Thursday, April 27, 2017

National Volunteer Week: Raleigh Pate and the Gray Ladies

Tuberculosis couldn't stop the Gray Ladies from celebrating a birthday! The Gray Ladies service was a division of the American Red Cross volunteers, made up of mostly women, acting as hostesses and providing recreational services to hospital patients. While the Gray Ladies service started out in Walter Reed Army hospital at the beginning of the First World War, it soon spread to hospitals across the United States, both military and civilian.
Raleigh Pate, right, with J. Grise and Bailey Eades

Raleigh Pate was a Gray Lady who volunteered at Hazelwood Sanatorium, a tuberculosis facility in Louisville, Ky. November 17, 1958 was a special day at Hazelwood because patients J. K. Grise of Lewisburg, Ky. and Bailey Eades of Robards, Ky., who stayed in neighboring beds, shared a birthday! Gestures as small as getting a birthday cupcake can seem monumental to patients stuck in the monotony of a Tuberculosis sanatorium. To the Gray Ladies of the American Red Cross, simply making a patient feel special on their birthday was a day well spent. 

First Capping Ceremony of the Hazelwood Gray Ladies
Although the Gray Ladies provided non-medical care, they underwent a rigorous training process, provided by medical professionals and the Red Cross, which included hospital organization, ethics, psychiatry and occupational therapy. By the 1930s, with increased demand during the Depression, the Gray Lady Service spread to other hospitals around the country, both military and civilian. Their services also extended to blood centers and providing assistance with disaster response. 

Although their numbers decreased, the Gray Ladies continued serving in American hospitals until the mid-1960s. Today, the Red Cross continues providing support to hospitalized U.S. military personnel with dedicated volunteers through Service to the Armed Forces.

For more information about the Gray Ladies, click hereIf you would like to find out more about joining the Red Cross as a volunteer, please visit

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