National Nurses Week started on May 6, National Nurses Day, and it ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. In 1920, Mary Elizabeth Gladwin, an 1881 initiate of Delta Gamma’s Eta Chapter, was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Committee of the Red Cross “For great and exceptional devotion to the sick and wounded in peace and war.”
Gladwin was born on December 24, 1861 in Stoke-upon-Trent, England. Her parents moved the family to Akron, Ohio, in 1868. Gladwin graduated from Buchtel College (now University of Akron) in 1887. She taught chemistry and physics in Norwalk, Ohio, for several years. She then enrolled in a nursing program at Boston City Hospital and graduated in 1896.
During the Spanish-American War, Gladwin served as the chief nurse in the U.S. Army. In 1899, she served with the American Red Cross in the Philippines and was awarded the Spanish-American War Medal for service. She then returned to nursing school and in 1902, she again graduated from the Boston City Hospital School of Nursing.
In 1904, during the Russo-Japanese War, she served for six months as a Red Cross nurse in Hiroshima, Japan. She was again honored for her service with several awards. Afterwards, Gladwin returned to her previous job as Superintendent of Beverly Hospital in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1907, she became Superintendent at Woman’s Hospital in New York City.
In 1910 she returned to Akron and was employed by the Goodrich Company. She served as the chief American Red Cross nurse during the Dayton, Ohio floods of 1913. She also organized Akron’s School and Visiting Nurses Association.
The November 1914, Anchora of Delta Gamma, noted the she “sailed in the Red Cross ship for active service as a nurse in the European battle fields.” Gladwin was among the first American Red Cross nurses to serve in Europe. She was stationed in Belgrade, Serbia where she was a supervisor of nurses. She helped care for 9,000 soldiers in a hospital built for 1,000 patients She also served in Greece. She received many awards and accolades for her service.
After the war, Gladwin was involved with nursing education in Minnesota and Indiana. She died at the age of 77 on November 22, 1939 in Akron, Ohio. On September 21, 1979, the University of Akron dedicated a building named in her honor.
© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013.