The Western Office of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is housed in a former nurses’ dormitory at the Oteen Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Asheville, known now as the Charles George Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Ongoing research about these women has been conducted by one of our faithful volunteers, who has been on a quest to learn about the first African American nurses to live in the dorm and to work at the Veteran’s hospital.
In November 1942, during World War II, the number of patients was increasing at the Oteen Veteran’s Administration Hospital. For that reason the Department of Veterans Affairs transferred nine African American nurses from Tuskegee U.S. Veterans Hospital 91 in Alabama to Oteen. By January 1943, an additional four nurses joined them. The Tuskegee hospital, founded in 1923, operated with black staff for black patients. Both Tuskegee and Oteen veteran hospitals concentrated on tuberculosis and mental health. The transferred nurses would work with African American patients. Ten of the nurses had worked over ten years at the Tuskegee hospital. All of the nurses had been trained at nursing schools and in hospitals across the eastern United States. Head nurse Elsie V. Davis was trained and worked at Michigan’s Battle Creek Sanitarium in 1920. Others received training at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Freedman’s Hospital in Washington D.C., and the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City among others.
We will provide updates as we continue to learn more about the nurses.