H228: Creating Archival Stories #2

Charles J. Baker by Ariana Wilde

Charles Baker in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Figure 1: Charles Baker at the Leaning Tower of Pisa circa 1945, while stationed in Italy.

Charles J. Baker was one of the many Indiana University students whose education was disrupted by events outside his control (in the form of World War II and conscription); one of several similarities he bears to today’s IU students. While the young man enrolled in IU in fall 1942, there are no records in IU files indicating he ever graduated. However, unlike some of the others who were drafted or volunteered to serve in the war, Baker’s records also lack any killed in action notices. So, what happened to him after his enlistment? And how did his military service affect the course of his life? Also, how does his story contain parallels to our experiences? 

Charles Jewell Baker was born October 5, 1923 in Washington, D.C1. While he was a student in Bloomington, he listed his and his parents’ addresses as Washington, D.C., suggesting he attended IU as an out-of-state student. Considering how long such a drive would have taken and how many closer options he had, Baker–like today’s out-of-state and international students–had good reasons to choose IU. 

Baker only completed his freshman year at IU yet did well enough that he was part of the Freshman Honor Society of 1942-433. While at IU, he entered the Enlisted Reserve Corps in November 1942 and by July 1943, he was in the Quartermaster Corps Camp Lee, Virginia. The following April, Baker was stationed at Bari, Italy, serving in the Army Air Corps4

Yearbook photo
Figure 2: A 1948 yearbook page of seniors at George Washington University.

Despite only spending a year at Indiana University, Baker remained as invested in the school’s sports and campus news as students living in Bloomington. While stationed in Italy in 1944, he requested the schedules of the football and basketball teams as well as a subscription to the Indiana Alumni Magazine5.  

Mr. Baker also repeatedly expressed interest in returning to IU after the war, ideally during the fall of 1946.6 However, IU records show he did not. Nonetheless, he did continue his education. The 1948 yearbook of George Washington University indicates he did indeed resume college albeit at a different school7. In fact, given the fact that he joined the Delta Phi Epsilon Professional Foreign Service Fraternity in December 1946, he apparently met his goal of reenrolling in fall 19468.  

Figure 3: Nancy Giglio’s 1948 yearbook page

Attending George Washington University instead of Indiana had a lasting impact on his life. In June 1949, shortly after graduating college, Baker married Nancy Giglio9. She appears as a senior in the same 1948 yearbook. In addition to getting a BA in Spanish, Nancy was involved in a variety of organizations, including Greek Life, the Cherry Tree Yearbook, student government, and soccer10. Presumably, given the time of their marriage, Nancy and Charles met at some point during their time at college, which would not have happened had Charles returned to IU.  

It is possible that his time in Italy influenced or at least confirmed his choice of career path. While his letters while stationed in Italy suggest an interest in math11, he ended up pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Service at George Washington University. In some 1945 correspondence12, Baker mentions a wonderful 10-day trip to Switzerland that “compensated in part” for having been “located for the past twenty months in Bari, Italy with an Army Air Forces Supply Depot.” Baker’s travel in that time period is also evident in Figure 1 above, where he is photographed in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, some 375 miles away from Bari13.  

Whether he had previously sought an international career or not, his experiences abroad continued. New York passenger arrival lists observe Charles and Nancy Baker returning from Paris in August 196214. By this point the couple lived in Arlington, Virginia. Interestingly, although she does not appear in the passenger manifest, her Virginia marriage record15 (with date of birth) demonstrates that the couple’s daughter Alexandra was almost 6-years old at the time of their trip. Based on his Washington Post obituary16, the Bakers had at least three more children at some point, whose names similarly are not on the manifest. While the couple may have simply gone on a vacation without their kids, it is also possible that the trip in question was related to work. According to his Delta Phi Epsilon obituary17, Baker went on to work for the CIA in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Morocco, and became the branch chief of North African affairs before he retired in 1973. Such a job likely involved a fair amount of travel. 

Figure 4: Tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery

Due to his service in World War II, Charles J. Baker was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, not too far away from where he grew up and later graduated from college18. While his path didn’t bring him back to Bloomington or Indiana after the war, Baker’s experience still offers a critical perspective of the IU experience at the time. His correspondence with the Indiana Alumni Magazine indicates an institution and its members trying to support students affected by the war. It also highlights a young man whose short time in Indiana nevertheless allowed him to connect with IU and Hoosiers, including Edward Hutton, whose address he specifically asks about19. The individual captured in the documents in the IU Archives bears a remarkable similarity to current students despite his very different circumstances: he had a favorite professor, participated in extracurricular activities like choir, enjoyed traveling abroad and learning about new cultures, and followed IU basketball. Charles Baker is an exemplar of what an IU student can aspire to, especially as we strive to balance education with drastic world-wide events. 

References 

1.     1930 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com, Washington, District of Columbia, page 4B, Enumeration District 0361, FHL microfilm 2340038. United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls. 

2.     IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register records, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 1. 

3.     Ibid. 

4.     Ibid. 

5.     Baker, Charles. Charles Baker to Indiana Alumnae Association, September 22, 1944. Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington. 

6.     IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 2. 

7.     George Washington University. Cherry Tree 1948 Yearbook. Washington D.C.: Graduating Class of 1948, 1948. U.S. School Yearbooks 1900-1999, Ancestry.com, 16. 

8.     “Chapter Eternal.” Delta Phi Epsilon, last modified January 2014. http://www.deltaphiepsilon.net/Chapter_Eternal.html 

9.     District of Columbia, Marriage Records, 1810-1953, Ancestry.com. Marriage RecordsDistrict of Columbia Marriages. Clerk of the Superior Court, Records Office, Washington D.C.  https://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=61404&h=35517&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=9278  

10.   George Washington University. Cherry Tree 1948 Yearbook. Washington D.C.: Graduating Class of 1948, 1948. U.S. School Yearbooks 1900-1999, Ancestry.com, 24. 

11.  Baker, Charles. Charles Baker to Indiana Alumnae Association, September 22, 1944. Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington. 

12.  IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 2. 

13.  Archive Photograph Collection. Charles Baker, P0067303. Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington. http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/archivesphotos/results/item.do?itemId=P0067303&searchId=1&searchResultIndex=1 

14.  New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1967, Ancestry.com. Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. The National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/imageviewer/collections/1277/images/42804_336747-07398?pId=6098269 

15.  Virginia, Marriages, 1936-2014, Ancestry.com, Roll: 101142203Virginia Department of Health. Richmond, Virginia. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=charles-jewell-baker&pid=15231322

16.  “Charles Jewell Baker.” Washington Post, September 28, 2005. https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/washingtonpost/obituary.aspx?n=charles-jewell-baker&pid=15231322 

17.  “Chapter Eternal.” Delta Phi Epsilon, last modified January 2014. http://www.deltaphiepsilon.net/Chapter_Eternal.html 

18.  National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019, Ancestry.com. National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator. https://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid=8750&h=3697857&indiv=try&o_vc=Record:OtherRecord&rhSource=60901 

19.  IU War Service Record, Indiana University War Service Register, Collection C502, Indiana University Archives, Bloomington, 2. 

H228: Creating Archival Stories #1

With it being Veterans Day, we are so pleased that we are able to begin to roll out the results of a recent course collaboration. This semester, University Archives Director Dina Kellams worked with Ron Osgood’s Honors H228: Creating Archival Stories course. For one of their assignments, students were asked to select an IU affiliate from the Archives War Service Register records and dig into their story. Due to COVID, students were not able to visit the Archives so all research was done online, largely through free or subscription services available to them through IU Libraries, and the students did a marvelous job. We will continue to share some of the stories through the next week or so. Hope you enjoy these samples of student work and the stories they discovered!

Robert William Bulmer by Marie Renahan

Navy portrait of Bulmer
Navy portrait taken of Robert circa 19421

World War II changed the course of the lives of many students at Indiana University. Some students chose to join a branch of the military instead of completing a degree, while others delayed attending college until after returning home. The stories of these IU students can be found in the Indiana University War Service Register records, where documents have been collected about each of the Indiana University students who served in a U.S. war between 1920 and 1946. Robert William Bulmer was one of those students. Surprisingly, the vast majority of the many files in Robert’s folder are change-of-address cards (about 20 of them!) that offer only simple details about his postal address during his deployment in the U.S. Navy. However, when seen as a whole, these cards help create a richer history of the complex life Robert led as a Navy Lieutenant and the Hoosier spirit he kept after leaving IU.  

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Robert’s draft card. He entered the service in 1941.5 

Robert Bulmer was born on August 23, 1920 in Gary, Indiana. He attended IU from Fall 1939 through Spring 1941 before entering service with the U.S. Navy on November 21, 1941. Shortly after returning home at the end of his service, he married Marjorie Evelyn Barnes and moved to Logansport, IN.2 After serving in the Korean War and working at Pepsi-Cola for several years, he died in 1999 at the age of 78 in New Albany, Indiana.3,4  

By looking at the records of his life during WWII, Robert’s experiences during the war come alive. For example, one newspaper clipping from November 23, 1942 in the Gary Indiana Post-Tribune congratulates Robert on graduating naval aircraft school with high marks.2 Interestingly enough, most of his files are change-of-address postcards sent to the alumni office to ensure the safe delivery of alumni magazines to each new destination as Robert sailed with the U.S. Navy. These forms create a unique perspective on Robert’s service—we can see the frequent changes in location and the constant motion that was needed to keep the Navy running in WWII. 

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Card from the Alumni Office that outlines some of Robert’s address changes2 

The card above gives a summary of many of the address changes Robert reported to the alumni office. Some of his assignments only last a month or two before he is moved to a new location or ship. Robert sent mail from San Diego, New York City, San Francisco, Miami, and many more places all in three years of service.2 It is unknown where exactly he travelled by sea with the Navy, but Robert fought for several years in the Pacific, indicated by all of the addresses listed on the west coast. Additionally, he stayed at the Sigma Chi House at Wabash College in Crawfordsville to study and complete military training for almost a year.6 Despite constantly moving with new Navy assignments, Robert made it a focus to continually update his address with the alumni office to continue receiving alumni magazines. 

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One of Robert’s more patriotic postcards, sent from Miami, Florida in 19452 
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Robert made his enthusiasm for the issues of the alumni magazine very clear. He thanked the alumni office each time he sent a change of address, paid his fees diligently, and noted every change of address—even if he only stayed in that location for a few months. Many of the notes include nostalgic messages, like “thinking of the good old days at Indiana…” from his July 13, 1944 postcard, and “thanks a million for keeping me informed about campus activities” from his March 1, 1942 note. Robert does apologize for the constant changes of address after missing a few issues of the magazine, saying “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it—every time I thought I had settled down for a while, I was moved on again,” in a letter updating his address on April 4, 1945.2 

Image of letter
1945 letter apologizing for all of the address changes2 

I imagine that with so many unexpected moves, it would have been lovely to experience a bit of home and feel some nostalgia with the monthly updates in the alumni magazine. His excitement for the alumni magazine is also more understandable when viewed with his enthusiasm for the school in a wide variety of activities. In the first record from November 14, 1942, Robert notes that he actively participated in the Acacia fraternity, was the sophomore manager for the swim team, worked as a staff member for the Arbutus yearbook, and played an instrument in band. He must have had lots of school spirit during college. He remarks that “the alumni magazine was a swell surprise” and says he “think[s] of IU often and back[s] her 100%.”2 He wanted to stay connected to his home at Indiana University, and the magazines were a reminder of our Hoosier spirit even during war. 

After writing so many post cards, and with several years of serving in the Navy in locations all over the U.S., Robert returned to Indiana.3 He married Marjorie Barnes on July 1, 1944 and they welcomed their first son on August 2, 1945.2, The couple also had another son and daughter,7,8 and they moved to Gary, Indiana while Robert took on a job at Standard Steel Spring.2 He and his family finally settled down in Logansport, Indiana, where Robert eventually became the vice-president of Pepsi-Cola general bottlers for the region.4,7 Robert also served in the Korean War, but unfortunately, few records remain regarding this service. 

A newspaper clipping announces the upcoming wedding of Robert and Marjorie2 

Robert’s life in the Navy and constant change of scenery was encapsulated so uniquely through this series of postcards and letters. His complex history of address changes during WWII surprisingly showed his passion for IU and his continued Hoosier spirit. Robert fought bravely for our country for many years, but always found time to keep up to date on his alumni magazines and stay connected to his fellow students. 

References 

  1. Robert William Bulmer [Photograph]. (n.d.). Archives Photo Collection, Indiana University, Bloomington IN. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/archives/photos/P0067280 
  1. Bulmer, Indiana University War Service Register [Photograph]. (n.d.). Archives Online at Indiana University, Indiana University, Bloomington IN. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/findingaids/view?brand=general&docId=InU-Ar-VAD4127&chunk.id=VAD4127-03665&startDoc=1#mets=http%3A%2F%2Fpurl.dlib.indiana.edu%2Fiudl%2Farchives%2Fmets%2FVAD4127-03688&aid=VAD4127-U-04211&page=1 
  1. Robert W. Bulmer (1920-1999). (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/172885570/robert-w.-bulmer
  1. Indiana Death Certificates: Robert W. Bulmer. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60716&h=3235647&tid=&pid=&queryId=80da612bb5327b69b104043ecc0c4389&usePUB=true&_phsrc=lAz5&_phstart=successSource
  1. Bulmer Draft Card. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2238&h=40551652&tid=&pid=&queryId=80da612bb5327b69b104043ecc0c4389&usePUB=true&_phsrc=lAz5&_phstart=successSource
  1. Gregerson, R. (2006, September 21). V12 Reunion Brings Back Unique Alumni Group. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.wabash.edu/news/displaystory.cfm?news_ID=3845 
  1. Obituary: Robert W. Bulmer. (1999, April 28). The Courier Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), p. 16. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=46404236&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjExMDk4MTIzOSwiaWF0IjoxNjAyNjc2NjM3LCJleHAiOjE2MDI3NjMwMzd9.6geLiUUROWKhjL5MnQy1gB1oaulk3sy2BiAVFuo_0-A 
  1. Marjorie Evelyn Bulmer. (2007, October 17). Logansport Pharos Tribune. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://obituaries.pharostribune.com/obituary/marjorie-bulmer-717739521 

From the Arkansas Delta to Indiana University Administration: The Charlie Nelms Papers, 1967-2016

Charlie Nelms is an unparalleled force in higher education. From his early days as a graduate student at Indiana University to his executive leadership roles at IU and beyond, Nelms has deeply affected the landscape of higher education in the United States. I had the absolute pleasure of processing the Charlie Nelms papers, 1967-2016 (Collection C701) at the University Archives. This collection of writings, correspondence, reports, publications, audiovisual recordings, and ephemera documents Nelms’ life as a great leader, activist, orator, and educator. The potential uses of this collection are expansive. Anyone interested in diversity and race in higher education, university administration, philanthropy, public speaking, community outreach, mentorship, or memoir writing should definitely make use of this collection.

Charlie Nelms is shown sitting and reading a document.
Charlie Nelms, 1988. IU Archives Photograph Collection, P0028387

Charlie Nelms was born in Crawfordsville, Arkansas (in the Arkansas Delta) in 1946. Nelms was one of eleven children born to subsistence farmers and community organizers. Throughout his career and in his publications today, Nelms has reflected on growing up in the Arkansas Delta during the Jim Crow era. Many of these reflections appear in the Charlie Nelms papers, especially in the “Speeches” series (my favorite part of the collection). These anecdotes provide a powerful context to understand just how important his leadership at IU has been. Nelms shared a couple such anecdotes at the Black History Month Closing Reception at IU in 2005:

“Growing up in the Delta Region of Arkansas at a time when African Americans weren’t as fully integrated into society as they are today, Negro History Week took on special significance for my rural classmates and me. Back then you seldom saw a black face on television. In fact, very few black people even owned a television set. Popular programs included Amos and Andy, the Friday night boxing match, church sponsored box suppers and Sunday worship. And yes, there was the mourner’s bench, getting religion and being baptized in the local creek. As for me, I got religion and was baptized in a local lake known as Buck Lake. As painful as our history is, including everything from the middle passage to slavery, emancipation, segregation, desegregation, and integration, it is a history that we dare not forget lest we repeat it.”

In a 2004 speech for the Black Alumni Weekend at University of Kansas, Nelms detailed:

“School was some place you went after the cotton crop was harvested;

Decided I wanted to make the world a better place rather than wasting my energy on being angry;

Although my parents were barely literate, they had an abiding faith in education; Mama and Papa told us to get a good education because no one could take it away from you;

I know from experience that education is the engine of opportunity. The research is clear, unless you are born rich, education is the best vehicle for improving the quality of life for individuals, communities, and nations.”

These are important points to understand Nelms’ narrative: he has long understood education as the core of a just, democratic society. The biographical note on his personal website, www.charlienelms.com, states it succinctly:

“While poverty and discrimination shaped Charlie as he sought to escape their grip, he has never felt the need to escape his responsibility for eradicating their pernicious effects. Charlie deeply believes that equity and excellence are core principles of democracy, and both are achievable.”

For his undergraduate degree, Nelms stayed close to home and attended University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. After he received his B.S. in chemistry and agronomy there in 1968, he came to IU for his graduate work. He received an M.S. in higher education and student affairs in 1971 and an Ed.D. in higher education administration in 1977. The “Personal” series of the collection contains some materials from his graduate school days, such as newspapers and articles he used for research.

Like so many in academia, Charlie Nelms worked for many different universities throughout his career. After graduate school, Nelms worked at IU Northwest as a Professor of Education and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 1978-1984. The “Other Institutions” series of the collection includes teaching files, reports, and tenure dossier materials from his time at IU Northwest. The series also documents his next job as Vice President for Student Services at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. In 1987, Nelms was hired as Chancellor and Professor of Education at IU East (in Richmond, Indiana). The Indiana University East series documents his time there from 1987-1994. The series provides a window into IU East at the time, including a campus dialogue on race in America, efforts to increase black student enrollment, and general strategic planning efforts. The series also contains materials (including a lovely photo album) from Nelms’ cultural ambassador trip to a Japanese primary school in 1991.

Charlie Nelms sits at a desk. Two women and two men stand nearby. On the desk are pieces of paper with Japanese character calligraphy.
Charlie Nelms tries his hand at calligraphy while on a cultural ambassador trip to Japan, 1991.

In 1994 Nelms left Indiana entirely to become Chancellor and Professor of Education at University of Michigan-Flint, a position he served in until 1998. His time in Flint is documented in the “Speeches” series through transcripts and notes from speeches he gave at area community organizations—including the Urban League of Flint, the Flint Neighborhood Coalition, the Flint Public Library, Flint Community Schools, and Mott Community College.

In 1998, Nelms became a Hoosier again and began serving as Vice President for Institutional Development and Student Affairs at IU Bloomington (he served in this role until 2007). During his service here, Nelms led a team of university administrators from across the country to design and implement 20/20: A Vision for Achieving Equity and Excellence at IU-Bloomington. 20/20 implemented a host of recommendations made by Nelms’ team on how IU could ensure the campus actively promoted a racially and ethnically diverse student, faculty, and administrative body. Nelms embodied the goals of this plan throughout his leadership on Bloomington’s campus, particularly through collaborative efforts to fund diversity initiatives. He worked with Purdue University to secure a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to increase minority enrollment in STEM fields; helped secure $26 million in funding to construct and dedicate the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center; and launched the $5 million Jimmy Ross Endowment Fund for Diversity Initiatives. Materials across the Nelms papers document these efforts and more.

Charlie Nelms stands with his wife and young son outside.
Charlie Nelms with his wife, Jenetta, and his son, Rashad, 1988. IU Archives Photograph Collection P0028383.

Nelms left Bloomington in 2007 to become Chancellor at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a public, historically black university (or HBCU). The “Other Institutions” series contains notes, reports, and publications from his tenure at NCCU. Although he officially retired from NCCU in 2012, Nelms has remained an active author, public speaker, and consultant. His books include Lessons Taught, Lessons Learned (Bookmasters, 2004) and From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie (Indiana University Press, 2019). A portion of the proceeds from From Cotton Fields to University Leadership are donated to HBCU scholarships.  In 2019, Nelms was awarded an honorary doctorate from IU for his exemplary leadership.

As I mentioned, my favorite part of the Charlie Nelms papers remains the “Speeches” series. Not only does it reveal the depth and breadth of his community engagement, it shows how Nelms has woven his commitment to justice and education throughout his career. Even beyond this series, however, the Charlie Nelms papers documents a life and career we should all aspire to. As our late winter doldrums trudge on, it’s easy to become stressed and disheartened with our workloads as university students and employees. I urge you to check out this collection when you need a reminder of why your education and work (here at IU, at another university, or anywhere, really) matters for the betterment of our democracy. If you are interested in viewing this collection, please feel free to contact us and set up an appointment!

A Day in the Life: Pauline Day’s University Years Through Her Scrapbook

A picture is worth a thousand words. I would argue that a scrapbook is therefore worth tens of thousands of words. Scrapbooks are ways for people to collect photos, objects, and other items they deem important in order to reminisce on them later. Of course, as years go by, the value of the scrapbook changes. For modern researchers, scrapbooks become windows into a world that does not exist anymore, or at least one that is very different.

Pauline Day pictured with two unknown men
Pauline Day (foreground), circa 1915.

Pauline Day’s scrapbook is no different. She lived in Indiana her entire life, starting when she was born in Dunkirk, Indiana in 1894. She and her parents lived in Winchester for most of her life. She came to Indiana University in the fall of 1912 to get her degree in English, though she also took several courses in education. Looking in the Arbutus yearbook of 1916, one might wonder what Pauline did in her spare time, considering she was not part of any student group or sorority chapter. For all intents and purposes, it seemed like she wasn’t very involved in anything. Her scrapbook tells a different story.

Continue reading “A Day in the Life: Pauline Day’s University Years Through Her Scrapbook”

Josephine Grima: IU’s First Mexican Student

Photograph of Josephine Grima in nurse's uniform
Josephine Grima, 1917 IU Arbutus yearbook

The year 1917 saw the first class of nurses graduate from the new IU Training School for Nurses, part of the School of Medicine in Indianapolis since 1914. Among those five women was one who could claim another “first”–Josephine Grima (1892?-1993), the first known student to enroll at IU from Mexico.

Born around 1892 in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, Grima was apparently encouraged by members of a Society of Friends mission from Indiana to return home with them to complete her medical training. After nine months of preparatory work, Josephine entered the three-year graduate nurses program in the fall of 1914.

During their three years of training, which mainly took place at the Robert W. Long Hospital, Grima and the other nursing students experienced a rigorous routine of “full-time duty in the wards and classrooms.” Types of courses ranged from the preliminary classes on biology, anatomy and physiology, hygiene, sanitation, and household economics to senior term lectures on obstetrics, children’s diseases, mental diseases, and social service.

Photograph of student nurses working in a laboratory
Students at the Training School for Nurses during the 1916-1917 academic year. From the 1917 IU Arbutus yearbook.

As Grima was finishing her final semester, the United States declared war on Germany, officially entering what would be known as World War I. Soon after graduating, she joined the U.S. Army Nurses Corps as a reserve nurse. While she never deployed overseas, she nevertheless saw her share of action during the devastating flu pandemic of 1918. She was first stationed at the army hospital in Markelton, Pennsylvania, before being transferred to Camp Devens near Boston, Massachusetts, in September 1918. At the time, the training camp was in desperate need of medical personnel: with over 10,000 cases in less than a month, it was the site of one of the largest influenza outbreaks in the U.S.

As part of the IU Alumni Association’s War Service Register project, Grima described her experience at Camp Devens. Although brief, it underscores some of the most basic challenges that Grima and her fellow nurses faced in a camp overflowing with patients:

…We report [sic] at the Base Hospt. where we had 15000 of cases of Pneumonia and Influenza where we had to suffer bad accomodation [sic] and bad prepared food. We were on duty [illegible] hours and had to stand in line three times a day for our meals, our beds consisted during the epidemic of straw tikets [tickets], two O. D. [olive drab] blankets and a sanitary cot. There were no place [sic] to accomodate [sic] 750 nurses that answer [sic] the call of the epidemic and for that reason we had to use for bedrooms the garage, the farmhouse, etc. We had a great diel [sic] of work and responsability [sic]…

Segment of Grima's IU War Service Register entry.
Introduction to Grima’s IU War Service Register form. View entire entry

Grima continued her nursing career for a time after the war, working at the Marine Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, before marrying and starting a family. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1922. One of her daughters, Dorothy Comstock Riley, became the first female justice to serve on the State of Michigan’s Court of Appeals (1973) and the first Hispanic woman to be elected a supreme court justice in any state (1985).