Memorial to Mabel Munro

28 October 1884 - 10 June 1953

     It was the early morning hours of October, 1918 in Nièvre, France, and the weather had not only dipped down into the single digits overnight but was expected to barely reach into the twenties throughout the day.  Mabel had her U.S. Army issued uniform overcoat buttoned to the top and her hat pulled down over her neck as far as possible while she trudged from the nurse’s quarters toward the building she was assigned to that day.  Her cheeks were bright pink, stinging with the cold and she could see her breath as she exhaled.  She had arrived a few weeks prior, unaware the weather would be that brutal so early in the fall.  Her assignment had placed her in the group that comprised Base Hospital 67. It had been originally organized at the quickly erected Camp Crane out of Allentown Pennsylvania. Formed in April of 1918, the unit trained until July 5, at which point they traveled to Hoboken, New Jersey and from there sailed to France.  No protective convoy was provided until the vessel was within three days sailing of the French coast.   When, on August 1st, B.H.U. 67 arrived at Mesves, Nièvre, France they were the first medical unit on the scene. The wounded were housed in both wooden barracks and tents.   One thousand beds were available in the barracks as well as one thousand beds in the tents.  Upon their arrival staff found the water had not yet been turned on nor was electricity connected.   By early October, when Mabel arrived, the patient count was 2,370.   Additional beds were placed in warehouses, Red Cross huts and every other available space.   On that cold, fall morning as Mabel shivered on her way to her work day she had no way of knowing that before January 20, 1919 there would be 7,853 medical and surgical cases treated at her hospital.  With a death toll of only eighty, the mortality rate would be an impressive 1%.   A local French girl named Miss Desaix married an American officer named Lacock.  Mrs. Lacock in later years explained that she had vivid memories of wounded American soldiers arriving in Nièvre by train.  Some were using crutches, some were on stretchers, while some were struggling along in darkness, either temporarily or permanently blinded.  She remembers a continuous procession of slow moving trains of human cargo arriving day and night, and then physically broken soldiers being transported on to the hospital. Moans of pain and despair along with the fetid odor of the men would certainly have been seared into the memories of all the people who witnessed the wounded disembark.   During the first month of 1919 Evacuation Hospital 20 took over and Unit 67 staff were sent home.  Mabel arrived home in Peru, Indiana in April 1919.  Today, at the Nièvre area where the white barracks and tents were located, it is again a green field soothing away the agony that was suffered by many on its soil.  It is time for these American soldiers to be brought back to mind.  In addition, Mabel’s compelling and interesting life bears remembering. This is her story.

Mabel Munro Peru High School Teacher 1908 - 1911
Mabel Munro Peru High School Teacher 1908 - 1911
teacher of Math and Latin

Mabel Munro Senior Photo 1901
Mabel Munro Senior picture in Peru High School 1901 Narcissus Year Book

     Mabel Gray Munro was born October 28, 1884 in Detroit, Michigan.  Her father was from Canada and the son of Scottish immigrants. Her mother was an Irish immigrant.  Her father was an engineer on the rail road.  There were four other children in her family. Two of her brothers would become dentists, the third brother worked in sales and her sister would join her in the profession of nursing.   One of her brothers would also serve in WWI.  In 1888 the family moved to Chicago, but just prior to Mabel’s sophomore year the family moved to Peru, Indiana.  Mabel became a graduate of the 1901 class at Peru High School.  After Mabel finished high school, her father sent her to Indiana University.  She attended classes there starting in 1902 and continuing through 1904, returning for more classes the summer of 1907.  While living in Peru, she taught school for seven years.  She began in “the country school” where she taught for one year and then moved on to “the grades” where she taught for two years.  After that she taught mathematics at Peru High School. 

      Then, in 1910, Mabel made a career change.  She headed back to Chicago, with all its tall buildings and city lights, and its loud, noisy, pungent smelling crowds, chattering in a multitude of languages. She enrolled in the Henrotin School of Nursing which was located near Old Town. The Chicago Policlinic and Henrotin Memorial Hospital were under the same management and established a training school for nurses in 1891.  The students were exposed to ward and clinical care at both facilities.  The Chicago Policlinic was an outpatient clinic that consisted of various specialists.   The nursing school was a three-year program and for the first four preparatory months the students were on probation.  The young women were held to a high standard.  To even be accepted into the program students had to have a high school equivalency and be between 25 and 35.  They were housed at 1222 LaSalle Avenue in Chicago. After the probationary period was completed, students were paid three dollars a month the first year and five dollars a month the second and third years.  This money was to be spent on text books.  Mabel graduated from nursing school at Henrotin in 1914.

Henrotin Hospital circa 1914

Henrotin Hospital circa 1914

     She remained working at Henrotin Hospital until she joined the army, when, in March of 1918, Mabel found herself the head of 78 nurses at Camp Grant in Rockford Illinois.  The Indianapolis Star describes her as “delighted in her assignment” and quotes her as saying, “We have no reason for a single complaint against anything and we want to do all that we can to help win the war.  Nearly all of us gave up good positions and salaries to come here, but we are all glad if our services are worth something to the government.” It is a fact that when the United States entered WWI in April 1917, the country was not prepared.  There were no facilities to train, feed or equip the 500,000 men that were initially called for.  The government decided to erect 16 military bases across the country.  It determined which states wanted a training camp and then which areas of each state to erect it.  In Rockford, Illinois one such base was built and it was named after Civil War General, Ulysses S. Grant.  In July of 1917, 6,800 construction workers began their work and in four and a half months 5,600 acres of farm land was transformed into a military city which included 1,100 buildings.  Barracks, officer’s quarters, stables, and a hospital, along with other buildings such as a post office were included in this new base training camp.  The first draftees arrived in September of 1917.  The facility primarily trained infantry.  In 1918, it housed 50,000 officers and enlisted men.  The base hospital consisted of 61 buildings which were completed at the cost of $500,000. In
Camp Grant Hospital receiving
Camp Grant Hospital receiving

addition, there was the expenditure of thousands of dollars for medical equipment and supplies.    According to the newspaper, Mabel was in Europe by September 23 of 1918, just missing devastating weeks at Camp Grant between September 23 and October 1, 1918 when the Spanish flu affected over 4,000 enlistees, and took the lives of over 1,000, soldiers.  Nevertheless, she surely saw her share of suffering and pitched in with her fair share of hard work in France during the last months of the war. 

      After the war, she returned to her home town of Peru, Indiana and moved in with her family on North Broadway.  Mabel served as the Miami County Public Health nurse for one year while living with her family on North Broadway.  She relocated to South Bend, Indiana and by 1924 Mabel was elected superintendent of the Visiting Nurse Association of that city.  Sadly, in October of 1928 tragedy struck.  Mabel’s mother was visiting Mabel and her siblings, Martha and Colin, in South Bend when she became ill and later died in a South Bend Hospital.  It must have been difficult for Mabel and her sister, Martha, both nurses, having their mother pass away under their watch.  They must have felt extremely helpless and have had heavy hearts following the experience. 

     The dark cloud did not linger though, for in 1930 Mabel had the honor of being invited by President Hoover to serve as a delegate to the National Child Health Conference at the White House.  Herbert Hoover, who served as head of the American Relief Administration during WWI, was elected President in 1929.   At the National Child Health Conference a document was prepared called The Children’s Charter.  It was written with the input of 3,500 men and women who were attendees to the conference. The Children’s Charter listed 19 rights for children.   The charter begins with the words “The rights of the child are the first rights of citizenship” and ends with the words “For EVERY child these rights, regardless of race, or color or situation, wherever he may live under the protection of the American Flag.”  The rights that were written ring like something that would have been written in the 1990’s.  It must have been a thrilling experience for Mabel to be part of this historic document. 

 The Children’s Charter

I.   For every child spiritual and moral training to help him to stand firm under the pressure of life

II.   For every child understanding and the guarding of his personality as his most precious right

III.   For every child a home and that love and security which a home provides; and for that child who must receive foster care, the nearest substitute for his own home

IV.   For every child full preparation for his birth, his mother receiving prenatal, natal, and postnatal care; and the establishment of such protective measures as will make child-bearing safer

V.   For every child health protection from birth through adolescence, including: periodical health examinations and, where needed, care of specialists and hospital treatment; regular dental examination and care of the teeth; protective and preventive measures against communicable diseases; the insuring of pure food, pure milk, and pure water

VI.   For every child from birth through adolescence, promotion of health, including health instruction and a health program, wholesome physical and mental recreation, with teachers and leaders adequately trained

VII.   For every child a dwelling place safe, sanitary, and wholesome, with reasonable provisions for privacy, free from conditions which tend to thwart his development; and a home environment harmonious and enriching

VIII.   For every child a school which is safe from hazards, sanitary, properly equipped, lighted, and ventilated. For younger children nursery schools and kindergartens to supplement home care

IX.   For every child a community which recognizes and plans for his needs, protects him against physical dangers, moral hazards, and disease; provides him with safe and wholesome places for play and recreation; and makes provision for his cultural and social needs

X.   For every child an education which, through the discovery and development of his individual abilities, prepares him for life; and through training and vocational guidance prepares him for a living which will yield him the maximum of satisfaction

XI.   For every child such teaching and training as will prepare him for successful parenthood, homemaking, and the rights of citizenship ; and, for parents, supplementary training to fit them to deal wisely with the problems of parenthood

XII.   For every child education for safety and protection against accidents to which modern conditions subject him--those to which he is directly exposed and those which, through loss or maiming of his parents, affect him indirectly

XIII.   For every child who is blind, deaf, crippled, or otherwise physically handicapped, and for the child who is mentally handicapped, such measures as will early discover and diagnose his handicap, provide care and treatment, and so train him that he may become an asset to society rather than a liability. Expenses of these services should be borne publicly where they cannot be privately met

XIV.   For every child who is in conflict with society the right to be dealt with intelligently as society's charge, not society's outcast ; with the home, the school, the church, the court and the institution when needed, shaped to return him whenever possible to the normal stream of life

XV.   For every child the right to grow up in a family with an adequate standard of living and the security of a stable income as the surest safeguard against social handicaps

XVI.   For every child protection against labor that stunts growth, either physical or mental, that limits education, that deprives children of the right of comradeship, of play, and of joy

XVII.   For every rural child as satisfactory schooling and health services as for the city child, and an extension to rural families of social, recreational, and cultural facilities

XVIII.   To supplement the home and the school in the training of youth, and to return to them those interests of which modern life tends to cheat children, every stimulation and encouragement should be given to the extension and development of the voluntary youth organizations

XIX.   To make everywhere available these minimum protections of the health and welfare of children, there should be a district, county, or community organization for health, education, and welfare, with full-time officials, coordinating with a state-wide program which will be responsive to a nation-wide service of general information, statistics, and scientific research. This should include:

(a) Trained, full-time public health officials, with public health nurses, sanitary inspection, and laboratory workers

(b) Available hospital beds

(c) Full-time public welfare service for the relief, aid, and guidance of children in special need due to poverty, misfortune, or behavior difficulties, and for the protection of children from abuse, neglect, exploitation, or moral hazard

     After her father passed away in 1935, Mabel returned to school and finished her education with a Master’s Degree in Public Health which she obtained from the University of Michigan in 1938.   She also completed a Public Health Nursing Certificate the same year.  Today’s School of Public Health at the University of Michigan was established in 1941, but there were various pioneering programs related to public health offered at U. of M. beginning as long ago as 1887.  The Public Health Nursing Certificate alone required Mabel to complete 45 credit hours of class work along with fifteen hours of practical field work.  Masters programs in Public Health were tailored to the individual at the time Mabel completed her course work, so her exact curriculum was not found.  She does have a published Thesis in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.   During her career Mabel worked in Public Health specializing in the area of Maternal and Child Health.  Clearly from the time that Mabel began her first position in teaching, children were a priority for her.  Although she never married, nor did she have children of her own, she provided education and nursing care for several communities of youngsters throughout her working life.

      During her adult life, the census records list her as having residences not only in Peru and South Bend, Indiana, but also in Three Rivers, Michigan and St Joseph, Missouri, and she was involved in work responsibilities in Lansing, Michigan.  In the fall of 1952, at the age of 67, Mabel, her sister Martha, and her brother Colin, returned from a trip to Europe.  It is likely Mabel desired to see once again where she had served as a young woman during The Great War, for the following June, Mabel passed away from colorectal cancer with liver metastasis.  Her body was returned to Peru, Indiana for burial in Mount Hope Cemetery.  Clearly, for all the communities she served throughout her life, she continued to remember Miami County and considered it home.   Peru was where Mabel came to value the promise of the youth of the United States.  Furthermore, she found her call to nursing while becoming a young woman in Miami County, Indiana.

Researched, written & submitted by Mary Rohrer Dexter

Works Cited

“1901, 1908, 1909. 1911.” Peru High School Narcissus. High school Year book. Student photos 1901.  Faculty Pictures years 1908, 1909, and 1911

Angela Malavolti and Dave ShultzRegister Star Media. “Much of Camp Grant's History Can Still Be Seen Today.” Rockford Register Star, Rockford Register Star, 23 May 2014.

BHL: School of Public Health (University of Michigan) Records,

Camp Grant & WWI.McHenry County Historical Society and Museum.

Camp Grant (Illinois).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Dec. 2017.

Camp Grant Museum.Camp Grant Museum.

Certificate of Death. Indiana State Board of Health.  Mabel Munro Death Certificate.

City Directory Peru, Indiana 1919.

City Directory South Bend. 1938.

“Death of Mrs J.P. Munro.” Peru Republican, 5 Oct. 1928.

“Death-Funeral John P Munro.” Peru Daily Tribune, 26 Oct. 1935.

Duffy, Lucy DeVries. “Stories of World War 1 in France/La Grande Guerre.” The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Armistice, A Testimony from Beyond the Atlantic by Rebecca Goethe DeVries, 1 Jan. 1970.

“Former Peru Woman Succumbs at Hospital.” Pharos-Tribune, 12 June 1953, pp. 10–10.

Gjenvick, Paul K. “Camp Grant - The Mess and Birds Eye Views - WW1 Cantonment - 1917.” Camp Grant Mess and Other Camp Buildings | GG Archives,

Gjenvick, Paul K. “Camp Grant Pictorial History Brochure (1917).” Pictorial History of Camp Grant | GG Archives,.

Hallett, Christine. “Nurse Writers of the Great War.” Project MUSE, Manchester University Press.

Herbert Hoover: Message Endorsing the Children's Charter. - April 7, 1931.” The American Presidency Project,.

“Indiana Nurses At Camp Grant.” The Indianapolis Star, 17 Mar. 1918, pp. 13–13.

“Mabel Gray Munro Dies.” The Kokomo Tribune, 12 June 1953, pp. 17–17.

Mesves Hospital Center France A.E.F., WW1,

“Miss Mabel G Munro - Retired Public Health Nurse Dies.” Peru Republican, 19 June 1953, pp. 6–6.

“Miss Monroe in England.” Unknown Paper, 28 Sept. 1918.

Nevers, France.” AccuWeather.

“New Nurse Head.” Indianapolis Star, 25 Oct. 1924, pp. 24–24.

"New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 2 October 2015), Mabel G Munro, 1952; citing Immigration, New York City, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Office of Medical History.

Source Citation Year: 1940; Census Place: South Bend, St Joseph, Indiana; Roll: T627_1133; Page: 64A; Enumeration District: 97-4.

"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 September 2017), Mable Monroe in household of John P Monroe, Ridgeview, Miami, Indiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 123, sheet 3B, family 62, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 371; FHL microfilm 1,374,384.

"United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 September 2017), Mabel G Monroe in household of John P Monroe, Peru, Miami, Indiana, United States; citing ED 145, sheet 2A, line 44, family 41, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 441; FHL microfilm 1,820,441.

"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 November 2017), Mabel G Munroe, South Bend, St Joseph, Indiana, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 11, sheet 24B, line 90, family 783, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 625; FHL microfilm 2,340,360.

“University of Michigan Bulletin of General Information.” University of Michigan Bulletin of General Information, The University, pp. 70–73. Part 1. 1937-1938 and 1938-1939

Wallin, C H. “Indiana Nurses At Camp Grant.” Indianpolis Star, 17 Mar. 1918, pp. 13–13.

Waters, / Between The. “American Women in the Great War.” Making History Together, 16 July 2016.

Women Nurses Throughout War History.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Three Rivers, St Joseph, Michigan; Roll: T627_1817; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 75-27.

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