Cadet Nurse Stories

The stories and resources documented on is a collective effort by volunteers. Shirley Harrow has been working on this project for over a decade, and Elsie Szecsy joined her by chance in October 2011. However, this website would not be as extensive as it is without the generous support of Cadet Nurses, their families, and friends, who contribute to it. We welcome additional insights by those who can and want to help advance a collective effort, especially in ways complementary to Shirley and Elsie. Please contact us here.

The opinions expressed on are in no way representative of all Cadet Nurses, their families or friends, or any government, non-profit, or corporate entity.

Below are facilitators of various projects related to Cadet Nurses.

Shirley Caswell Harrow, R.N., B.A.
When I was twelve, I saw a poster urging young women to enlist in a "Proud Profession" and "Join the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps," (USCNC) and that became my dream. Although too young to join and still in junior high school when the war ended, I trained at Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing in NYC, and became a nurse in 1953. My nursing career began, I married and four years later took a fifteen year hiatus to raise four children. In 1970 after a refresher course at Boston College, I resumed my nursing career and earned a BA from Curry College in Milton MA.  I held a variety of nursing positions for almost thirty years and retired in 1999.  A providential post retirement opportunity arose when I was hired by the landmark Harvard Nurses' Health Study (NHS). For the next twelve years, I worked as a nurse interviewer for their cognitive function sub-study.  Following one of the interviews, a nurse told me that she had been a Cadet Nurse and was surprised to learn that I had heard about them.  She spoke eloquently about the "Corps” and their quest for recognition for their role in preventing the collapse of America's health care system during WWII.  "And," she said, "I'm still working!" When she asked if I'd help the Cadets, I saw this as my opportunity to connect with the nurses of my childhood dream. My work with the NHS afforded me the opportunity to speak with thousands of former US Cadets throughout the country- and most reported working in nursing for 30-40 years. My fascination grew; the USCNC became my passion and continues to enrich my life today.
In 2009 Sue Scheible, a journalist for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy MA, wrote an article about the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps and my involvement with them. The response was immediate: Former Cadets from the area contacted me and Ms.Scheible; I was asked to speak before the Hanover Visiting Nurses Association and more Cadets came to that presentation. Many opportunities arose to educate other groups and now, Elizabeth Beecher, a former Cadet, joins me to tell her story as a graduate of The U.S Cadet Nurse Corps and her resultant nursing career.
Our website is also a beneficiary of Sue Scheible's article-it put my name on the internet. Elsie Szecsy found it while searching for info about the US Cadets and a way to honor her mother, a former Cadet. She contacted me, explained her quest and asked: "How can I help?" and I answered: "We need a website!" Little did I know I was speaking with the Wizard of AZ!   And you are looking at the result!

Elsie M Szecsy, Ed.D.
I owe my successes in life to my mom, who was a U.S. Cadet Nurse. She started nursing school in 1943 at the Westchester School of Nursing at Grasslands Hospital in Valhalla, New York. Though the school no longer exists, the hospital is now known as the Westchester County Medical Center. Mom worked at Grasslands Hospital until about 1948 and continued at Queens General Hospital in New York City as a newlywed when she and my father moved to Queens. My father worked as an industrial nurse for Pan American World Airways there. He finished the same nursing school as my mother, but earlier, so he was not a Cadet Nurse. Mom died in 2005.
Mom was proud of her nurse's training and her service to the country, not only as a nurse, but also as a parent to me and my brother. It is too late to tell my mother personally how much I have come to appreciate her even more, but it is not too late to seek recognition for her and all U.S. Cadet Nurses' service. Unfortunately, it took me this long to learn about my mother's contributions to improving nursing education through this program. Steps taken over the years have increased public awareness  of Cadet Nurses and the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps program. Their legacy continues to be felt nationally in the nursing profession and among generations of men and women who have been under their care during and since World War II.
After 14 years' service as a researcher at Arizona State University, first in education and more recently in the liberal arts, I am moving on as Academic Professional Emerita so that I can place activities that had been at the edge of my life into the center. Learning about, from, and with Cadet Nurses is my number one priority, and communicating this history to others is my retirement project.

Project areas: Curator of website and Facebook page. Oral historian. Public historian and scholar.