So I did a thing.
You may remember that I wrote a blog post last year about the Lee Park Honor Roll. As I was researching the information for the post, I fell down a wormhole otherwise known as Margaret Nash. To bring you up to speed, Margaret is the only woman on the wall that was held as a prisoner of war. There are very few names of women on the wall, but she’s the only POW. The back story is that Margaret was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II. She neglected her own health to nurse hundreds of her fellow prisoners suffering from disease and near-starvation in the Philippine Islands. She was still struggling to survive when the camp was finally liberated by US forces three years later. Though doctors told her she wouldn’t survive, she went on to live a long life nursing and teaching.
I closed the blog post by saying “…I believe it should be fair game for a PA historical marker, but I’m not sure what the application process would be for something like that.”
And that’s where the thing that I did comes into play. After extensive research, and talking with some of my history buff friends, I decided to take the plunge into madness. I downloaded the nomination form for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker in June. The document, which can be found on the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website, is a 10 page application that needs to be filled out and returned for consideration. The deadline for submission falls on December 1st each year. The committee then meets at the beginning of the next year to discuss the submissions and select the markers. I carried the form with me for about a month without really reviewing any of the details. I think it was around July or August when I really started to scrape the surface of what was needed to complete the nomination. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I talked to Tony Brooks briefly about the process, and I think he told me at one point he was a part of the selection committee. He said that people with Masters Degrees and PhDs have written proposals that haven’t been accepted. I didn’t let that discourage me.
Let’s just say the application process is quite extensive. You need to cite sources as you would if you were writing a school paper. It’s been a while since I’ve had to write a paper of that type of caliber, so it hurt my brain. I ended up citing the sources I found in my newspapers.com research as my primary sources. I scoured the internet for some secondary sources and came across a few books that Margaret was mentioned in. I attempted to reach out to the authors of these books, but on a tight deadline, I only heard back from one, Mary Cronk Farrell, who published “Pure Grit”:
Hi Michelle,What a wonderful project! You certainly may use my book as a resource. Since you don’t have a copy, I suggest you ask your local library to add the book to their collection. You might also let local teachers know that the book is available to students at a reduced price through the Scholastic Book Clubs. $8, I think.Best of luck! Please keep me in the loop on the historical marker.
I’m leaving the link to her website in this post. While she writes books for a more juvenile audience, I still think they contain helpful information should you find yourself needing to research history’s most bad ass women! We exchanged a few more emails and she admitted that Margaret was one of her favorite nurses in the book and that she recently did a presentation on Margaret (as well as others) in San Diego.
Speaking of presentations, my good friend Kathleen Smith shared a Facebook post with me about a presentation at Misericordia’s Center for Nursing History that happened in November. My jaw immediately dropped. The presentation was all about nurses during WWII and Margaret was one of the featured nurses! As matter of fact, the person who spoke during the presentation was Margaret’s nephew, who happens to be a Reverend at Saint Faustina Parish in Nanticoke. I honestly had no idea that Margaret still had family that were local. From what I read, she moved to California and taught nursing there. Through some friends who happen to attend that parish, I was able to get a letter to Father Nash who seems excited and interested to learn more about why Margaret’s story fascinated me so much. I’m still waiting to hear back from him, but he’s a very busy person. Kathleen did put me in touch with Donna Snelson who runs the Center for Nursing History. I sent her an email and waited to hear back for more information.
In the meantime, the deadline to submit materials was rapidly approaching. I put together what I had in a document (Read: 56 pages) and had 3 or 4 people proofread it. After making some suggested changes, I sent it off to the presses. I should point out – you need to make twelve (12) collated copies of the document to send in for the committee. For those of you keeping score, 56 pages x 12 copies = 672 pages. Since I don’t have access to a large copier, I sent these off to Staples. It cost $47.65. I picked up the order early on Black Friday and the clerk wished me good luck. After that I headed over to the Wilkes-Barre post office and using two boxes, shipped the 12 copies to Harrisburg (another 20 dollars). Margaret Nash arrived just shy of the December 1st deadline.
After the holidays were over, and a few emails were exchanged, I met up with Donna Snelson over lunch. I shared with her my application and she read it over and loved it. She asked if I would be open to changing the location of the marker and I said that I was (if the PHMC will allow me). The marker cost will be $1675 to have made and installed, which clearly I don’t have sitting around. Donna thinks that she can find the money through the Nursing College’s alumni network and possibly the local hospitals. We shall see, that’s about 5 steps ahead at this point. The committee meeting for the selection process hasn’t happened yet!
The committee meets on March 7th and the markers will be selected then. The winning applicants will be notified via email. Even if my application doesn’t get approved this first go round, the commission sends you their notes and you’re allowed to resubmit for a period of 3 years. Donna said that her staff and students would be willing to help with further research and re-writes if needed.
This process has been so overwhelming, it was truly like giving birth. I can’t thank everyone enough who has helped me along the way to get this project off the ground and also to help get me in touch with the right people. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have good news in another month. I promise to keep you all updated either way.
I will leave you with a copy of the application for review. I blotted out my contact information, but everything else is the same. This is a 24 meg document, so it may take a little while to load. Keep your fingers, eyes and toes crossed for me!