Anna Vail Stansell is my 3rd cousin 2 times removed. She is the only child of Charles Stansell and Ida Vail born on August 22, 1895, in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida. She loved school and she especially loved Science. After graduating from High School in 1913, she entered the Duval Hospital School of Nursing, determined to become a nurse. In 1915 she graduated, and immediately began working at Duval Hospital. She also joined the American Red Cross. World War I began on July 28, 1914, and she wanted nothing more than to help in any way she could.
After the United State declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917, the Red Cross began a period of extraordinary growth. By the time the war ended in November 1918, the Red Cross had become a major national humanitarian organization with strong leadership, a huge membership base, universal recognition, and a broad and distinguished record of service. Anna volunteered to go to France to help take care of the wounded soldiers.
The American Red Cross sent thousands of nurses overseas to help organize the home front, establish veterans hospitals, deliver care packages, organize ambulances, and even train dogs to search for wounded. They had a program called the Red Cross Reserve. It consisted of two lists: a list of nurses who were on call to serve anywhere in the country and a list of nurses who were on call to serve anywhere in the world. The nurses on these lists were volunteers. When the US entered WWI, the nurses on the second list were among the first Americans to be sent to France in May 1917. She served wherever the need was greatest, and she eventually went to the Pisa Village in Italy, where a humanitarian housing project began in 1918.
At the end of the war on November 11, 1918, the League of Red Cross Societies was created. This international society of national Red Cross organizations was spearheaded by the United States and sought the “improvement of health, the prevention of disease, and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world.”
Upon returning home in Jacksonville, Anna came face to face with a new type of war. The Spanish flu outbreak began in February 1918, going on to infect 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves.
The nurses who served in the war were enlisted in the battle against the influenza pandemic. Jacksonville Florida suffered greatly and in October of that year alone, the deadliest month, the city reported that well more than 400 residents died from Spanish flu, out of a population that was close to 90,000. Anna spent the next year and a half caring for those who were ill.
After the pandemic ceased she returned to her position at Duval Hospital. She met and married Joseph Alvin Register on December 7, 1921. Joseph was a real estate mogul in the Jacksonville area, and they bought a beautiful home in which to raise a family. They had 4 children, 1 son and 3 daughters. Until her first child was born in 1923 she continued to work full time for a local doctor. After, the birth she devoted herself to raising her children. However, she still volunteered at the hospital and with the local Red Cross. She had learned the value of doing a “good deed” and it became a part of who she was.
Anna died on January 21, 1970, in Jacksonville, at the age of 74. She left behind a legacy of love, caring and service that her family still pass on.
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