Friday, April 5, 2019

Real-Life Heroines: Caring for Family

Our heroine this time wasn’t born in the nineteenth century, but her efforts and attitude have recently inspired me, and I thought they might inspire you too. Because she is still alive, I couldn’t find a picture that wasn’t proprietary, but you can find the painting that made me want to learn more about Joanna Boatman here (scroll down and click to read thoughts from the artist). 

Joanna’s family arrived in the United States in the late 1800s and settled around the turn of the century in Kalama, Washington. She still lives in the house in which she and her mother were born. She attended school in Kalama, graduating from Kalama High School, then went on to graduate from Emanuel Hospital School of Nursing in Portland, Oregon.

Joanna is an incredibly industrious woman. She started working at age 12 at a downtown soda fountain. She was a member of the County Civil Defense Team in World War II, keeping watch for enemy plans. Shortly before she graduated nursing school, she complained about some civic work on her street, and her brother-in-law challenged her do so something about it. She ran for City Council and won. Then she ran for mayor and won, at age 28. She was the second woman in Washington history to serve as a mayor. She was re-elected, serving a total of 5 years. She also served as chair for the Cowlitz County Planning Council.

As a nurse, Joanna worked at Cowltiz General Hospital in Longview, about 11 miles to the north, for 18 years. But caring for the sick all day wasn’t enough for her. She’d return home and care for those in the area who were ill, as many as 30 hours a week. She provided hospice care, dealt with prescriptions, cared for wounds, and offered a respite for those with sick children. They still talk about the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 in our area (see example of damage right). Joanna helped her neighbors afterward to such an extent that the Washington State Patrol gave her an award.

She moved to Seattle and worked at Virginia Mason for more than 30 years. There she joined the Washington State Nurses Association. She would go on to serve as its president, the first staff nurse to do so. Not content to govern from Seattle, she drove all over Washington to listen to the concerns of her sister nurses. Those nurses reciprocated her respect by voting to change the bylaws so she could serve a second term as President. She also served as delegate to the American Nursing Association convention and delegate to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. She was appointed to the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission and, you probably guessed it, was elected Chair of that commission, two things no staff nurse had ever done before. She also served as president of the Seattle Chapter of Operating Room Nurses. She was such an advocate for nurses that she served as picket captain when the nurses went on strike at Virginia Mason in 1976. She was inducted into the Washington State Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

I’ve seen multiple dates for when Joanna was born. Near as I can figure, she’s now in her late 80s or early 90s. And she hasn’t slowed down one wit. She still serves as Commissioner on the board for the local cemetery. She recently told a reporter that she considers it “caring for family.”

We should all be so fortunate as to have a woman like Joanna in the family.

1 comment:

Evelyn said...

Wow! What an incredible woman! A wonderful role model for all of us.