American Angels of Mercy: Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee's Pictorial Record of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904

Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee, 1864-1940

Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee

Dr. Anita Newcomb McGee received her medical degree from Columbian College (now George Washington University) in 1892 and was one of a select few woman doctors practicing in Washington, D.C. McGee, the daughter of noted astronomer Simon Newcomb, married geologist and anthropologist W.J. McGee in 1888. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898, McGee organized volunteer nurses for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). McGee's organizing ability led to her appointment as the only woman Acting Assistant Surgeon in the U.S. Army, in charge of the Army's nurses. After this brief war ended, McGee pursued the establishment of a permanent nurse corps. She wrote the section of the Army Reorganization Act legislation pertaining to nursing and is now known as the founder of the Army Nurse Corps. In 1900 she left her position with the Army, but continued leading the Society of Spanish-American War Nurses, a group she had founded in 1898.

With the threat of war between Russia and Japan looming, McGee led a group of nine volunteer nurses to Japan in 1904. All the photographs in this exhibit are drawn from her 1904 trip. She returned the following year as an official US Army observer and later lectured and wrote on her experiences in the war. In 1936, McGee wrote to this museum, "I am trying to dispose of the gatherings of a lifetime and find it very difficult in these days when people live in small quarters and even fine family heirlooms, treasured for generations have to go begging." McGee died in 1940 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.