’Pure Grit’ remembers lost women in war

’Pure Grit’ remembers lost women in war

By Rebekah Frank


Mary Cronk Farrell, author of “Pure Grit,” has been deeply touched in her life by the acts of female U.S. Navy nurses who have been lost to history.

On Feb. 26, Farrell stood in the lobby of the JFK Library and told the stories of navy nurses who served during World War II. Farrell’s book focuses on those nurses who were taken to Los Baños internment camp after their naval base in Manila, the capitol of the Philippines, was bombed in Dec. 10, 1941.

After the bombing, Japanese soldiers came into Manila and took all allied civilians to Santo Tomas Internment Camp, which was originally a university. After that, they moved the naval nurses and some other prisoners to another internment Los Baños camp.

According to Farrell, her book focuses on 10 of the 78 naval nurses who were in the camp in Los Baños. While those nurses were imprisoned, they set up hospitals in the camp and cared for the sick and wounded. When the conditions of the camp worsened due to lack of food and clothing, the nurses continued to work in the hospitals.

At one point one of the nurses, Lt. Comdr. Margaret Nash, found herself in one of the sick beds of the hospital she worked at due to lack of vitamin B and protein. As soon as Nash was well enough to get back on her feet, she was right back to work. After spending around four years at Los Baños, the prisoners were finally liberated on Feb. 23, 1945.

The courage those nurses had, according to Farrell, was unbelievable. The ability they showed to step up to the plate no matter what was thrown at them showed how much their inner strength grew while serving in the hospitals.

“They weren’t born with this courage and resilience, it was forged in the very darkest moments when they were in prison camps, when they didn’t know if they would ever go home or ever see their family and loved ones again. That is where that courage came from, from being in those moments and surviving,” said Farrell.

Farrell was inspired by the story of Nash and her fellow nurses and their experiences. “As soon as I heard about the nurses, … I just wanted to know how they survived,” said Farrell.

While Farrell was writing her book, she found the lives of those women so inspiring because of their perseverance after all the horrible things that they had to go through.

“Each one of those women became so dear to me, as if I had really known her. … They went through something terrible and they did not give up, they somehow found a way to keep going, that is what touched me,” said Farrell.

According to Farrell, the stories and courage of those women really helped her during a dark part of her life. They helped show her strength is something you receive through hard trials, not something you are born with.

Manager of EWU Women’s Studies Center Carol Vines helped coordinate this event in order to bring the story of those naval nurses who gave so much.

“The Women’s Studies center likes to feature things that focus on women. Women in history, women in psychology, particularly women who’ve been left out,” said Vines.

Retired EWU JFK Learning Resources Librarian Nadean Meyer enjoyed the professionalism of Farrell’s book. “Her new book is a fine example of using primary sources in an informational book about an interesting, forgotten segment of history,” said Meyer.

Farrell believes that there can be many lessons learned from those fallen, and she wants to spread the lessons taught by the naval nurses who served in Los Baños.

“We all have the capacity to be courageous and be resilient, we just need to believe in ourselves and have a purpose in life. … Go deep inside and find who you are and know what you are capable of,” said Farrell.