Julia McGaughey DeJanis Collection Now Open

In a 1987 interview, ninety-one-year-old Julia Irene McGaughey DeJanis credited her spirit of adventure and romance with her decision to enlist in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Many years later, this service with the Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War I qualified her to join the American Legion. In her adopted city of North Little Rock, she was the only woman in the local Gordon Gale Post.

The story of her service as a member of the Army Nurse Corps and of her later decision to settle with her husband in North Little Rock is told in the Julia McGaughey DeJanis Collection held by the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

Julia I. McGaughey, a native of Muscatine, Iowa, graduated from the Moline City Hospital school for nurses in Moline, Illinois, in October 1916. In the spring of 1918, she enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. In August, after training at the United States Army Hospital in Waynesville, North Carolina, McGaughey was deployed to France, where she served with Camp Hospital No. 56, at Allerey.

women in white frocked uniforms, man at piano with drum next to him
Nurses’ dining room at Camp Hospital 108, Convalescent Camp, Allerey, France, ca. March 1919.

This collection contains a variety of documents and photographs from McGaughey’s time of service in the Army Nurse Corps, both from her training and her time in France. This includes travel and identification documents, military orders, and publications about the French language and other aspects of life as a soldier or army nurse in France. Of particular interest are photographs of a visit to the camp at Allerey by General John J. “Jack” Pershing.

older smiling woman with white hair and white shirt with flowers
Julia DeJanis, ca. 1980s.

McGaughey returned from France at the end of May 1919 and worked for a time at the hospital in Moline. She later went to Flushing, New York, to care for an ill sister, and then stayed to work at the local hospital. There she met Dr. Aurelius DeJanis, who was completing his training at the same hospital; they married in December 1923. In 1928, a colleague of Dr. DeJanis invited the couple to visit him in North Little Rock. The couple liked the city so much, they decided to stay.

Dr. DeJanis maintained his practice in North Little Rock, first on Main Street and then in a purpose-built home/office at 115 W. Broadway. The collection includes photographs from 1938 of the new brick structure, which can still be seen in North Little Rock in the twenty-first century.

Julia McGaughey DeJanis, who lived to the age of ninety-two, never really lost the sense of adventure that had taken her to France. In addition to her membership in the American Legion post, she supported the local American Legion baseball teams for over thirty years and eventually had a baseball field named for her in North Little Rock’s Burns Park. She continued to be active in the community and took up songwriting as a hobby. DeJanis was honored in 1987 for writing the song chosen as the official song of North Little Rock.

The Julia McGaughey DeJanis Collection (BC.MS.23.14) is available in the Research Room of CALS Roberts Library (visiting info. here), and the finding aid is here.

(Banner image at top of post, from the collection: Crosses on graves, decorated with American flags and flowers, U.S. soldiers in the background, unidentified cemetery in France, ca. 1919.)

By Shirley Schuette, volunteer; she retired as an archival assistant at the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in August 2021






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