Within weeks of the outbreak of World War I, the Red Cross dispatched a “Mercy Ship” with medical supplies, doctors, and 125 nurses to aid military and civilian victims of the conflict. When the United States entered the war, we recruited more than 23,000 nurses to serve at home and overseas.
To help overworked nurses care for returning veterans and to sustain ongoing, domestic nursing programs, the Red Cross introduced the Volunteer Nurses’ Aide Service in 1918.
During the war and following the 1918 armistice, Red Cross nurses aided those afflicted by diseases that accompanied the hostilities, including the Spanish flu epidemic which began in Europe and caused an estimated 22 million deaths worldwide. The American Red Cross recruited more than 15,000 women, including nurses and others who had taken home nursing classes, to help care for flu victims in the United States.