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A Nursing Spotlight: Edna Hardacre

Blog post by Hilary Fleck

Photo from the MCHC Photo Collection, circa 1918

If the past twelve months have shown us anything, it is that the dedication of nurses to care for their patients is never ending. One such dedicated nurse was Enda (Ferguson) Hardacre, an enlisted Red Cross nurse serving with the U.S. Navy during World War 1.

Edna was born in Jackson County, Indiana in 1888 and moved to Bloomington around 1908. She graduated from the Training School for Nurses at the Methodist Episcopal Hospital in Indianapolis in 1914 and worked in the hospital for a couple of years. When the U.S. entered the war, Edna enlisted in the Red Cross on October 8, 1918. She was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Cape May, New Jersey.

Photo from the MCHC Photo Collection, circa 1915

Edna kept a diary of her service at Cape May, which we now have in the History Center’s permanent collection. Her arrival to the base was a bit unorthodox, as she explains.

“Adelaid Hall and I trained together at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. When the United States entered the war in 1917, we wanted to do our part. We had to join the Red Cross first and then we designated the Navy as our choice of service because the Navy we were told was better equipped. So we joined the Navy.

We had an experience in getting to our naval base. The medical center in Indianapolis by 1917 was accustomed to motorized conveyance. We didn’t think of anything else. When we arrived at the naval base it was dark. The station man said that yes there was a conveyance to take us out to our naval base hospital. He said to go out the rear door. We did and we walked right in a van – looked like an old streetcar that had the seats on the side. We sat down and after a while it started – slowly and in a little bit I could hear a funny noise. It didn’t sound much like a motorized conveyance. It was a “clop”, “clop”, “clop” down the street. Come to find out it was a horse-drawn carriage of some kind.

Edna’s service at Cape May lasted nearly a year. Over the course of her service, she earned the nickname “Sarge”, a high compliment in the Navy. In August of 1919, she details her final days at Cape May.

Edna’s Red Cross cape, circa 1917. From the MCHC Collection.

Aug 13, I am at last officially detached from the U.S. Navy. Received full instructions to proceed to my home.

Aug 14…Farewell to the boys. Left Cape May at 4:15. 9 of the boys came as far as Phily with us. So we at 8:11, we all went in separate directions. Thus ended my naval career.

From the MCHC Photo Collection, circa 1970

After returning to Bloomington in 1918 she became a school nurse until her retirement in 1950. She was an active member in the American Legion, Salvation Army, the Rebekah Lodge, and Public Health Nursing Association. Her lifetime of service to the health of the community was honored in 1983 when Enda received a Sagamore of the Wabash award from Governor Orr and an Indiana General Assembly resolution recognizing her years of service.

Edna (Ferguson) Hardacre passed away on August 10, 1986 and buried in Rose Hill Cemetery with graveside military rites conducted by the American Legion and VFW. Nurses who serve through selfless sacrifice every single day deserve our grateful appreciation. National Nurse Appreciation Week is May 6 to 12, 2021, so let’s all tell the nurses in our lives “thank you!”

The exhibit “From the Collection: Medical History” is now open in the Rechter Gallery until May 28, 2021.