Preserving Our Past, Capitalizing on the Present, Embracing the Future

Major Julia C. Stimson
5th Superintendent, Army Nurse Corps

© Mary T. Sarnecky

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Julia Catherine Stimson was born on 26 May 1881 in Worcester, Massachusetts, to Henry Albert Stimson and Alice Wheaton Bartlett Stimson. The Stimson/Bartlett families were illustrious and service-oriented. Their public traditions and civic contributions could be traced to Seventeenth Century America. Stimson's father was a prominent Congregational clergyman and her maternal grandfather was president of Dartmouth College.1 She received her primary and secondary education in the St. Louis, Missouri, public schools and in the Brearley School in New York City.2 Stimson matriculated at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York and graduated from that institution in 1901 with an A.B. degree.3 In 1904, she entered nurses' training at New York Hospital where Annie Goodrich was superintendent of nurses.4 Her first position as a trained nurse was as superintendent of nurses at Harlem Hospital in New York City from 1908 until 1911.5 Then she accepted the first of several roles at Barnes Hospital and the Children's Hospital, the Washington University Hospitals in St. Louis, Missouri. There she initially led the Social Service Department, later adding the supervision of the Department of Nursing to her duties and lastly assuming the additional responsibilities of overseeing the Training School. While handling all of these positions, she simultaneously earned an A.M. degree in sociology.6 In May 1917, Stimson led the nurses of Base Hospital #21, the Washington University unit, to their wartime service in Rouen, France.7 Her subsequent assignments as chief nurse of American Red Cross Nursing in Paris and as director of nursing for the American Expeditionary Forces in Tours, France, prepared her for the challenges that lay ahead. For her service in France during the war, the United States government awarded Stimson the Distinguished Service Medal. Other nations bestowed the British Royal Red Cross, 1st Class; the French Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise; the Medaille d'Honneur de l'Hygiene Publique; and the International Red Cross Florence Nightingale Medal on Stimson.8

After Stimson's arrival in Washington in July 1919, she became dean of the Army School of Nursing and acting superintendent of the corps.9 She accepted the responsibilities of the superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps on 30 December 1919.

Marlette Condé, an early alumna of the Army School of Nursing described Stimson as:

. . . While not stout, Miss Stimson was a large woman, tall and well-proportioned. She was direct in manner, forceful in speech. In uniform, appropriately enough, hers was a "commanding" presence. But she was an approachable person.10

When Stimson completed twenty years of service on 31 May 1937, she decided to retire. In the preceding years, several of her close friends, a dear sister, and her father passed away.11 Stimson planned to return to New York and care for her widowed mother. A sense of her own mortality, the need to completely relax and have some leisure, and a wish to escape the demands of a complex, often frustrating bureaucracy led to her retirement. But Stimson's retirement from the Army did not signal a retirement from a life of public service. She subsequently served American nursing in a number of ways. The American Nurses' Association elected her president in 1938,12 a position she held until 1944.13 She later became reinvolved in defense issues during World War II. Stimson died in September 1948 at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, of circulatory failure following abdominal surgery.14 Her death came at age 67. Following her death, the Stimson family spread her ashes by a stream on her property in Briarcliff Manor, New York.15

  1. George A. Boyd & Dorothy Stimson, Three Stimsons and a Bartlett (Stonington, Connecticut: Pequot Press, 1967).
  2. Typewritten Document, 24 March 1925, Julia C. Stimson Papers, New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center Archives, New York; Sharon G. Stearns to Mary T. Sarnecky, 10 May 1989.
  3. Vassar Transcript, Julia C. Stimson, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York.
  4. Julia C. Stimson diary, 14 November 1904, Julia C. Stimson Papers, New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center Archives,New York; Esther A. Werminghaus, Annie W. Goodrich, Her Journey to Yale (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1950): 23.
  5. Julia C. Stimson, "Application for General Nursing Service, The American Red Cross, New York State Branch," 1909, American National Red Cross Archives, Washington, D.C.; "Annie W. Goodrich--Crusader," American Journal of Nursing 34 (July 1934): 674.
  6. "First Annual Report, Social Service Department, October 16, 1911 to November 1, 1912,"; "Executive Faculty Minutes," 7 May 1912; "Minutes of the Hospital Committee," 16 March 1914; and Fred T. Murphy to Julia C. Stimson, 2 April 1914; all in Washington University Medical Archives, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.
  7. Base Hospital 21, May 1917-April 1919, n.p., n.d., Record Group 112, The National Archives, Washington D.C.
  8. F.L. Whitley to Julia C. Stimson, 6 May 1919 and "Certificate, Secretary of State for War to Julia C. Stimson," 1 March 1919, both in Philip M. Stimson Papers, New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center Archives, New York, New York; Chairman, American Red Cross to Julia C. Stimson, 1 July 1929, American National Red Cross Archives, Washington, D.C.; "Personnel Notes," The Army Medical Bulletin, No. 40 (July 1937): 107.
  9. Henry A. Stimson to Henry L. Stimson, 11 July 1919 Henry L. Stimson Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut.
  10. Marlette Condé, The Lamp and the Caduceus, The Story of the Army School of Nursing (Washington: The Army School of Nursing Association, 1975): 70.
  11. Among the friends was Ruth Cobb a childhood playmate in St. Louis who served as a nurse under Stimson in Base Hospital #21 in France. Her closest sister Elsie, with whom she attended Vassar, also died a few years prior. Lucile Hinkle Thomee, interview by author, tape recording, 15 May 1989, Littleton, Massachusetts; Julia C. Stimson to Mother, 15 June 1935, Julia C. Stimson Papers, New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center Archives, New York. On 18 July 1936, Stimson's 93 year old father died from a heart attack; "Rev. Dr. Stimson Dies in 94th Year," The New York Times 19 July 1936, newspaper clipping in Julia C. Stimson Papers, New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center Archives, New York.
  12. "The Three Presidents," American Journal of Nursing 38 (June 1938): 626.
  13. "The Philadelphia Biennial, Nursing in a Democracy," American Journal of Nursing 40 (June 1940): 673-688.
  14. Philip M. Stimson to Borden Veeder, 4 October 1948, Julia C. Stimson Papers, New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center Archives, New York.
  15. Lucile Hinkle Thomee, interview by author, tape recording, 15 May 1989, Littleton, Massachusetts.