The Cherry Ames novels are typical examples of children’s literature from the 1930s and 1940s at which time there was a serious crisis and fear of Fascism and war. Authors wanted their readers to think about and support patriotism, defending our freedom and maintaining family values instead of the oppression, poverty and death from those that wanted to dominate the world. The writers “Americanized” children’s literature to promote the war effort, to explain the reason for the war, to identify children as the victims of war and to encourage loyalty to those fighting far away from home. For example, in “Cherry Ames: Chief Nurse”, nurses are greatly needed to care for the wounded soldiers both at home and on the warfront.
In spite of the great need there exists a nursing shortage and difficulties obtaining supplies, maintaining bases, setting up working hospital areas, and maintaining the safety of all involved. Cherry is appointed as Chief Nurse and mandated to run an efficient and moveable nursing team to treat the wounded not far for the front. In her team’s efforts to take care of the ailing men, she is constantly under scrutiny of the officer in charge and challenged not to be too caring or too nurturing as it may make the men “weak”. While the nurses find their work gratifying, it is also difficult, physically exhausting, and mentally stressful as the nurses are needed to be strictly professional and not personal. While the author of this book strives to encourage girls to become nurses and part of the war effort, she also provides reality into the war situation and the many difficulties faced by all.
As Cherry moved through her career from student, senior nurse, Army Nurse, Chief Nurse, and Flight Nurse, she experienced many successes as well as challenges. Her stories inspired many women to want to pursue a career in nursing. Her dedication to the nursing profession, desire to learn, and provide excellent patient care served to instill a sense of duty and need for fulfillment to those reading these books. A sense of duty was very much needed during the war times. In addition, her sense of adventure and call to duty made Cherry decline a marriage proposal and instead take an assignment which made her travel to the warfront. There she was appointed as Chief Nurse and motivated her nursing team to move throughout the jungle to set up temporary units in order to care for the wounded and dying soldiers.
In “Cherry Ames: Flight Nurse”, Cherry was trained to administer lifesaving care aboard an airplane and worked with a specialized team that flew to pick up the wounded from the front lines. The men were then treated during the flight, stabilized and transported to an established hospital. Cherry learned to work as a team and to do her very best to save lives no matter where she was on land, air, or sea. Her travels to many different places served as exciting adventures to those who read the stories and aspired to travel, as well as care for those who were injured.
Despite the need for a larger workforce and nurses to meet the needs of the war effort, there was a part of society that still felt women needed to be at home as the homemaker and caretaker. Due to a few talented graphic artists, posters with war propaganda information were created to draw women to work at various types of employment for the war effort. Manufacturing needed workers as their workforce was drastically reduced due to the war. Nurses were desperately needed by all branches of the military to administer care to the wounded and dying soldiers. The encouragement and enthusiasm that resulted from the posters provided ample job opportunities for women and also temporarily suppressed a large portion of the negativity.
Even with the additional workforce needs, discrimination and segregation towards women remained. For example, in the Cherry Ames’ series, Cherry was unknown, not well respected or readily approved of for her positon as Chief Nurse by her male superiors. She was reprimanded several times for choices she made, such as the party she promised for the soldiers at Port Janeway. Her rash promise was considered unprofessional and wasteful. Her very caring nature and that of her team was often chastised as too friendly, too feminine, and inappropriate by several men in charge. The soldiers, on the other hand, greatly appreciated the kindness and attention they received from the nurses. Women in the nursing profession were often thought of as angels as they helped to decrease the pain and suffering of so many men, such as the “flying angels” in “Cherry Ames: Flight Nurse”.
There were also several groups of women who used their femininity to gain certain advantages. The Victory Girls and Khaki-Wackies, actively sought relationships as girlfriends and even early, quick marriages to military men in order to gain benefits and security. These women used their femininity and sexuality to entice military men to have a good time. It was through literature like the Cherry Ames’s series, posters created with war propaganda, and women actively taking part in the military that helped to inspire young girls and women to become involved in the war efforts. Throughout WWII, women played an important role in the success supply of needed equipment, nursing care, entertainment, and patriotism. Unfortunately, once the war was over, women were expected to return to their homes and become homemakers again. It wasn’t until years later that women were acknowledged for the important part they played during WWII.