In Her Own Words: Red Cross nurse Grace Van Evera

Grace Van Evera was born January 9, 1877 in Davenport, Iowa to Charles and Henrietta Kepler. The family lived on Utica Ridge Rd. and were prominent residents of the county. 

Family of Charles Van Evera, photographed by J.B. Hostetler, ca. 1910. From our Hostetler Studio Collection.

Ms. Van Evera received her education from Davenport High School, the Deaconess Training school in Chicago, and Asbury Hospital in Minneapolis. She worked in Settlements in Chicago and Girardeau, Missouri, and was in charge of the hospital in Brookings, South Dakota. After graduation, she returned home to care for her father, Charles, who had been suffering from heart disease.

Grace Van Evera joined Unit R of the hospital corps out of Fairfield, Iowa as a Red Cross nurse. In January of 1918, she left for New York, where she received training at Ellis Island, before departing to U.S. Army Base Hospital 32 in Contrexeville, France.

Grace wrote letters home to her parents, including one published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on July 7, 1918. She reassured her parents that the nurses were “comfortable”, had “plenty to eat” and that “Uncle Sam is paying us more than living wages”

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 07 July 1918, page 8

Upon her return from France, Grace told her story to numerous groups and organizations, including her Summit Presbyterian church, the Lend-a-Hand club, and the colored league of the Community Service Federation. 

The Daily Times, 08 April 1919, p. 8

After the war, Miss Van Evera joined the staff of Davenport Visiting Nurse Association. She was appointed county nurse in charge of the Scott County Schools in October 1919 and continued until the post was abolished by the County Board of Supervisors in 1930. Her dedication to the health of the children of rural Scott County was recognized by the Iowa State Health Education Secretary in November of 1922. 

The Daily Times, 07 Oct 1919, p. 8

Grace Van Evera died on May 8, 1980 in Davenport and is buried at Summit Cemetery.


(posted by Cristina)

Works Cited

n.d. Contrexeville – AEF 1917-1919.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1918. “Miss Grace Van Evera Goes to France and Red Cross Nurse.” February 1: 10.

Davenport Morning Democrat. 1960. “Former County Nurse, 83, Dies.” May 10: 10.

The Daily Times. 1919. “”Yum Yum!” Says Nurse When She Sees Ice Cream.” April 8: 8.

The Daily Times. 1918. “Davenport Girl on Active Duty.” February 1: 7.

The Daily Times. 1918. “Goes to France With Red Cross.” February 2: 6.

The Daily Times. 1918. “Miss Van Evera Nurse At Front.” July 6: 6.

The Daily Times. 1960. “Miss Van Evera, Former Scott Nurse, Dies at 83.” May 9: 22.

The Daily Times. 1919. “They Hold Clinics, Make Personal Calls and Promote Public Health in the City of Davenport.” October 7: 8.

The Daily Times. 1919. “‘Yankee Graves Are Well Kept’ States Nurse.” April 25: 17.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1922. “”Health Education in Schools Will Conquer Tuberculosis”, Says Iowa State Health Worker.” November 24: 4.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1919. “Appointed Nurse of County Schools.” October 10: 5.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1922. “Central Figure in the County Nurse Row Before Board.” February 20: 13.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1918. “Davenport Nurse Writes of Her Duties Serving in France.” jULY 7: 8.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1919. “Miss Van Evera Gives Talk to Colored League.” July 27: 12.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1922. “Nurse Travels 405 Miles During Month Spite of Bad Roads.” April 7.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1918. “Three Nurses of Davenport Safe in France.” March 10: 11.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. 1919. “Wartime Tales Were Told to Girls of City.” April 25: 11.

United State of America, Bureau of the Census. 1900. “Twelfth Census of the United States.”

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5 Responses to In Her Own Words: Red Cross nurse Grace Van Evera

  1. Jane Montford says:

    As a nurse myself, I found this article fascinating. I have so much respect for my fellow sisters in white who paved the path before me. The technology has changed very much since Grace Van Evera traveled to France in WW I but the care and compassion for the ill and wounded remains the same. Thank you for posting this!

  2. Molly Daniel says:

    Thank you for recognizing the life and work of this woman. She made a significant contribution to her community and her country, and I am glad to see that Davenport has not forgotten her.

  3. Elizabeth A. (a/k/a Betsy) Keller says:

    Well, well, well. I am something of a genealogy buff – and I decided to Google “Van Evera & Iowa” – and came across this article. Wonderful! Grace VE was my great-aunt (her sister, Anna VE Bonnell was my maternal grandmothr) … and actually Aunt Grace was still alive when I was a child, so I got to know her a bit. She was quite a character! Several of her military and nursing medals and unique pieces of jewelry are still part of our family.

    Thank you for the article! It adds a lot to my family tree notes.

    • SCblogger says:

      We aim to please! Thank you for sharing part of your genealogy journey with us!

    • Molly Daniel says:

      Elizabeth –
      My great aunt, Agnes Swift (Washington, IA) was also part of Unit R and served alongside your great aunt in Contrexeville. Their service has always intrigued me. Last year, my husband and I made a trip to France to see the place where Unit R was located. I am going again this year with my sisters. I posted some “then and now” photos of Contrexeville on a web page created to share the story of the two AEF base hospitals. If my post is acceptable to the moderator, you should be able to go to this link to see these photos.

      Best regards,

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