Annie Gertrude O’Connor was born October 16, 1877 in Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, the youngest of three children. Sister Ellen “Nellie” was born 1863 and brother John W. in 1870. Her parents Maria Anna Nolan and Cornelius O’Connor were Irish immigrants but the date of arrival in America is unknown. The 1880 census listed the family living at 76 Spruce Street, Cambridge and father Cornelius was employed as a contractor, industry unspecified. When Gertrude, the name she went by, was 13 her sister Ellen married Timothy Danehy at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Old Cambridge, Massachusetts. Following the ceremony a wedding breakfast was served at her parents residence.
Gertrude graduated as a Nurse from City Hospital in Boston around 1900 and at the 1910 Census was a Private Nurse for the Malio family on Rindge Avenue in Cambridge.
With the United States entering the World War by declaring war on Germany, April 6, 1917, obviously, doctors and nurses would be needed. With only 403 nurses in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) when the war began, the Surgeon General called for volunteers. Women in hospitals and private duty as well as many in training responded. Those already staffing hospitals could join the ANC through the Army’s newly established base hospital system and through the American Red Cross. By the end of the war, 21,480 women served in the Army Nurse Corps rendering service “beyond expectations” at a time when women were not even allowed to vote”.
Base Hospital # 7 was organized in December 1916 at the Boston City Hospital of which Gertrude was a member. The unit mobilized in February 1918 at Camp Devens, Massachusetts where it remained in training until July 1918. The exact date Gertrude entered active service with the Army Nurse Corps is unknown but she departed New York Harbor with 105 other nurses aboard the SS Anchises on July 21, 1918. Reaching France, Base Hospital No. 7 occupied one type A unit, constructed by the engineers. Base Hospital No. 7, with a convalescent camp, formed the Joue-les-Tours hospital center. The first convoy of sick and wounded was received on August 18, 1918; with 3,518 surgical and medical cases being received by convoys during its activity.
The Armistice was signed November 11, 1918 ending the World War that had raged since 1914. Base Hospital # 7 continued to treat the sick and wounded until January 17, 1919 when it ceased to function and was relieved by Base Hospital # 120. In her last letter home dated January 20, Gertrude said “she soon expected to return to the United States”. Before she could depart with her colleagues, Nurse Annie Gertrude O’Connor died in the service to her county of cerebral-spinal meningitis on February 8, 1919. She was 41 years of age. She was buried in temporary grave # 50, Plot B, American Cemetery, Tours. Her family was notified by cablegram.
In October 1919, families of fallen Americans were given the choice of leaving their sons and daughters buried in an American Cemetery in Europe with their comrades or bring them home for reburial in a cemetery of their choice. The O’Connor family chose to leave Gertrude with those she served and served with as did approximately 30% of the families facing the same decision. On September 22, 1922, she was disinterred for the final time and reburied in Plot A, Row 23, Grave 16, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial, Fere-en-Tardenois, Departement de l'Aisne, Picardie, France.
A High Mass of Requiem for the repose of her soul was held Monday, March 10, 1919 at 9 o’clock at the Saint James Church, Harrison Avenue, Boston. Day is done, God is nigh.
Epilogue: Very little information could be found about the deaths of her family members other than brother John who passed in 1928 at the age of 57 and is buried in Cambridge Massachusetts.
It was my honor to write this short biography from available documents found. I know it doesn’t start to do Gertrude or her family justice but it does keep her memory alive. Lest we forget…Larry E. Hume, Chief Master Sergeant, US Air Force, Retired.
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