About the Book
From 1899 until 1970, 615 young women persevered through three years of
study, grueling work and a strict code of conduct to earn nursing degrees
at Highsmith Hospital School of Nursing in Fayetteville, N.C. They learned
the tender art and exacting science of nursing through “hands-on”; work
with hospital patients. Here 120 Highsmith nurses tell of their 100 years
It was not easy for Vennie Tart Geddie to become a nurse. She was born
on a farm in Johnston County. When her mother died she was forced to stop
school at age 13. Determined to become a nurse, she went back to school
at age 20, while still doing farm work and caring for siblings. Rural schools
did not offer all the courses she needed to enter Highsmith but when the
staff heard of her perseverance, she was allowed to earn needed credit
at a nearby high school while attending Highsmith. She graduated in 1938
and went on to study surgical nursing at Cornell in New York. Vonnie Powers'
father did not want his daughter to become a nurse. Unable to get a ride
to Fayetteville, she walked 25 miles to apply. Dr. Highsmith let her enter,
although she was underage at age 17. She later became his nurse and remained
loyal to him throughout his life.
Highsmith nurses served during World War II, became missionaries and
worked with space programs. Wherever life took them, they earned the respect
of all they served.
About the Author
Melissa High Clement is an artist and journalist in Fayetteville, N.C.
She became interested in the story of Highsmith Nurses while writing an
article for The Fayetteville Observer. She was impressed with the loyalty
they held for their school, their profession and their classmates.
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