University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library

About Ruth Beery

Ruth Beery

Captain Ruth Beery

Ruth Beery was born on May 18, 1901, in Missouri to a Methodist minister, Dewitt Aldine Beery, and his wife, Jennie.  She had two sisters, Bethel who was two years older and Miley who was nine years younger. Her family moved to Virginia when she was four. Following completion of her secondary school studies in Roanoke, she attended Martha Washington College in Abingdon. She graduated from Emory and Henry College which merged in 1918 with Mary Washington College. She then taught high school chemistry, Latin, and biology for a year in Smoot, West Virginia.

In 1925 Beery began her study of nursing at the University of Virginia. She received her diploma in 1928 and became the acting pediatric supervisor. She was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship which allowed her to visit hospitals in Connecticut and New York City, a mental institution in Rhode Island and health centers in Alabama. Back at the University of Virginia she became a nursing supervisor in the outpatient department and an instructor in nursing science. During the 1930s Beery studied at the American Hospital in Paris, began a course of graduate study at Columbia Teachers College in administration and worked at the Denver University Hospital for four years as an administrator and surgery teaching supervisor.

While a graduate student in public health nursing at the University of Minnesota, she was asked to become the principal chief nurse of the World War II hospital sponsored by the University of Virginia. Before she could accept the offer, the Army had to grant her an age waiver as she was 41, one year older than the Army age limit for entering service. Commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps, she was instrumental in recruiting nurses to serve and dedicated herself whole-heartedly to the task, appealing for help by personal interviews, letters, speeches, and radio. About 50 nurses were recruited and left Charlottlesville for training. According to Byrd Leavell’s book on the 8th Evacuation Hospital, Beery was a “capable nurse and competent administrator” who “was unselfish; her concern was for the comfort of the sick and wounded, the duties and welfare of the nurses, and the reputation of the 8th Evacuation Hospital.” She served as chief of nurses for the duration of the war, obtained the rank of captain, and was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Following the war Beery continued her studies for a master’s degree in public health nursing and worked as a public health nurse in Fauquier County. She then served 15 years with the Veterans Administration in Texas, North Carolina, Philadelphia, and Richmond. She did private duty nursing for several years in Charlottesville and joined the University of Virginia School of Nursing faculty in 1968 where she served for two years as an administrative assistant for special projects. She died May 4, 1984 and is buried at the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium.