Oral Histories of North Carolina Nurses

Introduction to Oral Histories of North Carolina Nurses

Learn more about North Carolina nurses in their own words. There are oral history collections in archives and libraries across the state. Follow the links to discover oral history interviews with North Carolina nurses. Most of these interviews have audio recordings or transcripts available online.  

The US Library of Congress has an oral history interview with Sarah Alice Hooks Massaro of Freemont, NC.  She was a flight nurse with the US Air Force during WWII and the Cold War.

Century of Caring written transcripts of people in the movie (see Featured Resources of the left of the homepage)

Transcripts of Interviews with North Carolina Nurses on the 2002 Centennial video

Here in PDF format are transcripts of all the interviewees from the video North Carolina Nurses: A Century of Caring.


Oral histories of public health nurses collected at the NC Public Health Association annual meeting 2010 in Wilmington, NC

Oral histories from the Duke University Collection: Behind the Veil:
A selection of 410 recorded oral history interviews chronicling African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Charlotte area  Nurses

Enfield area

Wilmington area
New Bern  area


Women’s Veteran History Project at UNC-G

Clara Adams Ender – Clara Leach Adams-Ender (b. 1939) of Willow Springs, North Carolina, served as an officer in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps from 1961 to 1993, rising to the rank of brigadier general in 1987. She was chief of the Army Nurse Corps from 1987 to 1991, and retired in 1993 as the commanding general of Fort Belvoir, Virginia. http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/results5.aspx?i=2725&s=5

Pauline Allison http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/results5.aspx?i=2737&s=5

 Sandra Venegoni (not yet transcribed) http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=987

Amie Modigh (not yet transcribed) http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=988

Annie Johns Civil War Nurse Papers http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=179

Wanda Wills http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=379

Cathy Sykes http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=340

Doris Melvin http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=241

Lunary Love http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=217

Lillie Henson http://library.uncg.edu/dp/wv/collection.aspx?col=152

Oral History Interview with Marguerite V. Clodfelter
Oral History Interview with Katie King

Brigadier General Clara Adams Ender being interviewed on National Public Radio.

UNC-G oral history with Nurse Mattie Hicks focusing on her Korean War experiences.

Transcript of an oral History with Nurse Elsie Garrish of Ocracoke Island 1960s-1980s.

 Transciption of oral history with Mrs. Roberta Farthing, RN, CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) from Valle Crusis, NC who worked in Winston Salem, NC

Abridged transcript of Annie Cogburn, RN who trained and worked at Mission Hospital in Asheville before WWII

Jane Plyler's 1980 Master's thesis with interviews of 6 NC retired public heath nurses and transcripts

Other oral hsitories found around the state

Video Interviews


Audio Interviews (more in the Oral history link on this website)

Jane Abernethy Plyler, born in 1945, received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from East Carolina University in 1967 and a Master's of Science in Public Health Nursing degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980. For her thesis, "Public Health Nursing in North Carolina: Oral Histories of Earlier Years," she conducted a series of oral history interviews with public health nurses who practiced in North Carolina during the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Links to Internet Archives (original recordings are housed in the Southern Collection at the UNC Chapel Hill Wilson Library):

Partial transcription of Amy Fisher Barrier's interview




UNC-C Special Collections New South Voices

# Interview with Maggie Massey Freeman, 1996-06-04Levine Museum of the New South, Billy Graham Series | | - Ms. Freeman discusses her life in Charlotte, NC, including her childhood as a sharecropper's daughter on the farmland of William Franklin Graham, Sr. She addresses family life and children's leisure activities during the 1920s. She also talks about race relations in Charlotte from the 1920s to the 1990s, including the areas of social relationships, public accommodations, and neighborhood development. She recounts her experiences as a student of nursing at Presbyterian Hospital and reflects on the changes she's seen in the health-care industry. She discusses religion in the South and its role in family life, her personal relationship with Billy Graham, his career, and her participation in Graham's crusades.

# Interview with Beatrice Hogan, 1993-06-11Levine Museum of the New South, Professional Women Series | | - Mrs. Hogan discusses her long career in nursing in this interview for the Museum of the New South. She graduated from nursing school during the Great Depression and began work at St. Peter's Hospital in Charlotte, later moving to Charlotte Memorial Hospital. Hogan also volunteered for duty with the U.S. Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Unit and, later, the U.S. Army Reserve. She served in North Africa and Italy during World War II and in Fort Polk, Louisiana during the Vietnam and Korean wars. She describes her experiences, nursing duties and Army life.

# Interview with Laura Cates and James Cates, 1999-05-08Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection | - Laura Cates talks about family stories, nursing stories, and plant cultivation.


HIS 5579 Project

In the fall of 2010, students from Dr. Lucinda McCray’s Oral History class  at Appalchian State University in Boone, NC each interviewed two or three nurses in North Carolina. Each student’s interviews centered on some common theme in nurses’ identities or professional specialties. For instance, different student projects focused on psychiatric nurses, Native American nurses, and male nurses. Students used this experience to practice the methods of oral history and to learn about the nursing history of North Carolina.

Links to Internet Archive and transcripts:


 Mrs. Mary Shook, R.N. - The Appalachian State University Health Center is named in her honor.

ECU Joyner Library

1.Sarah Wahab Moore Papers (Manuscript Collection #712) 14 hits
Papers (1942-1965) including correspondence, vaccination records, drawings, personal history, and miscellany. 2.Elma J. Ashby Oral History Interview (Oral History #OH0065) 7 hits
3.Sarah Wahab Moore Oral History Interview (Oral History #OH0151) 6 hits
4.James Harvey Brown Papers (Manuscript Collection #547) 2 hits
Papers (1926-1977) of U. S. naval officer, USNA class of 1931, including correspondence, reports, publications, clippings, photographs, letters, information on weather conditions, etc. and his naval service including his World War II aboard USS SHAW, 1940-1942, USS ABNER READ, 1942-1944, USS AMMEN, 1944-1945, etc.

Duke University Medical Records Archives Collection holds:


1 - Guide to the Brenda Nevidjon Interview, 2005

2 - Guide to the Ruby Leila Wilson Papers, 1959-1985

3 - Guide to the Evelyn Booker Wicker Interview, 2006

4 - Guide to the School of Nursing Records, 1930-2008

5 - Inventory of the Thelma Ingles Papers, 1945 - 1989

6 - Guide to the Ruby Leila Wilson Interview, 2007

7 - Guide to the Eleanor B. Easley papers, 1945 - 1993

8 - Guide to the Donna Allen Harris Interview, 2008

9 - Guide to the Joyce Nichols Interview, 2006

10 - Guide to the Foundations of Excellence: An Archival Image Collection, Clinical Care Series, 1930 - 1948

11 - Guide to the Louise Williams Dennis Interview, 2008

12 - Inventory of the Division of Allied Health Education Records, 1956 - 1983

13 - Guide to the Bessie Baker Papers, 1930-1941

14 - Guide to the Florence K. Wilson Papers, 1933-1967

21 - Guide to the Ann Jacobansky Papers, 1932-1980

Federal Writers Project of the New Deal


Southern Oral History Project at UNC-CH

Look for these (and there may be newer nurse interviews added)


Neal, Patricia, 1935-6 June 1989 No restrictions. Open to research.Patricia Neal moved to Durham, North Carolina, from Connecticut in 1953 to study nursing at Duke University. Shortly thereafter, she married, started a family, and left school to help support her husband while he finished his medical training. Neal and her family settled in Durham, and during the late 1950s and early 1960s she became involved in the Parent-Teacher Association and the League of Women's Voters, and began working as a substitute teacher. In 1964, Neal spent a year monitoring the County Board of Education for the League. Her dissatisfaction with their decisions led her to run for a position on the Board as a Republican in 1968. Neal lost the election by a small margin, but was appointed several months later when one of the five seats was vacated. After serving nearly eighteen years on the board, and as the chairman for five, Neal was appointed to the North Carolina Board of Directors of the North Carolina Board of Education Association. In this interview, she describes the role of the County Board of Education in the process of integration in Durham Schools during the 1960s and 1970s. In so doing, Neal pays particular attention to African American leadership, demographics, and community responses to integration. After briefly discussing the presence of African American students at one Durham school, Hope Valley School, Neal shifts the focus to the impact of Alexander v. Holmes (1969) on Durham schools. As Neal describes it, the Board had no resistance to integration but wanted to postpone until the end of the school year so that the students would not be disrupted. Their request was denied, and just before schools broke for the Christmas holiday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that they integrate by the first of the year. Neal describes the role of the Board in this process and argues that integration occurred smoothly and with only one incident of racial tension at Northern High School, which she and the Board helped to mediate. In addition, Neal discusses the decline of Durham City schools as a result of integration; her thoughts on problems facing education following integration, including the issue of busing; and the role of gender in her own career.

Corbett, Robin.  August 22, 2002No restrictions. Open to research.Associate Professor of Nursing at East Carolina University School of Nursing. Expected hurricane to hit brother in Florida; went to Washington, D.C. for a conference but then returned to family in North Carolina when realized hurricane would hit N.C. coast; gets involved in Emergency Center; works as nurse at Carver rescue station, serving Dodge City evacuees; way everyone in shelter helps; uses food from local elementary school; situation surmounts normal racial tensions; links between individuals in health care profession in small town area allows to detal with difficulties of medication post-flood; value of funerals in dealing with losses; stories of Bill Clinton's visit; problems with special needs patients. Emphasizes value of humor and good team effort.

Henderson, Martha  March 24, 1999No restrictions. Open to research.Decision not to go medical school when she heard about the Geriatric Nurse Practitioner position at Carol Woods; divinity degree from Yale; early days of Carol Woods – setting up the clinic, 24 hour emergency care, relationship with doctors, early mistake of telling residents to drop supplimental health insurance for just Medicare; providing special care to the residents; providing spiritual guidance to residents and families; completed her doctorate in ministry after leaving Carol Woods in 1989; worked on end-of-life-decision-making; expansion of staff at Carol Woods; hiring a social worker.

Barney, Elaine.March 1, 2007 No restrictions. Open to research.Childhood in the Bronx during the 1940s and 1950s; experiences at Cornell University Nursing School; experiences as a female nurse in New York City Hospitals and then as a school nurse; impressions of emerging second wave feminist movement in the late 1960s in Philadelphia, involvement in women's health initiatives; trip to 1969 Boston Women's Health Collective Convention; Discussion of Our Bodies, Our Selves; move to North Carolina in 1975; her daughter's experiences as a young feminist in Chapel Hill elementary schools; volunteer work at the UNC-CH helpline at the Mental Health Department; work and directorship of Chapel Hill Women's Health Counseling Services; role as founding board member of Orange County Women's Center; the Orange County Women's Center's first house location on Rosemary street; recruitment of African American and Asian women volunteers; departure from the Orange County women's Center when the center relocated to Henderson street; Masters work at UNC School of Social Welfare.

Elder, Theresea C., 1927-May 22 2008 No restrictions. Open to research.Thereasea Elder discusses her childhood experiences in the Greenville community; attendance at West Charlotte High School; insularity of the segregated community; environmental health hazards within black neighborhoods; impact of the Great Depression; childhood games and activities; segregated cemeteries. Charlotte's spatial expansion; administering the Denver Developmental Test; experiences as the first black public health nurse in the county; differences between poor white and African American clients; establishment of Denver Developmental Test in Charlotte; Elder's participation in the U.S. Cadet Nurses; reason for her hire as the first black public health nurse. The Model Cities program; challenges Elder faced; professional nurse's uniform; experiences with nursing; importance of children's health and education; sexual harassment by white men; mental health care; impact of desegregation; significance of education; treatment of blacks by rich versus poor whites; changing work environment; disparities in sexual health; multi-tasking and other valuable skills as a nurse; dangerous situations with mental health patients; changes in children's healthcare; differences between the hospital and public health; benefits of specialized medicine; gendered link between eating and health; increase in teenage pregnancy; extrinsic and intrinsic benefits of nursing; universal healthcare; segregation within desegregated work environments; inflation; role in African American Black Heritage Committee; membership in health and African American political organizations; limitations of integration.

Voices of Asheville Project at UNC-A

      Annie Reel Cogburn Oral History (Nurse)

      Mary Hyde Oral History (Nurse)

      Gail Gomez Oral History

      Takaro, Marilyn

      Sligh, Mary Elizabeth (her mother was an African American nurse in Asheville before integration)


Southern Highlands Research Center Oral History Collection at UNC-A

Dorothy Snell Howald (nurse Midwife)

Documenting the American South – UNC-CH


1888   Elizabeth Herbert Smith Taylor is born in Scotland Neck. Taylor served as a nurse during World War I with the Maguire Unit of the Army Nurse Corps. She was educated at North Carolina College for Women in Greensboro and received training in nursing at St. Timothy's Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her diary, which consists of pithy statements summarizing the events of each day, begins with her cross-Atlantic trip to France in September 1918 as part of the Army Nurse Corps. The diary provides a fascinating look at the variety of social gatherings created by hard-working soldiers and support personnel during World War I.

Born and raised in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, Elizabeth Herbert Smith Taylor (b. 1888) served as a nurse during World War I with the Maguire Unit of the Army Nurse Corps. Taylor was educated at Woman's College in Greensboro and received nurse's training at St. Timothy's Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her diary, which consists of pithy statements summarizing the events of each day, begins with her cross-Atlantic trip to France in September 1918 as part of the Army Nurse Corps. While Taylor does recount the hard conditions she worked in -- the bitter cold, the enormous number of patients and the persistence of illness and death -- her diary mostly focuses on her social life, and, in particular, her love of dancing. From her first day on the Atlantic crossing when she \"danced on [the] deck in the rain,\" Taylor details the many dances she attended, her escorts, and the card games she hosted, which she eventually refers to as "Cinq Cent." Plagued by headaches and illness, she also describes a trip to Cannes and the French Riviera while on a month's sick leave. Taylor was eventually discharged in April 1919 due to diagnosed \"thyroid trouble.\" Her diary provides a fascinating look at the variety of social gatherings created by hard-working soldiers and support personnel during World War I. In 1920, Taylor returned abroad to work with the Red Cross in Poland during a typhus epidemic. She continued work as a nurse in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Guatemala, where she met her husband, Dr. Kempton Potter Aiken Taylor, in 1928.