A piece of medical history back in Fall River
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) -- It's been nearly a century since Mary Rebecca McIntyre was appointed as a reserve nurse in the Navy Nurse Corps, but her memory and her good work will live on at the Fall River Historical Society.
The Historical Society recently acquired McIntyre's complete World War I nurse uniform, scrapbook, pins, and photographs, from Dawn Ledoux. The donation was in memory of Andrew Collins Gold Sr., McIntyre's nephew, by his family.
It will become part of a display of recent acquisitions at the Historical Society this summer.
"World War I uniforms are becoming extremely rare," said Historical Society Curator Michael Martins. "And it's the entire uniform."
By the look of the uniform, McIntyre was a petite woman who was about 5 feet 2 inches tall and perhaps a size 2 or 4 by today's standards.
The dark navy uniform consists of a silk blouse, jacket, skirt, a felt hat and a cap. It is made of tropical weight wool and would have been used for dress occasions, such as parades, and traveling. It was made by Weltman Pollack & Co. in New York.
"It has survived in remarkable condition," Martins said. "It looks like she just took it off."
Dennis Binette, assistant curator, has been piecing together McIntyre's life.
A native of Fall River, McIntyre was born in 1878. She graduated from the Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing.
She was appointed to the Navy Nurse Corps on Dec. 12, 1917. McIntyre was assigned that same month to travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia, as part of the Rhode Island Relief Unit to aid a major accident. A French munitions steamer Mont Blanc collided with a Belgian steamer in Halifax Harbor, detonating 2,200 tons of explosives.
"The harbor was destroyed," Binette said. "People were thrown. People were blinded."
McIntyre assisted the wounded in Halifax and then returned to Fall River. In 1918, she was sent to Queenstown, Ireland, aboard the ship Briton. On board the ship, influenza broke out and killed many of its passengers. She nursed survivors on the ship, and did the same in Ireland.
McIntyre returned home in December 1918 on the Northern Pacific. The ship was stranded on New Year's morning, piled on a sandbar off Fire Island. She and the other passengers had to be rescued from the ship.
McIntyre was placed in the Reserves in May 1919.
Binette said she never married or had children. McIntyre did some private duty nursing in the 1920s and 30s, including working in the East Side neighborhood of Providence for a woman, Harriet S. Campbell.
McIntyre lived in Providence most of her life. She died in Bristol, R.I., at the age of 84. Her obituary was in The Herald News on Aug. 17, 1963. She was waked at the former Mellhorn Funeral Home, 229 Winter St. She left nieces and nephews and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.
"From what we can see here, she was humble," Binette said.
Binette pointed to a newspaper article in her extensive scrapbook. Rather than speak of herself, she chose to talk about the bravery of the soldiers during World War I.
"She had a brief career, but a pretty interesting career," Binette said.
Her scrapbook includes photos of herself and her peers, photos of her travels with side notes written in her hand, ribbons, cards, event invitations, and news clippings.
McIntyre had pins from the Red Cross, for foreign service, and from the Rhode Island School of Nursing.
"You never know what's out there languishing in people's closets," Martins said. "Historically, it could be very important."