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September 20, 2011

Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam

Filed under: Authors, Event, History, MHS press — Alison Aten @ 1:01 pm

Sisterhood of WarThe Abigail Quigley McCarthy Center for Women and Alumnae Relations at St. Catherine University are pleased to cohost an event honoring Minnesota’s women Vietnam veterans and celebrating the publication of the new book Sisterhood of War, written by St. Catherine University instructor Kim Heikkila

Navy nurse veterans Kay Bauer (a St. Kate’s alumna) and Mary O’Brien Tyrrell, two of the women profiled in the book, will speak and be in attendance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
St. Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105
Derham Hall, Fourth Floor, Room 409
Free and open to the public; books will be available for sale at the event.

Fifteen Minnesota nurses spent a year caring for the casualties of a divisive war, only to come home and descend into isolated silence. To heal themselves, they banded together as veterans.

In January 1966, Navy nurse Lieutenant Kay Bauer stepped off a Pan Am airliner into the stifling heat of Saigon and was issued a camouflage uniform, boots, and a rifle. “What am I supposed to do with this?” she said of the weapon. “I’m a nurse.”

Bauer was one of approximately six thousand military nurses who served in Vietnam. Historian Kim Heikkila, author of Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam, delves into the experiences of fifteen nurse veterans from Minnesota, exploring what drove them to enlist, what happened to them in-country, and how the war changed their lives.

Like Bauer, these women saw themselves as nurses first and foremost: their job was to heal rather than to kill. After the war, however, the very professional selflessness that had made them such committed military nurses also made it more difficult for them to address their own needs as veterans. Reaching out to each other, they began healing from the wounds of war, and they turned their energies to a new purpose: this group of Minnesotans launched the campaign to build the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. In the process, a collection of individuals became a tight-knit group of veterans who share the bonds of a sisterhood forged in war.

Kim Heikkila is an adjunct instructor in the history department at St. Catherine University, where she teaches courses on U.S. history, U.S. women’s history, the Vietnam War, and the 1960s.

Read more about Kim in Minnesota magazine. If you miss the event at St. Catherine University, join Kim and and Kay Bauer and Mary Beth Crowley at the Minnesota History Center’s History Lounge on Tuesday, October 25, at 7 p.m.

Many of the interviews in the book are part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s Oral History Collections.

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