When I was around 10 years old, my grandmother, a registered nurse, introduced me to the Cherry Ames books. Written and set in and and after World War II, Cherry was a small-town midwestern girl who decided to become a nurse in order to aid the war effort. She was strong and capable, and was able to do what needed to be done, without the help of men — in fact, the boys and men in Cherry’s world were often secondary to the story (in the series she never marries). Cherry and her nursing sisters were the ones who solved mysteries, saved lives, captured criminals, and generally saved the day. Cherry and her friends were adventurous and broke the rules in order to make things happen, behaving more like boys in the books of that period.
As a child, Cherry made me want to be a nurse, like my grandmother. My father, however, suggested that I might be better off as a doctor, because, in his words, “I can’t take orders.” And though I ultimately didn’t go into medicine at all, Cherry did still spark a desire to do service work, and, partly because of her, I became a social worker, carrying on the legacy of service left to me by both my grandmother and Cherry.