During Women’s History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Helen Grace McClelland, who served as a nurse during World War I.
Helen Grace McClelland was born in Ohio in 1887. She enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in 1908 and graduated in 1912. When the Red Cross asked for volunteers in 1914 to aid overseas during World War I, McClelland answered the call. She volunteered in 1915 for the American Ambulance Service and served in France.
The U.S. officially entered the war in 1917, but McClelland saw it as her duty to continuing helping in the humanitarian effort overseas. After briefly returning to the U.S., she officially joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1917 and was brought back to Europe’s Western Front to continue aiding in the war effort. She served in the American surgical team attached to British Casualty Clearing Station No. 61.
McClelland worked near to the front and saw the gore of war first-hand. While working along the French and Belgian border with the surgical team at British Casualty Clearing Station No. 61, her German bombers attacked her nursing station. She first assisted her tentmate, fellow nurse Beatrice Mary MacDonald, who was bleeding out from the initial attack. Then, she aided others injured by the bombs’ blasts. Despite being under heavy fire, McClelland rushed to aid those wounded by the bombs, ignoring the present danger surrounding her. For these actions, McClelland received a Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in July 1918. She is one of only three women to receive a Distinguished Service Cross. The British also bestowed upon her a British Royal Red Cross First Class for her actions.
McClelland left the Army Nurse Corps in May 1919 after her nursing station disbanded.
After World War I, McClelland worked as a nurse at Pennsylvania Hospital, starting in 1926. She promoted to director of the nursing department there in 1933 and worked in that role until she retired in 1956. As head of the nursing department, McClelland created two-year and four-year training programs at the hospital for new nurses. She was also instrumental in acquiring national accreditation for the nurse education program at the hospital.
McClelland passed away in December of 1984 at the age of 97.
The Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame inducted her in 1978 and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame posthumously inducted her in 1995.
We honor her service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Jack Patterson
Editors: Annabelle Colton and Nathaniel Scott
Fact checker: Jake Halderson
Graphic artist: Brittany Gorski