Healing, Romance & Revolution: Letters from an American Nurse in 1926 China

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July 18, 2012

 (Seattle, WA) — Seattleite Harriet Holbrook Smith, who served as King County Hospital’s Superintendent of Nursing and taught at the University of Washington, had adventures in revolutionary China that are only now coming to light:

“…there were a few shots fired at us, none of which came nearer than 1/2 mile, according to the Captain. The Chinese were hurrying through the streets, bag and baggage, by foot and by rickshaw, taking their families and possessions to safety in the foreign concessions.”

Carolyn and Dennis Buckmaster will be in Leavenworth for a book signing on July 27 ~ Leavenworth Library, 7-8 p.m. and July 28 ~ Signing at A Book For All Seasons Book Buzz 1-3 p.m.

Healing Romance & Revolution is a compilation of letters Miss Smith wrote in 1926 while she worked as a nurse in Changsha as China’s Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang) gained power by force. “They are bound to get this hospital under their control—the Kuomintang that is … And, then, what for us? First we were all afraid we’d be sent home and now we are all afraid we won’t.”

Compiled by Miss Smith’s great niece and her husband, Carolyn and Dennis Buckmaster of Redmond, WA, the book reveals a young woman who wanted to escape “the daily routine, and the rather stupid evenings” she spent in Seattle living at home and assisting her father with his medical practice. “I wasn’t surprised to learn that my charismatic aunt was well liked and put herself in peril to protect her patients, hospital staff and friends – both Chinese and non-Chinese. However, I was stunned to learn of her romantic adventures,” says Carolyn. “She lived into her 90s and never married. We all wondered whether she’d ever experienced love or just buried herself in her work.” But letters to friends reveal some racy encounters:

“Les and I sat on the porch until after 4 in a coil of bathing suits, counting the stars, and being much more scandalous … Honestly, I don’t know why it is I get such crazy streaks now and then out here, whereas at home I more or less behave.”

“Harriet was engaged by the time she left China,” says Dennis. “She went to visit his family in Ohio and by the end of the trip the engagement was over. No one knows why. Perhaps she valued her independence and life’s purpose more than anything else.”

Online at: www.HealingRomanceRevolution.com

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