By the time Lula Owl Gloyne became a Red Cross Nurse during World War I, she had been a practicing registered nurse for a year.
In fact, Lula holds the distinction of being the first Registered Nurse from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Eventually, she was named a “Beloved Woman of the Tribe,” one of only three women bestowed with the title.
This remarkable nurse dedicated her life to serving the health needs of the communities in which she worked.
Lula’s father was a Cherokee Indian and her mother was a Catawba Indian. English became the common language of the household and this allowed Lula and her siblings to complete their education and go on to professional careers.
Lula’s career began at the Chestnut Hill Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia. She went on to provide her services in the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Wakapala, S.D., Miami, Okla. and Cherokee, N.C. where she served her people in the Qualla Boundary, the land belonging to the EBCI tribe in western North Carolina.
She was known to traverse difficult terrain to deliver babies, care for sick families or sew up wounds in the field. There was no full-time physician and no hospital at the Qualla Boundary. Lula was the first full-time, Western-trained health care provider available in the rural area.
Perhaps her most significant achievement was helping to establish the first hospital for the tribe. Her dream of a community hospital in North Carolina that provided modern care led Lula to Washington, D.C. to petition the Commissioner on Indian Affairs on the need. Her efforts paid off in 1937 when the Bureau of Indian Affairs built a new hospital for the Cherokee people on the Qualla Boundary.
Lula was appointed head nurse and continued to see patients in her community. Eventually, the government even bought her a car to make her house visits.
Even after her retirement in 1969 (at 77 years old), she continued to be involved in her community’s health needs. She was honored by District 23 of the North Carolina Nurses Association in 1978 and was inducted into the North Carolina Nurse’s Hall of Fame in 2015. She died in 1985, a beloved woman and healer of her tribe.
This #WomensHistoryMonth, we recognize and celebrate the historical Red Cross women of our past and for their commitment to serving communities in need.