Elizabeth "Betsy" Anne Barnes

Military nurse, mistress of improvisation, and impulsive ingenue


Betsy Barnes is an attractive, bright and relatively ambitious woman in her early thirties. She speaks conversational French and a smattering of Flemish, and has extensive experience in the fields of combat medicine and nursing.

She is quick-witted and sharp, with bright eyes and a ready smile. She has one dimple on her right cheek, dark brown hair and blue eyes. Betsy alternates between bouts of impulsiveness and solemn silence, sometimes cheerful and pleasant with jokes and light-hearted humor and other times withdrawing into herself in a maudlin air. She does not speak much of her time in the Great War, generally only mentioning places or locations she served. When pressed, she will gracefully retreat from the conversation, frequently finding the nearest bar and seeking solace in a gimlet.

She is friendly and warm, though seems a bit shy and reserved around men outside of medical situations. She does not tend to flirt or draw attention to herself, frequently wearing somber suits in dark colors (especially dark greens or navy). On social outings, she will don a dress and spectator pumps, usually in black or red.


Elizabeth Anne Barnes was born in the late 1800s to Jacob and Gertrude Barnes of Peoria, Illinois. Joseph had served as a town doctor, treating ailments ranging from disease to injuries in the town and had a small practice inside their family home. Betsy, as her family called her, assisted him from time to time with small errands and was insatiably curious about the medical process. However, being female, a career in medicine seemed unlikely for the young girl and instead she planned on a career as a music teacher.

She became engaged in 1916 at the age of sixteen to her music instructor Joseph LaGrange, also of Peoria, a fellow musician and composer. They had met through the classical music scene in the area, and those who knew the couple claim it was love at first sight. Joe was a slender and refined man, polite and pensive, and a fine balance to Betsy’s eager curiosity and impulsiveness. When the Great War broke out, Joe was one of the first men in Peoria to enlist and offer to serve his country in the fronts of Europe. He was regrettably one of America’s first casualties as well, dying from a infection sustained from a combat injury as part of the U.S. 1st Division in the Battle of Cantigny in France. When word of his death reached Betsy, she was devastated. Determined to do what she could to prevent other soldiers from dying – or causing grief to their loved ones back home – Betsy joined the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, receiving medical training and arriving in France to serve at a military hospital in 1918. She received significant training in many facets of military medicine, including becoming extremely adept at treating traumatic injuries, assisting in amputations, and promoting cleanliness to prevent disease in the hospitals. She also earned the nickname “Betsy Racoon” for her ability to somehow scavenge or find usable items for just about any task needed on the front, be it extra morphine, bandages, or a good flask of whiskey.

Betsy stayed over in Europe after the Great War ended, after receiving word that both her parents had passed from the Spanish Flu in 1919. She traveled from veteran’s hospital to veterans hospital throughout France and England, learning however much she could from the doctors and nurses at each and helping to treat sick and wounded soldiers wherever she went. She finally left the Continent in 1935, returning to Chicago, Illinois. She noted to friends that she did not care for some of the recent trends occurring in Europe, in particular the increasing rise in nationalism beginning to show up in Germany and France. Betsy secured work at the Edward Hines Jr. Veteran’s Hospital, providing what care and comfort she could to those veterans injured during World War I and also in subsequent military service.

Betsy joined up with the Paragon Society after meeting (Ric? Other character? Someone else who may have a military or medical background?). More to follow!

Elizabeth "Betsy" Anne Barnes

From the Annals of the Paragon Society jdeplanque