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Esther Lapham Hoyt Sawyer (1890-1971), Untitled [female nurse], undated; charcoal on paper, 16 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches; Esther Sawyer Ewing and William B.H. Sawyer, 1978

Esther Lapham Hoyt Sawyer (1890-1971), Untitled [female nurse], undated; charcoal on paper, 16 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches; Esther Sawyer Ewing and William B.H. Sawyer, 1978

World War II: a time of uncertainty for many people. The nurse in this charcoal drawing may not represent just one individual, but the many comrades Esther Hoyt Sawyer saw during her time in Europe as a nurse. The Buffalo native went overseas to serve our country. What does her face show? Do you see a haunted stare, sadness, exhaustion, or overall empathy for the suffering of others? Though the names of the nurse and the place she worked are not known, this emotionally compelling portrait still leaves a lot to the imagination.

For Children:

Who do you think this woman is? If you said a nurse, you guessed right! She took care of soldiers during World War II. How does she look to you: sad, upset, or possibly tired? Imagine how strong she is, helping to heal sick and wounded people. The artist, Esther Hoyt Sawyer, was born in Buffalo, New York and worked as a nurse in Europe during the war, just like the young woman in this drawing.

—Michelle A. Maroney, 2015