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Mary Frances Switzer Papers

Identifier: MS 00108

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Papers, letters, and photographs of Mary Frances Switzer (1919-2005) of Florida who served as a World War II army nurse in France, Belgium, and Germany. After a pre-war nursing degree completed in New Orleans, Mary spent time training in military camps in the United States and England. The collection comprises letters written during the war by Mary to her parents while she was abroad, in which she describes life in army camps and combat zones, leisure activities while on break, and the places she visits. There are also letters from friends and relatives, the bulk of which comes from Mary's fiancé, Allen Galer, from Michigan. Mary and Allen got engaged in September 1938, but separated when Mary decided to pursue her studies in New Orleans. They stayed in contact throughout the war. Allen, who served in the Philippines, writes about the ups and downs of their relationship and his wartime experience in the army and training for the air force. Mary's papers thus document life in the military during WWII, but also college life and courtship in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Furthermore, the collection contains more than 800 photographs taken by Mary while serving in Europe. They are arranged thematically according to their content. Photographs include numerous informal portraits of nurses and soldiers, landscapes and cityscapes, and many scenes captured in military camps and on the road with the army across Western Europe.

Also included in the collection are official military documents about Mary's assignments, ephemera from locations visited in Europe, and earlier letters exchanged among family members.

This collection has been digitized. Links to the digital objects are at the folder level within the container inventory.


  • Creation: 1911-1946
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1937-1945

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical / Historical

Mary Frances Switzer (1919-2005) served as a nurse during World War Two in France, Belgium, and Germany. She first trained to become a nurse in the late 1930s - early 1940s in New Orleans. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, to Mr and Mrs John F. Switzer, Mary was educated at Stetson University, Florida, and officiated as President of the Florida Private Duty Nurses Association.


1.70 Linear Feet

Arrangement of Materials:

Collection divided into four series: Correspondence; Army Papers and Wartime Ephemera; Photographs; and Negatives. The Correspondence series is divided into four subseries organized by correspondents and then chronologically. The internal arrangement for subsequent series is thematic. Most photographs are undated and unidentified, so a thematic organized prevailed except when information written on the back of photographs allowed for a more precise classification.

Acquisition Information:



Guide to the Mary Frances Switzer Papers
Finding Aid Authors: Eve Bourbeau-Allard, graduate assistant, in 2015.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository