On International Women’s Day, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Phyllis Mae Dailey, the first African American Navy Nurse Corps member.
On March 8, 1945, Phyllis Dailey became the first African American to swear in as a Navy nurse.
Before swearing in, Dailey graduated from the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York and was a public health student at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University. When she wanted to serve her country, the Army denied her because of her skin color. Dailey joined the Navy Nurse Corps, which previously excluded black women.
During this time, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Mable Keaton Staupers – the executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses – spoke against the implicit ban of African American nurses. They publicly wrote that military service was the responsibility of all U.S. citizens regardless of the color of one’s skin. They advocated that everyone should join the war effort and contribute to the security of the nation.
Dailey’s determination to break down racial barriers in the military laid the foundation for numerous historical moments for racial equality.
“[I] knew the barriers were going to be broken down eventually and felt the more applicants, the better the chances would be for each person,” she said.
Dailey’s determination to serve her country during World War II created a path for others to follow. Notably, Edith Mazie Devoe, Helen Fredericka Turner and Eula Lucille Stimley followed in Dailey’s footsteps. In August 1945, these women were the only four active-duty African American nurses in the Navy Nurse Corps.
We honor her service.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Adrienne Brookstein
Editors: Jacob Reis and Cassidy Reid
Fact checker: Bhaavana Oruganty
Graphic artist: Katie Rahill