Women in war: Remembering the Knight sisters of Cordova

Jennifer Cohron
Posted 5/26/17

The face of war is usually a man’s — young and lean with an expression frozen in time that is both haunting and heroic.

What we so easily forget is that women have been serving in the armed forces since the American …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

Women in war: Remembering the Knight sisters of Cordova

Posted

The face of war is usually a man’s — young and lean with an expression frozen in time that is both haunting and heroic.

What we so easily forget is that women have been serving in the armed forces since the American Revolution.

Approximately 300,000 of the more than 2 million women who have worn their country’s uniform are honored at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.

The Knight sisters of Cordova, all of whom served in World War II, were among the first three to be registered for the only national memorial honoring servicewomen.

Nora Garrigan of Jasper submitted the name of Johnie Knight, who married Dr. James Andrews of Cordova. Mrs. Andrews’ niece submitted the names of her two sisters, Janet and Stacy.

Several years ago, Mrs. Garrigan passed along some background information on the Knight sisters that I share now so that their contributions to freedom will be remembered on Memorial Day.

The Knight sisters were raised in a log house on Manual Hill Road in Cordova, according to a biographical sketch published in the Daily Mountain Eagle in 2001.

Stacy Knight graduated from Walker High School and worked as the director of the nursery school at Indian Head Cotton Mill before earning a degree in nusery school education at the University of Alabama.

When the war began, she joined the Women’s Army Corps. She was placed in charge of the dining room of the Officers Club in Miami, Florida, and also served in California.

Janet Knight graduated from Bankhead High School and also worked at Indian Head Cotton Mill.

She used the money she earned to pay tuition at Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama). She taught grammar school in Sipsey and Farmstead before joining the United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), better known as the WAVES.

She was assigned to the Pentagon to do drafting and was later transferred to Hawaii to draft ship specifications.

Johnie Knight was the only one of the sisters who received an overseas assignment.

Also a graduate of Bankhead High School, she attended St. Vincent’s School of Nursing and Columbia University before returning to Cordova to work at a clinic.

She joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in 1942 and spent 22 months in Europe.

“She was First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army following the Normandy invasion, helping set up field hospitals for our wounded,” Garrigan said. “She did all she could for our guys medically and then held their hands, if they still had hands, or patted their heads and soothed them in her loving but professional manner. Soldiers died in her arms.”

The bitter cold and 72-hour work days took their toll on the young nurse. When she returned to England, her weight had dropped from 167 pounds to 112. She would suffer arthritis and other health problems for the rest of her life.

The Knight sisters were part of approximately 400,000 women who served stateside and overseas during World War II. More than 460 made the ultimate sacrifice, according to the Women’s Memorial website.

To learn more about women’s military service or to register someone for the memorial, visit www.womensmemorial.org. The site also accepts donations to offset the $2.5 million annual cost to keep the memorial running.

Congressional funding for the memorial ended in 2010. Since then, the Women in Military Service for America Foundation has been relying on private donations to keep the doors open.

An online fundraiser is ongoing this year through October 2017, the 20th anniversary of the memorial’s opening. To particiapte, visit https://fundrazr.com/savethewomensmemorial.

“When you think how 74 percent of our revenue comes from the very women and those families it represents, that’s quite an endorsement of what this means to military women,” Retired Lt. Col. Marilla Cushman, director of public relations for the Women’s Memorial, told The Army Times last year.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s features editor.