Florence J. Martin, Indiana native and World War I chief nurse

Florence J. Martin (1876-1963) was born in Jeffersonville, Ind. and lived in Indianapolis for most of her life. On April 4, 1917, at the very beginning of U.S. involvement in World War I, she was appointed chief nurse of Base Hospital 32. Base Hospital 32 was largely funded through contribution from Eli Lilly & Company.

Offer letter from the Indiana State Medical Association director John H. Oliver to Florence Martin for the position of Chief Nurse of Base Hospital 32.

Photo of Florence Martin taken in New York in 1917.

In December of 1917, Miss Martin and the nurses of Base Hospital 32 sailed on the U.S.S. George Washington across the Atlantic and began their journey to Contréxeville, France. Throughout the war, Base Hospital 32 cared for patients from over 30 countries and faced injuries from gas attacks, Spanish Influenza epidemics and overcrowding, among other wounds from wartime. For her service, which lasted the duration of the war, Miss Martin received the French Medal of Honor on March 18, 1919.

List of nurses bound for Base Hospital 32 aboard U.S.S. George Washington and their room assignments on board.

Postcard of Contrexeville, France.

Her scrapbook (V334) at the Indiana State Library in the Rare Books & Manuscripts Division, includes letters, photographs, postcards, news clippings, official orders and memoranda from 1917 to 1919 chronicling her experiences as a nurse during World War I.

Florence Martin’s Medal of Honor from France.

Sources used: Benjamin D. Hitz, A History of Base Hospital 32, (Indianapolis, IN: Edward Kahle Post No. 42 American Legion, 1922)

This blog post was written by Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *