Today I want to talk about one of my characters in “Apple Pie and Strudel Girls.” The inspiration for Josie was my own Aunt Josephine who was a woman who had tremendous courage as she volunteered for the Army Nurse Corp. right after the U. S. declared war in 1941. She was smart and adventurous at time when our nation needed her most. She took her nursing skills to North Africa to care for the soldiers who were sent there to fight the Nazis. Women like my Aunt Jo climbed down rope ladders to Higgins boats and landed on the beaches right beside the U. S. Marines who invaded Nazi territory in 1942. The operation was called “Operation Torch,” and it was the first of several D-days throughout Europe.
The nurses who landed with the men on the beaches didn’t carry rifles. Instead, they carried medical supplies in backpacks. The nurses looked the same as the soldiers with the exception of having a red cross patch sewn on the sleeve of their fatigues. They wore the same helmets, the same uniforms, and the same heavy combat boots as the men. They endured the heat of the desert and the dirty conditions they were expected to keep sterile. They pitched tents, moved patients when necessary, and did whatever was required of them. Women like Josie were needed as much as the men, and they made the same huge sacrifices.
Josie was a woman before her time and if she hadn’t met Mario, she probably would have made the Army her career. Instead, she came home and raised a family,but she never reduced herself to just a housewife. She didn’t succumb to the expectations of society because she kept working as a nurse. Josie was a fighter and could give orders as a night supervisor at the hospital with the best of them. What she never was comfortable with was making meals from scratch or being frilly and feminine. It wasn’t in her nature. She was born a nurse, and she stayed true to her profession until she retired.
Josie passed her spirit of independence to her daughter and her nieces. As “liberated” baby-boomers who fought for women’s equality in their own ways, the next generation took the torch and fought for opportunities in the work place, abortion rights and equal pay for equal work. Without women like Josie, the next generation wouldn’t have had the courage to challenge the “establishment,” and their daughters wouldn’t enjoy the freedom to choose their own paths.
Thank you, Josie. We all salute you!