to keep their jobs, many were forced out by men nurse returning home and by the downturn in demand for war materials” (National, 2018). Nurses are the largest group of women workers in the United States, and the Army Nursing Corps provides a novel way of thinking about gender and race. African American nurses were highly qualified to serve within the military community at the beginning of World War II. Although they were qualified, they were constantly discriminated against. Mabel K. Staupers, the executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, lobbied for a change in the discriminatory policies of the Army Nurse Corps (Threat,2012). First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also saw the need to make changes and urged the army surgeon general to recruit African-American nurses for service in the Army Nurse Corps. The Army did comply but did not want to do it willingly. In 1941, the Army Nurse Corps began accepting African American nurses. Due to a quota system, only a small number, fifty-six, were allowed to join. During World War II, African American nurses served in all theaters of the war including Africa, Burma, Australia, and England. Moreover, the first black medical unit to be deployed overseas was the 25th Station Hospital Unit, which contained thirty nurses. Malaria was the most serious health problem the troops encountered. Also, black nurses wore helmets and carried full packs containing musette bags, gas masks, and canteen belts. In July 1948 the Executive Order 9981 was issued by President Harry S. Truman which prevented blatant discrimination in the armed forces. Executive Order 9981 states, “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin” (Robinson, 2014). By the end of World War II, approximately 600 African American nurses had served. The National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses dissolved into the American Nurses Association, which had extended its membership to all nurses regardless of race. African-American nurses were allowed to serve, and those who did were allowed to only care for African-American soldiers and German prisoners of war. At the beginning of the war, it had become part of a larger movement against discrimination of African Americans in the United States. In January 1941, Staupers efforts paid off when the Army opened the nurse corps to black women. However, there was a limit of only 56 African American nurses that could join the corps. In WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps), African American women lived separate quarters during WWII. At that time, African American women served in segregated units and participated in segregated training. They ate separate tables in mess halls and used segregated recreation facilities. In addition, African Americans worked domestic jobs during WWII. According to the article, “National Museum of the Pacific War”, 167,000 African American served in the Navy but as mess attendants and cooks (National, 2018). It shows that they were able to join work, but they were using African Americans as domestic workers. Besides, black nurses were limited because they were only allowed to care for black troops in black wards or hospitals. When WWII soldiers affected Malaria, only African American Nurses treated them. Malaria was the most serious health problem the troops encountered. Although malarial patients required an intensive amount of care, much of this work was routine. The black nurses were recalled because they needed to treat black troops. Also, black nurses were largely restricted to serving only in hospitals and aid stations occupied by black military men. Therefore, African Americans did not get paid adequately. According to the article, the author stated that “In 1949, each additional year of age added $75 to the annual income of whites, but only $20 to that of blacks — unless the latter had moved to the North, in which case their rate of increase was the same as for whites” (O’Neill, 2008). It describes that there are big differences between the annual income of African Americans and whites. While black female nurses were successful in breaking down racial barriers, white male nurses were thwarted in their bid to eliminate gender discrimination. When nursing began, it had very little to do with formal medical training and everything to do with gender and willingness to do the job. In the early days of nursing, women learned medical skills from their mothers or other women in the same profession. It wasn’t really seen as a respected trade, but women weren’t really seen as a respectable gender, either. Women were caretakers, so nursing was just an extension of what their roles at home were anyway. Today, the nursing profession has changed drastically. Gender-related changes in work values were analyzed in a longitudinal questionnaire study of 173 male and 48 female engineers and 353 females and 31 male nurses (HAGSTRÖM, KJELLBERG, 2007). It means female study nursing more than men. There are extensive training programs, more diversified staff, and a level of prestige associated with this area of the medical field that wasn’t there before. In modern society, women always face inequality, especially in the nursing profession. Despite the advancement in healthcare, nursing is still perceived as a field which is less prestigious and thus requires less training and education. There is a negative stigma that nursing is a female’s profession as nurturing is thought to be a trait of female gender and men are not viewed as nurturing. Another trait considered for this gender biases is the caregiver mentality which is only in females as males are task oriented. The following statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau of 2011 shows the increment of male nurses and their pay in this profession: – Of the 3.5 million employed nursed in 2011, only 330,000 of them were male. However, of those male nurses, the majority are still making 10% more than their female counterparts (McBeth, 2018). That is quite a gender divide, but it still shows that their pay is unequal between men and women. In addition, healthcare is trying to provide equal opportunity for both genders as the demand for nurses is rising. Thus, they give more opportunities for male nurses. Today, black nurses still earn less than whites. They face a salary gap even if they have the same experience. Nursing has long been a ladder up for minority women, but a new state study shows that in New York City, black nurses get paid less than their white counterparts. The Center for Health Workforce Studies at the State University of New York in Albany compared the salaries of nurses with similar experience and credentials and found that black nurses made less in almost all cases. “Black nurses with 30 or more years of experience earned an average annual salary of about $81,000, while white nurses with the same experience earned an average of almost $90,000 — 11% more” (Scott, 2008). This statement explains that modern society still does racism to black nurses. Moreover, we can see that most private hospital which pays more than the city’s public hospital. When they need nurses, they hire more white than black nurses. After hiring, white nurses get more money than black nurses even in the same hospital. In the time frame of World War II, the nursing profession created job opportunities for women and African Americans, but they were treated with discrimination. Only the nursing profession that allowed women to join the Army Nurse Corps without joining the fighting. Women nurses had the chance to go to work outside of the home, but their struggled changed their gender role. Working women also suffered from discrimination. Also, African American nurses were highly qualified to serve within the military community at the beginning of World War II. African-American nurses were allowed to only care for African-American soldiers and German prisoners of war. In modern society, women study nursing more than men and African Americans can also study nursing without any restriction. However, women and black nurses always face inequality. They still earn less money and face a salary gap even with the same experience. The government and our mentality still need to change by removing the gender salary gap and racial inequality. If we can do it, we can make a wonderful world full of equality for men and women of all colors.
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