See the stories of the 1,500 women who served during the Spanish-American War

Elizabeth Howe
September 20, 2019 - 11:27 am
Spanish-American War


The stories of the 1,500 women who served during the Spanish-American war are largely unknown. Iron Mountain and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial are working to change that. 

Over the years, the WIMSA Memorial has collected 181 images and 57 documents from this era of women veterans — mostly from family members of those service women. Until now, however, they haven't been easily available to the public. 

WIMSA Spanish-American Exhibit

"The mission of the WIMSA Memorial and Education Center is to tell the story of women service to the country and to the nation. Our goal is to make the history of women in the military — past and present — come alive," said Marilyn Quagliotti, vice president for development for the memorial foundation. "In order to do that, we have a large repository of their stories in the register and we have a collection with many treasured items that are just now being digitized so they can be available to the American public and to researchers."

That's where Iron Mountain comes in. 

"Iron Mountain is seen as a global leader for storage and information management services," said Alisha Perdue, Iron Mountain manager of community engagement. "We help our customers protect their most important or vital assets and we do it with information management, digital transformation secure storage, secure destruction. We also have data centers and cloud services and art storage."

Iron Mountain has a program called the Living Legacy Initiative which is a company commitment to preserve and make accessible cultural and historical information and artifacts — exactly like the artifacts housed by WIMSA.

"The importance of these women to women in the military as a whole is invaluable. They are so integral," said Britta Granrud, curator of collections for the WIMSA Memorial. "Their resourcefulness, their ability to adapt to hardship, and their professionalism was what led to the creation of the two nursing corps — the Army Nurse Corps in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps in 1908. Which meant that women were official members of the American military for the first time."

WIMSA Spanish-American War Exhibit

The collection includes letters, notes, contracts, photographs and more from the 1,500 women who were called up to support the United States military medical departments when they were overwhelmed by outbreaks of infectious diseases. Malaria, yellow fever, and typhoid killed more troops than battlefield injuries.

"As a soldier who served for 32 years, we all stand on the shoulders of people who came before us," Quagliotti said. "Their dedication, their willingness to sacrifice — it opened up the doors for the rest of us."

The digitized collection is expected to become available on the WIMSA Memorial website at the beginning of 2020.

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