By Kiera Ford, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
Native American Heritage Month seeks to bring recognition to the contributions made by the First Americans to help establish and grow the United States. In honor of this month, we recognize Ruth Hills Wadsworth for her historic contributions to the American Red Cross and the United States of America.
Ruth Hills Wadsworth, who is of Mescalero Apache heritage, was born in 1886 around the Arizona-New Mexico/Mexican borders. Little is known about Ruth’s family; only that her birth father’s name was Dinero and her brother’s Poco Dinero. There is little to no information to be found on her mother. At birth, Ruth was part of a tribe known for continuous traveling; always in search of food and water in lands others considered perished. During this time, the United States Calvary were rounding up the last of the Southwest Native Americans and placing them in onto reservations. One night, the Calvary attacked Ruth’s camp and her people fled to the nearby Mexican border for safety. However, when looking through the camp after the attack, soldiers found baby Ruth having accidentally been left behind in the hustle to escape. The soldiers took the baby to a ranch nearby, The Hills Ranch, and the family took her in and raised her as their own.
Upon finishing general schooling and some college, Ruth went on to attend nursing school in 1908 at the prestigious Hotel Dieu School of Nursing in El Paso, Texas. After completing her studies in 3 years, Ruth went on to become a private nurse. By the start of World Ward I in 1918, Ruth Hills had become Ruth Hills Wadsworth after marring Clarence Raymond Wadsworth.
With a high demand for nurses to serve abroad, Ruth eagerly joined the American Red Cross and served in France to aid in World War I initiatives. Ruth Hills Wadsworth is marked in history as the first Native American nurse to serve the American Red Cross overseas during World War I. Ruth offered many contributions to the Red Cross during her time of service. She helped by overseeing the general care of wounded soldiers and assist doctors during procedures. She also helped to restore regular life and way of living back to the war torn France, by mending the hearts of the devastated women and children.
After her service during the war, Ruth and her husband Clarence returned to the U.S. and sought to live a normal, peaceful life. They went to the reservations of her people and stayed there for some time, and Ruth was even able to find and reconnect with her estranged brother, Poco Dinero. Clarence and Ruth remained married until his passing in 1946. After his death, Ruth continued to work as a nurse until her retirement in 1961, following 50 years of nursing! Ruth passed away in 1973 after a lengthy battle with cardiovascular disease.
Her contributions to the American Red Cross and the United States have marked Ruth in history as an inspirational and courageous woman who sought to heal and serve.