Born in Augusta, Georgia, and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, Helen Turner Watson ’47 (NUR), trained as a registered nurse, became a UConn nursing professor, and worked as an American Red Cross teacher and community health educator. She was one of the first African American women to serve in the U.S. Navy. She enlisted in the Navy Reserve Nurse Corps on April 20, 1945, becoming one of only four Black women to serve in the newly desegregated Navy during World War II.

After the war ended, Watson left the Navy in 1946 and pursued higher education, following her UConn nursing degree, which focused on public health nursing, with a master’s of science from Yale University in 1952. Her master’s studies focused on mental health nursing in relation to the growth and development of children.

After 17 years working at the Connecticut State Department of Education, she returned to the UConn School of Nursing as a professor, where she taught community and child health for 17 years. A lifelong trailblazer, Watson passed away in 1992.

By Michael Rodriguez

Helen Turner Watson circa 1976


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