The plaque reads:
TO THE ENDURING MEMORY
OF THOSE WOMEN OF RADCLIFFE COLLEGE
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY
IN WORLD WAR I
LUCY NETTIE FLETCHER, CLASS OF 1910
RUTH HOLDEN, CLASS OF 1911
HELEN HOMANS, SPECIAL STUDENT, 1908–1913
From a Harvard Gazette article on November 8, 2001:
A plaque bearing the names of three Radcliffe women who died for their country in World War I was unveiled Sunday, November 11, 2001. Each honoree served and died as a nurse in the war, but because these women attended Radcliffe College, they could not be honored when Harvard's Memorial Church was built...
The Radcliffe Quarterly, in December 1918, noted the deaths of these three women:
"They gave their lives for their country and its allies just as surely as if they had met death in the trenches. To those of us who knew them in college there comes a curious feeling that we knew beforehand that each of them had in herself the qualities that command a courageous life and an heroic death."
Who were these women, and what can be told of their stories? Lucy Nettie Fletcher was born on the island of Jersey, England, on February 18th, 1886. She came to America when she was sixteen and earned her degree from Radcliffe in the Class of 1910. Not long after graduation she entered a nurses training school at Massachusetts General Hospital, and after completing her training she left with the hospital unit in June 1917, for France, where she served as a nurse. In December of that year she was stricken with cerebro-spinal meningitis, and after a lingering illness she died on May 6th, 1918. At her funeral, Dr. Richard Clark Cabot led the music, and Captain Henry Knox Sherrill, eventually to be Rector of Trinity Church and Bishop of Massachusetts, conducted the service. "Miss Fletcher was esteemed highly by all soldiers, especially the Eighteenth Engineers," he said. "It was her tireless work and devotion to duty that resulted in her death."
Ruth Holden was born on November 27th, 1890, in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and earned her degree from Radcliffe in 1911. She bloomed intellectually during her junior year and by graduation won the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize for "The student making the greatest progress in the four undergraduate years." She completed her postgraduate work in Botany at Cambridge University in England and soon thereafter was elected a fellow of Newnham College. She later wished to join the British war effort as a nurse, but because she was an American national she could not. Alternatively, she enrolled with a medical unit organized for the relief of Russian refugees. She was heroic and unrelenting in her effort to assist diseased troops and refugees, but as a consequence she contracted a terminal infection, and during the cruel winter of 1917 she died. She was buried in Kazan, Russia, overlooking her favorite wood. At her service it was said of her, "She possessed in a remarkable degree that all-conquering energy which many consider the chief characteristic of genius."
Helen Homans was a Boston woman, born and bred. She descended on her mother's side from John Adams and John Quincy Adams and on her father's side from the Boston Homanses, who claimed medical notoriety. In 1915 she took up nursing in France and stayed there in the thick of things until her death from influenza on November 5th, 1918, a little less than a week before the Armistice. Shortly before her death she was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the head of the French medical staff. On her coffin was engraved 'MORTE POUR LA FRANCE.' Her medical colleagues had fought to keep her alive, and she herself had struggled valiantly: in the end, it was said, "She had given all her strength to save others." A tablet in her memory hangs over the western doors in the nave of King's Chapel in Boston.