Namahyoke Sockum Curtis In The Spanish-American War

Recruited to Solve a Critical Shortage, She Helped Elevate the Status and Role of U.S. Military Nurses

Nurses at a U.S. Army field hospital in Havana during the Spanish-American War
The only known photo of Namahyoke Sockum Curtis against an 1898 image of a U.S. Army Field hospital in Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish American War. Daughter of an African-American/Native American family, and a Black socialite who raised funds to build hospitals for non-whites in Chicago, she was selected by the U.S. Surgeon General to head the recruitment of desperately needed war-time nurses. It was the first time nurses served in dedicated, quasi-military Army units, leading to the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901.

As wars go, the Spanish-American War gets very little attention. But black women hired as nurses during what some called the “splendid little war” get even less. So you’re excused if you’ve never heard of a woman with the unusual name Namahyoke “Namah” Sockum Curtis, and her role in the Spanish-American War.

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Josephine Baker: Exotic Showgirl and Clandestine French Operative

Josephine Baker, stage girl and French Spy
Largely remembered in the U.S. as an uninhibited showgirl and glitzy celebrity, Josephine Baker secretly served as an undercover operative for the Free French movement during WWII. She was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor, France’s highest military honors.

Josephine Baker took Paris by storm, dancing in nothing more than a G-string hung with fake bananas. She had a diamond-collared pet cheetah named Chiquita. Ernest Hemingway called her “the most sensational woman anybody ever saw.” But she was also a French war hero, World War II spy and a civil rights activist who raised 12 children she called her “Rainbow Tribe.”

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First Native American Female Marine: Minnie Spotted Wolf of the Blackfeet Tribe

Memorializing a local legend seventy six years after her enlistment, the name of a stretch of Montana’s U.S. Highway 89 was changed to Minnie Spotted Wolf Memorial Highway. [Highway photo by John McGill of the Glacier Reporter]
It was “hard … but not too hard,”  is how the 20-year-old woman who broke racial and gender barriers as the first Native American female Marine described boot camp at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune in 1943. After all, growing up on her father’s rural Montana ranch, Minnie Spotted Wolf was used to doing the types of back-breaking physical jobs usually done by men — cutting fence posts, driving two-ton trucks, building bridges and fences, and rounding up and breaking horses while raising cattle and sheep.

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Agnes “Aggie” Weston: Mother of Britain’s Royal Navy

Believed to be the oldest one of its kind, this 120-year-old tinned Christmas pudding is a prized exhibit in Britain’s National Museum of the Royal Navy and a beloved artifact of the troop-focused social work of  Agnes Weston (above).

This is the tale of a rusty, dinged-up, century-old tinned Christmas pudding and how it wound up in the dark recesses of a family pantry in a seaport town on England’s south coast. It’s also the story of the 19th-century woman known as the Mother of Britain’s Royal Navy.

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Virginia Hall – The One-Legged WWII Super Spy the Nazis Couldn’t Catch

Spy Virginia Hall and one of the war-ravaged French towns she worked in.
Although she was one of the World War II Allied Forces’ most important spies, the exploits of Virginia Hall remained unknown to the world until recently. She worked in battle-torn France for British forces and ultimately became a member of the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA.

Virginia Hall never spoke publicly about her remarkable life because she knew too many people who “were killed for talking too much.” So, until recently, her story was known only within the intelligence community, where documents were known to disappear and code names were so numerous it was hard to know who was who.

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Contrary Mary: The Only Female Congressional Medal of Honor Winner

Civil War physician Mary Walker wearing her Congressional Medal of Honor.
The second female medical doctor to be licensed in America, Civil War Union Army veteran Mary Walker is also the only woman to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Mary Edwards Walker (1832-1919) is described as contrary, outspoken, feisty, radical, defiant and determined. But as the first woman to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor, the second woman in America to become a licensed medical doctor, a lifelong women’s rights activist, prohibitionist, and a dress reformer who steadfastly refused to accept the stodgy Victorian confines of her gender, I suspect she earned — and needed — every single one of those attributes.

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