Lois Wilson’s Service on the Home Front
Though roles for women in the U.S. military were greatly limited during the First World War, significant contributions were made by millions at home and thousands abroad. Lois Wilson was no exception. Her attempts to have The Young Women's Christian Associations send her overseas so that she could join up with Bill and care for the wounded were twice derailed. First she suffered a miscarriage that required time for her to recuperate. Next, the YWCA decided that her affiliation with the Swedenborgian sect did not fulfill their “Christian” requirement.1
Lois enrolled in an accelerated training program in occupational therapy in New York. Upon graduation, she took a position at Walter Reed General Hospital (now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center), Washington, D.C., where she worked in the “shell shock” ward with men suffering from what is now known as post-traumatic stress. “The experience there was often heartbreaking,” remembered Lois. “For I saw at close hand what war does to young men, and I kept wondering what it was doing to Bill.” 2 After Bill returned from France in March, Lois landed a position back home with the Brooklyn Navy Hospital as a physical therapist, making $150 a month—$45 more than Bill earned in his first NY job. Their first apartment together was on State Street in Brooklyn, just three blocks from Lois’ childhood home at 182 Clinton Street.
1 & 2 William G. Borchert, The Lois Wilson Story: When Love Is Not Enough, Hazelden, Center City, MN, 2005, p. 57.
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Letter to Lois from National Board of The Young Women's Christian Associations, August 2018
Photograph of Lois Wilson, Occupational Therapist, Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, DC, 1918