By Amanda Breitbach-Ragsdale
The Miles City Women's Club has been collecting the names, photos and stories of women from eastern Montana who have served in the armed forces for over a year.
Sigrid Laird, president of the Miles City chapter of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, said she first thought of doing the project when she was district president of the GFWC in eastern Montana.
"I think sometimes we forget about the women that were in the military," she said, noting that women's names are often absent from memorials and they are seldom buried in military cemeteries.
When the Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established in the United States in 1941, "Most (women) were nurses," she said. "The women now that go into the military are mechanics, they're pilots – they're not just nurses," she added.
Laird has sent out letters to women's clubs and newspapers throughout the eastern part of the state to collect names. Many of her best responses have come from smaller communities, she noted, places like Lame Deer, Glendive and Wibaux.
Though she personally knows many women who have been involved in the military in Miles City, Laird has only received one response from her
hometown. She has had no responses at all from Billings.
"There is quite a large number of native American women who have been in the military," she noted, saying that she has received 19 profiles of women from Lame Deer alone.
"The letters have been very interesting," she added.
One submission tells the story of 2nd Lt. Ida M. Greenwood, one of six Army Nurse Corps nurses killed in action in 1945, when a kamikazi plane flew into the hospital ship Comfort in the South Pacific. Greenwood graduated from Deaconess Hospital in Great Falls and is believed to be from Terry. Laird said the person who submitted her profile wanted to make sure she was not forgotten.
Another profile tells of 1st Lt. Ingrid (Brekke) Nelson, a member of the Army Nurse Corps from Antelope, Mont. who invented the plasma holder now used by hospitals to administer intravenous medicines and food. Nelson served as a surgery supervisor during the Korean War.
"It's been fun," Laird said. "When I get the article done I will get copies and send them to everyone who responded."
She will also share the information with the U.S. Army Women's Museum in Fort Lee, Va. and the Museum of Women's History in Billings.
Laird is still gathering submissions, but she plans to begin writing up the information in January and hopes to be finished by June, 2010.
Anyone with a profile to submit should contact Laird as soon as possible. For more information, call her at (406) 232-4972. Send profiles and photos to: Sigrid Laird, 203 N. Custer, Miles City, MT 59301.
Published Nov. 18, 2009