On this day in WNC history: Lula Owl Gloyne, a Cherokee Beloved Woman and a lifelong advocate and public servant of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) passed away in 1985 at age 93. She was the first EBCI registered nurse, a WWI veteran, and a critical proponent of the first hospital on the Qualla Boundary.

Owl was born in 1891 on the Qualla Boundary, and attended a mission school there before finishing her education at the Hampton Institute in Virginia. Upon graduation in 1914, she briefly taught Catawba children in South Carolina before shifting into nursing, and enrolling in a Philadelphia school. After graduating with a focus in obstetrical nursing in 1916, she moved on to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. As the United States entered WWI, Owl was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the Army Nurse Corps and cared for service members in Washington state as the only registered EBCI nurse and the only EBCI officer in the war. She also secretly married an officer, Jack Gloyne, during her service.

After moving back and forth between Oklahoma and the Qualla Boundary and the death of her husband, Gloyne was, herself, seriously injured in an ambulance crash, and resettled permanently in Cherokee in the early 1930s. Using her skills, she served as the only full-time healthcare provider for the EBCI, walking over mountains and paths to often deliver care and immunizations at homes. She went to Washington, D.C. in 1934 to advocate for a permanent hospital on the Qualla Boundary, and became its head nurse when it was completed in 1937. The EBCI bestowed her with the high honor of “Beloved Woman” in 1943, and she continued in her work, still nagged by pain from her accident, until retirement in 1969. Interviewed in 1983 she recalled: “I didn’t have a horse or a wagon back then, so I had to make my calls on foot. I got caught in places where I’d just have to do what had to be done. Men got cut up and I’d have to sew them up. Women would call on me to deliver their babies. Today it would be illegal to do a lot of that, but back then there was no one else.”

Hear a 1982 oral history with Lula Owl Gloyne: https://archive.org/details/LulaOwlGloyne/Owl_Gloyne_2_of_4.mp3

(Images: Nurse Gloyne demonstrating care of a baby and first aid, courtesy of The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved in all countries.; Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 1, 1984)