Elizabeth A. Allen Papers

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Elizabeth A. Allen Papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Elizabeth A. Allen manuscript collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Head Nurse of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit in the United States Army Nurse Corps at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku during the Vietnam war and Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan from 1976 to 2007. Materials in this online collection include video recordings related to Allen's military service and tenure on the Agent Orange Commission in 1987.

Elizabeth Allen was born in Huntington, West Virginia in 1940. Her mother died when she was a young child and she and her four siblings were raised by her grandmother. During her high school years, public schools in the south were desegregated and Allen was encouraged by her teachers to enroll in the historically white high school. She excelled in school, particularly in the areas of math and science, but was one of the few African Americans in her school and faced discrimination from her teachers and classmates daily. She was able to succeed in spite of this adversity and went on to pursue a college education. She received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Nursing, in 1965 and 1966 respectively, from the Ohio State University. In 1967, inspired by her brother’s service, she voluntarily joined the United States Army Nurse Corps at the rank of Captain and requested assignment on the front lines of the Vietnam War. She reported to the 12th Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi and remained there for about six months before being assigned as Head Nurse of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku. During this time, in 1968, Pleiku was targeted in the first round of surprise attacks known as the Tet Offensive.

Upon her return to the United States, Allen trained Army medics to act as psychiatric practitioners in the field at Valley Forge General Hospital. In 1969, she was appointed, State Director for Psychiatric Nursing for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and later went on to become Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of South Carolina where she received her PhD in 1973. She joined the faculty of the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan in 1976. In addition to her duties as a faculty member, she acted as Director of the Center for Continuing Education for Nurses, a position she held until 1982. In 1985, she served as Acting Director of Minority Affairs at the University. Throughout her professional career, she advocated for veterans, and spoke on veterans’ issues, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the treatment of women and African Americans in the military. She was appointed by Governor James Blanchard, in 1987, to the Agent Orange Commission and was twice elected as chair. She continued to serve as a Major in the Active Army Nurse Corps Reserve until 1988. As a professor, she worked to create awareness among her students of the ways in which poverty, race, and social justice can have an impact on the field of nursing. Allen retired from her position as Associate Professor in 2007 and was named Associate Professor Emerita of Nursing by the University Regents that same year.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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