The Fatal Decision of a Young Woman Serving her Country
The “supreme sacrifice for patriotism” was made by one Belle Adele Belden of New Orleans when she died as a consequence of her work as a nurse in the American Red Cross in 1918. The article in the Times-Picayune (in which she is referred to as only
‘Adele’) outlining the happenings of her life and the circumstances of her death provides everything from the family members that survived her to her extracurricular activities in college. The amount of detail provided paints a large and intricate image of the many ways in which this young woman may have impacted others.
Adele attended and graduated from the Newcomb College of Tulane University, where her enthusiasm for human interaction first became apparent. She had been an art student, the article mentioning that her work was displayed in the institution’s museum. The artist was heavily involved in the campus’ chapter of the sorority Chi Omega, where she served the role of the Chapter Cataloguer, a position to which she was appointed on March 25th of 1918, only eight months prior to her death. In the midst of her education, she moved to work as a nurse under the Red Cross, which had become synonymous in surrounding years for their contributions to treating influenza patients. The chosen profession is what ultimately lead to her death. The constant exposure to victims of the flu at the Jackson Barracks lead her to contract spinal meningitis, most likely intensified by a weakened immune system.
Belden’s popularity continued to thrive in the time following her death, affecting much of the New Orleans community. To mourn her passing, the school she was so well known at took the action of shutting down operations on the Friday that the news arrived. Her loved ones acted accordingly, holding a funeral on the same day in their family home, located on First street. The service featured those she was survived by; her mother, father, two brothers and one sister lived on for years to come. Those close to her were buried in the same plot as her, a symbolic solidification of their family bond.
As the title of the article makes apparent, Adele Belden died in a manner that was seen as noble and pride-worthy to the people in her life. In her seemingly simple decision to join the Red Cross, this nurse created a story obtusely representative of what it meant in that era to embody the American spirit.
“1918 Pandemic Influenza: Three Waves | Pandemic Influenza (Flu) | CDC,” May 11, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/three-waves.htm.
“Dr. Henry Evelyn Belden (1859-1930) – Find A Grave…” Accessed November 27, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/80019674/henry-evelyn-belden.
“History of Jackson Barracks | Louisiana National Guard Museums.” Accessed November 27, 2018. https://geauxguardmuseums.com/history-of-jackson-barracks.
“History Of Newcomb College | Newcomb College Institute.” Accessed November 27, 2018. https://newcomb.tulane.edu/content/historyofnewcombcollege.
“Lot Detail – Iconic 1918 Red Cross Poster From WWI — ‘“Have You Answered the Red Cross Christmas Roll Call?”’ — 28’’ x 30’’ — Edge Chipping & Discoloration to Upper Right.” Accessed November 27, 2018. https://natedsanders.com/iconic-1918-red-cross-poster-from-wwi—-have-yo-lot17311.aspx.
“Meningitis | Viral | CDC,” July 31, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/viral.html.
“Newcomb Girl Dies Of Heroic Service Miss Adele Belden Victim of Meningitis Contracted Nursing Soldiers.” Times-Picayune, November 30, 1918.
The Eleusis of Chi Omega. Chi Omega Fraternity., 1918.