Helen Scott Hay

Helen Scott Hay (January 6, 1869 — November 25, 1932) was an American Red Cross nurse and nursing educator, working in Kiev and Sofia during World War I. She was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Red Cross Society for her contributions.

Helen Scott Hay
Helen Scott Hay in 1920, from the American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.
BornJanuary 6, 1869
Carroll County, Illinois
DiedNovember 25, 1932(1932-11-25) (aged 63)
Savanna, Illinois
EducationNorthwestern University
Known forAmerican Red Cross nursing in Europe during and after World War I

Early life and education

Helen Scott Hay was born near Lanark, Illinois, the daughter of George Hay and Agnes Pennington Hay. Her father was an immigrant from Scotland. She attended Savanna High School in Savanna, Illinois, studied literature at Northwestern University, and earned her registered nurse degree at the Illinois Training School for Nurses in Chicago, in 1895.[1]


Hay was superintendent at Pasadena Hospital nurses' training program in California in 1905 and 1906, and chaired the Pasadena branch of the Los Angeles County Nurses' Association.[2] She was a member of the council of the California State Nurses' Association,[3] and an associate editor of the Nurses' Journal of the Pacific Coast, a quarterly publication.[4] She was also head nurse at the Iowa State Hospital for the Insane in her early career.[5]

She served as superintendent of the Illinois Training School for Nurses, and as nursing superintendent at Cook County Hospital, from 1906 to 1912. She went to Europe with the American Red Cross in 1914, leading a group of American nurses with Jane Delano.[6] From 1914 to 1915 she was matron of the American Red Cross hospital in Kiev; she described meeting Nicholas II of Russia for a Red Cross magazine.[7] She went to Bulgaria to help establish and lead a nurses' training school there, at the invitation of the Tsaritsa, Eleonore Reuss of Köstritz.[8][9][10]

In 1917 she was named Director of the Bureau of Nursing Instruction for the American Red Cross, and she helped to organize the U. S. Army School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. She was assigned as Chief Nurse of the Balkans Commission of the American Red Cross in 1918.[11][12] In 1919 she was at Philippopolis supervising war relief work. In 1920 she succeeded Alice Fitzgerald in Paris as Chief Nurse of the Red Cross Commission in Europe.[13] In 1921, she laid the first stone at the dedication of the American Nurses' Memorial in Bordeaux, France.[14] She was awarded a Florence Nightingale Medal for her work.[15] She was also awarded the Gold Cross of St. Anna in Russia, and the Bulgarian Royal Red Cross.[16]

Later life and legacy

Helen Scott Hay returned to the United States in 1922, to care for an ailing brother.[11] She was, for one school year, principal of Savanna High School. In 1923, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by her alma mater, Northwestern University. She died in 1932, in Savanna, Illinois, aged 63 years.[1][17][18] In 1970 the American Legion, the Carroll County Historical Society and the Illinois State Historical Society placed a historical marker in Savanna about Helen Scott Hay.[19] In 2017, state representative Tony McCombie read a tribute to Hay on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives, marking National Women's Month.[20]


  1. "Helen Scott Hay, Noted War Nurse, Dies" Altoona Tribune (January 14, 1933): 6. via Newspapers.com
  2. "Los Angeles County" Nurses' Journal of the Pacific Coast (February 1906): 67.
  3. "California State Nurses Association" Nurses' Journal of the Pacific Coast (May 1906): 139.
  4. Masthead, Nurses' Journal of the Pacific Coast (June 1906).
  5. "Professional Careers of Nurses Awarded Florence Nightingale Medal" Red Cross Bulletin (July 5, 1920): 7.
  6. Jane A. Delano, "The Red Cross" American Journal of Nursing (November 1914): 127-135.
  7. Helen Scott Hay, "Meeting the Czar of All the Russias" American Red Cross Magazine (May 1915): 185-189.
  8. Helen Scott Hay, "The Proposed Establishment of a Training School for Nurses in Bulgaria" American Journal of Nursing (July 1914): 897-900.
  9. "American Nurse to Head School in Bulgaria" Courier-Journal (April 12, 1914): 4. via Newspapers.com
  10. "Queen Eleanora's Nurse" New York Times (April 12, 1914): 11. via ProQuest
  11. "Helen Scott Hay Comes Home" American Journal of Nursing (July 1922): 828.
  12. "Foreign Red Cross Nursing Activities" American Journal of Nursing (March 1919): 447.
  13. "New Chief Nurse for Europe" Red Cross Bulletin (March 22, 1920): 8.
  14. "Nurses' Memorial in France" Hospital Management (July 1921): 51.
  15. "6 Nurses Get High Honor" New York Times (July 4, 1920): 15. via ProQuest
  16. Nelson McDowell Shepard, "The Florence Nightingale Medal" Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine (November 1921): 642.
  17. "Illinois' Famous Red Cross Nurse, Helen Scott Hay passed away today in 1932" I Like Illinois (November 25, 1918).
  18. "Helen S. Hay Dies; Red Cross Worker" New York Times (November 26, 1932): 10. via ProQuest
  19. "Historical Marker: Helen Scott Hay" Marker Details, Illinois State Historical Society.
  20. "McCombie Honors Helen Scott Hay for Women’s History Month" Tony McCombie website.
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