"The itinerant nurses traveled by dog team and later by bush plane, experienced dangers and hardships their stateside colleagues could scarcely comprehend.... For the most part they matched the rigors of the environment with a dauntless spirit." So read a 1954 report on the women nurses who lived and worked in rural Alaska in the first half of the twentieth century. They traveled by dog team, river boat, or sea-going vessel to isolated communities with extreme weather conditions and poor sanitation. In the days before antibiotics, they encountered epidemics of diphtheria and typhoid, as well as the enduring presence of tuberculosis in all its forms.
With a Dauntless Spirit compiles a unique collection of journals, letters, and memoirs that give immediacy and vitality to the lives of these women. They ventured with a sense of duty and compassion to deliver much-needed medical services before the technical, medical, and social changes brought to Alaska by World War II and later by statehood. Despite physical hardships and emotional isolation, the spirit of these women is reflected in the adventurous, dramatic, and even joyous tone of their narratives. The arctic tests the character of many newcomers, and the nurses recount the very personal challenges that demanded choices and actions that ran contrary to their earlier socialization. Their personal sagas also have significant historical dimensions. They depict the major cultural encounters of their era that were to have such a profound impact on Alaska's future-with Native peoples, prospectors, aviation pioneers, and arctic explorers.
This collection was selected from personal and archival sources by Alaska nurse educators and historians, who provide background and commentary, a brief biography of each person, and historical photos and maps of the nurses' lives and work. With a Dauntless Spirit is a readable and engrossing account that makes an important and overdue contribution to Alaska history and women's history.
Effie Graham developed and directed nursing education programs in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska before retiring from the University of Alaska Anchorage nursing faculty in l987. She began reviewing archival sources with a goal of making the "hidden" heroes of rural nursing known. She homesteaded in rural Alaska.
Jackie Pflaum was an itinerant public health nurse in the Yukon Kuskokwim region before joining the University of Alaska Anchorage faculty in 1979, where she is now associate director of the School of Nursing. Her research in nursing history includes a biography of Elinor Gregg, first nursing director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Elfrida Nord retired as chief of the Section of Nursing of Department of Health and Social Services for the State of Alaska, a role in which she was responsible for the delivery of nursing services to rural communities.