Nurse

The Harriet H. Werley Collection: American Army Nurse Serving in the Mediterranean

Posted on Updated on

by Susan Dykes

Every once-in-awhile a collection comes our way that, at first, looks to be unassuming but upon further investigation turns into quite an interesting story.  Last fall, the UWM Archives shared with AGSL, a small collection of photographs taken by the late Dr. Harriet H. Werley (b. 1914 – d. 2002), Distinguished Professor in the UWM College of Nursing.  The photographs were included in the Harriet H. Werley Papers, a collection that “documents Harriet H. Werley’s long and distinguished nursing career…” Werley took these photographs while she was serving in the United States Army Nurse Corps (ANC), between 1941 and 1944, in the Mediterranean theater during World War II.

Among the 210 photographs, Werley captured the landscape and places of interest in Algeria, France, Italy and Morocco.  Although she was in active service, her photos were primarily taken from a tourist’s perspective.  She appears in only one image, at the Pitti Palace in Florence, wearing her Army nurse’s uniform and a delightful smile on her face.

Italy_Helen_H_Werley_in_front_of_Pitti_Palace_in_Florence

Italy, Helen H. Werley in front of Pitti Palace in Florence http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agseurope/id/6180

Others show a military parade moving through the streets of Oran, Algeria; the Sultan’s Palace in Casablanca, Morocco; ruins of the Great Mosque of Mansoura, Algeria; the Port of Oran and Fort Santa Cruz, Algeria; military nurses touring the gardens at Versailles, France; the waterfront at Cannes, France; an American military Fourth of July fair in Livorno, Italy; an American Military horse race in Pisa, Italy; and many other historic, tourist spots.

Algeria_troops_marching_through_Oran_street_in_parade

Algeria, troops marching through Oran street in parade http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsafrica/id/6139

 

Algeria_view_of_Port_of_Oran_and_Fort_Santa_Cruz_on_hill

Algeria, view of Port of Oran and Fort Santa Cruz on hill http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsafrica/id/6176

 

Morocco_gardens_and_Sultans_Palace_in_Casablanca

Morocco, gardens and Sultan’s Palace in Casablanca http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsafrica/id/6146

 

Algeria_ruins_of_Great_Mosque_of_Mansoura_in_Tlemcen_Province

Algeria, ruins of Great Mosque of Mansoura in Tlemcen Province http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsafrica/id/6145

 

Italy_American_military_at_horse_race_in_Pisa

Italy, American military at horse race in Pisa http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agseurope/id/6124

However, even Werley’s tourist eye couldn’t escape the harsh reality of the war.  In one photo she captures a cross at the grave of a German soldier buried in Italy.  In others she shows how life continued on as people made their way around bombed out buildings in Florence and Livorno, and the bombed out remnants of buildings and abandoned military bunkers in Cannes.

Italy_grave_of_German_soldier_in_Livorno

Italy, grave of German soldier in Livorno http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agseurope/id/6122

 

Italy_people_moving_through_rubble_of_bombed_buildings_in_Florence

Italy, people moving through rubble of bombed buildings in Florence http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agseurope/id/6178

 

France_military_bunker_and_bombed_out_building_in_Cannes
France, military bunker and bombed out building in Cannes http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agseurope/id/6166

As a whole, the collection provides a sense of Werley’s experience, as an American nurse serving in a foreign land, documenting her travels and touching upon the overarching reason she was there.

What I find most fascinating about Harriet Werley, is her photographs not only serve to document World War II, they also represent a precursor to what will turn out to be Werley’s extraordinary career in nursing research and health care informatics.  After the war, Werley worked in the Office of the Surgeon General, was assigned to the Department of Atomic Casualties Studies at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and then she was appointed Chief of the Department of Nursing.  She became Chief Nurse for the U.S. 8th Army Headquarters in Korea in 1962 and retired, as Lieutenant Colonel, from the Army Nurse Corps in 1964.

According to the U.S. Army Medical Department, it was at Walter Reed that she became “dismayed” at the lack of research positions and the realization that nurses were not more involved in studies. As a result she decided to concentrate her career on nursing research.  After obtaining her Ph.D. in 1969, she promoted nursing research development through faculty and administrative positions at a variety of universities, including the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, became founding editor of Research in Nursing and Health and the Annual Review of Nursing Research, and was instrumental in the development of a Nursing Minimum Data Set (NDMS).  As described in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Werley “…became the first nurse informatician even before the field had been named.” While at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, she participated in IBM sponsored conferences to “identify data processing needs in health care and the potential for computer applications.”

This little, unassuming, yet historically important collection, turned out to be originated by a woman who, according to Laurie K Glass RN, PhD, FAAN, Professor Emerita and Director, Center for Nursing History, UW- Milwaukee College of Nursing, “…pioneered the use of computers and informatics in the health care arena.”  We are pleased to be able to make available Harriet H. Werley’s images in the AGSL collections.

 

See all of Harriet H. Werley’s images in the American Geographical Society Library Digital Photo Archive:

http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/werley/field/creato/mode/all/conn/and/order/nosort

See the finding aid for the Harriet H. Werley Papers:

http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-mil-uwmmss0284

Sources:

A salute to one of our own. Harriet Helen Werley. (n.d.) U. S. Army Medical Department, Office of Medical History. U.S. Army. Retrieved from http://history.amedd.army.mil/ancwebsite/articles/harrietwerley.html

Ozbolt JG. Harriet Helen Werley, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.) October 12, 1914—October 14, 2002. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA. 2003;10(2):224-225. doi:10.1197/jamia.M1276.  Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC150375/