Finding Kindred Spirits From the Past


“If I had been the right age, would I have enlisted?”

This was the question that Grace Holmes, M.D. ’57, pondered as she was writing her book: North Dakota Nurses Over There, 1917–1919. The book chronicles the experiences of female nurses who cared for the sick and injured during World War I. “It was not an easy life for these women,” says Holmes. “They had so little to work with in the way of medicines. It took enormous courage to enlist and then follow through on that commitment.”

While Holmes remains uncertain about whether she would have enlisted as a nurse, she clearly shares the nurses’ courage and dedication. Holmes, one of three women to graduate from her class at the UW School of Medicine, spent several years abroad as a medical missionary, serving rural populations in Malaysia and helping to build a hospital in Tanzania. When she returned to the United States, Holmes joined the faculty at the University of Kansas Medical Center, retiring as an emerita professor in 2000.

These days, Holmes spends her time writing, researching and singing in a barbershop quartet. Her book, to be published by North Dakota State University Press, will be available this year.