World War One studio photography is dominated by shots of male soldiers posing in European studios in hopes of documenting their wartime experiences for hometown family and friends to enjoy. Little did they know that historians in 2014 would be researching their names, hometowns, photos and military rosters to help paint a picture of the American experience during WWI. One of my favorite research topics is the wartime culture of US nurses while stationed overseas in 1918 and 1919. In this case, I’ve done an extensive series of searches in hopes of tracking down the WWI nurse posed in the photo. I hope you enjoy the research!
Ella (Kettels) Vodel in 1918
Ella Kettels of Clinton, Iowa
Miss Ella Kettels (mispelled on the photo) eventually went on to marry at the age of 35 to a man named Theodore Voged. He is listed as a janitor in the 1929 city directory for Clinton, Iowa. The couple lived at 576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA. I’ve identified the house they lived in and have posted it below:
576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.
Her wartime experience is included in her1965 obituary:
“Mrs, Ella Voged, 80, of Clinton, saw the grim side of World War I. She went to France as a Red Cross nurse but soon found herself enrolled as an Army nurse. She had been graduated from nursing school at a Clinton hospital in 1910. Mrs. Voged served as a nurse in a hospital near Paris to which American wounded came in a steady stream from the big front-line battles of that war. . “Sometimes we thought this boy would be all right and they would be gone in the morning,” she recalled. “This was long before the day of antibiotics. They would develop infections in their wounds.”
Although we may never know the full extent of Ella’s wartime hardships, we do know that she will be immortalized on the world wide web as a subject of potential research in the future.
I’ve been lucky in the past few weeks to pick up some fun WWI shots of US female nurses and auxiliary service members. US women in France were outnumbered by the men, and to be able to positively identify a nurse is a fun way to learn about female service roles during the war. In this case, I was able to purchase a small group of photos and a Thanksgiving menu from a woman in Base Hospital #6 stationed in Bordeaux, France during the war. The standing studio portrait was identified on the reverse as HK Judd of Base Hospital 6. On a whim I searched for Helen K. Judd (thinking that Helen was a likely candidate for H) and came up with a positive hit on a woman named Helen K. Judd from Southhampton, Mass. I cross referenced with the digitized passport records from 1917 and 1918 and had a positive match. Luckily the passport applications come with little snapshots of the applicants. The amount of material available to identify WWI photos is incredible.
J. Sereni Studio Portrait of Helen
1917 Passport Photo of Helen
1918 Passport Photo of Helen
Passport Application Info
Base Hospital #6 Thanksgiving Menu
Finding wartime photos of nurses is becoming increasingly difficult given the recent demand for quality WWI photography. One of my favorite poses for the WWI nurse has to be the standing studio portrait with an American flag on hand. I have three good examples in my collection, but am always on the lookout for more.
One of the hardest and most desirable WWI portrait photos to acquire has to be the female service member. Whether it be a nurse, hello girl, liberty loan officer, YMCA worker, or welfare worker, they are hard to find and always fetch a high price. Check out my “better” examples of these photos.